Have You Left Everything?
Last week we examined how Jesus overcame the devil's temptations by rightly apply God's Word. As we jump ahead, a little bit, to chapter 5, you should be made aware of what has transpired between Luke 4:14 and chapter 5. Jesus has begun His public ministry. He has been preaching in the synagogues and healing the sick.
It is clear from the text, that the more Jesus preached, with every healing He performed, the crowds that followed Him grew immensely. While one might contend that it was the miracles that attracted the crowd, Luke is careful to point out that as "the multitude were pressing around Him ", they did so in order to "listen to the word of God "(v.1).
Luke describes the scene for us: "(Jesus) was standing by the lake of Genesaret "--better known as the Sea of Galilee-- "and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fisherman had gotten out of them, and were washing their nets. And (Jesus) got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the multitudes from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, (Jesus) said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.' "(v.1-4).
Now, you all know this story. This chapter is not about Jesus preaching to the multitude--that was the last chapter--this chapter is about Jesus calling His first disciples. Yet, it is important for Luke to mention Jesus' preaching because it establishes His authority with the people.
The One who is about to give orders to some fisherman is not some lunatic roaming the beach, but is One who heals the sick and preaches with authority.
While it is one thing to preach with authority, it is quite another thing to catch fish. Jesus was not giving Simon Peter a doctrinal lesson here, He was telling a fisherman how to fish. It should not surprise us then, to see Peter's reluctance, "(But) Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing ". Can you blame Peter's initial resistance to Jesus' command?
Perhaps some of you know what it is like to resist the commands of Jesus. 'We've never done it that way before' has become a creed in many Presbyterian churches. 'We've worked hard for years and have no new members to show for it', is our progress report. "Let down your nets (again) for a catch " is the command Jesus gives Peter. It is the command He gives St. Andrew's / Fraser Presbyterian Church.
Although Peter was, at first, reluctant to lower his nets, it is clear that he held Jesus in high regard. Peter called Jesus, "Master ", and after thinking about Jesus' command, he finally responds, "at Your bidding I will let down the nets "(v.5). To Peter, the command made no sense. But Jesus was someone with authority. This was someone worthy to be called "Master ". Peter might not agree, but he could still obey.
If this could only describe us! Let's be honest here. We do not often feel like obeying Jesus. It is easier to do things our way--or so we think. Sometimes we can't even understand the reasoning behind a biblical command. Peter couldn't see the sense of lowering his nets either, but thankfully he had the sense to obey a command from Jesus.
The lesson of verses 6 and 7 is an important one--obedience brings results! "When they had (let their nets down), they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break; and they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink ".
Clearly, a catch big enough to sink 2 boats is nothing short of miracle. Peter obeyed and he was blessed with a catch larger than anyone could ever imagine.
There is a temptation for me, as a preacher, to end the sermon here. Peter obeyed and he was abundantly blessed--end of lesson.
Not so fast . . . Peter did not welcome the catch. In fact, this great blessing of material resources scared the wits out of Peter. Luke tells us that "when Simon Peter saw (the catch), he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!' "(v.8).
What is going on here? Why is Peter so frightened? Peter knew Jesus was special--that is why he addressed Him as "Master "--but after this great miracle; after Jesus produced enough fish to sink 2 ships; Peter knew that he was standing in the presence of God.
Peter became overwhelmed by the realization of his sinfulness. Peter, recognizing that the title "Master " was no longer suitable for Jesus, pleads with Him, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord ! "(v.8).
Peter was, unmistakably, afraid of the supernatural. Could the same be said of us? Are there some among us who might wish the church to be no more than a social club? No more than the rotary club or the local lodge? But the church is more--we are Christ's body. On the one hand, this is a great privilege, but on the other hand, it is downright scary.
Christ wishes to be made known to the world through us . If you can say that statement without your knees knocking, I suspect you have no idea what I am talking about. If you were the ambassador for the Prime Minister or for the Queen, how much care you would take with everything you said and did. Yet, we are ambassadors for One who is infinitely more important than the Prime Minister and the Queen--we are ambassadors for God!
It is time, however, for your knees to stop knocking, for Jesus said to a frightened Peter, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men "(v.10).
As ambassadors for Christ, our primary purpose is to go fishing for souls . Meetings can wait. Beef dinners can wait. Afternoon tea can wait.
Peter, James, and John understood this, for we read that "when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed (Jesus) "(v.11). They did not leave a burdened life--fisherman did quite well for themselves in those days. Peter, James, and John left the greatest catch of their lives. Why? So they could follow Jesus . So they could be fishers of men.
Do you see the connection here? The first disciples realized that they could not effectively fish for souls unless they left their job as fisherman. The reality is that disciples of Christ are called to cut loose certain parts of their life in order to fish for souls . There are certain things in our life, if we hold them too tightly, will only limit our effectiveness as ambassadors for Christ.
I am not suggesting that all of you should quit your jobs, but that isn't to say that you shouldn't cut anything loose. The excuse for just about anything to do with church that I most often hear is what?-- 'I'm too busy'. If you are too busy then something is terribly wrong . If you are 'too busy', you need to examine how you are spending your time.
Jesus challenged the disciples to leave their livelihood while many Christians aren't even willing to eliminate working overtime. We go to lodge, we play sports, we play euchre, we visit friends, we work in the garden, we spend obscene amounts of time in front of the television and computer, and the list goes on. How can we read this account of fisherman leaving their careers with indifference? I certainly can't.
Jesus wants our all, but we give Him our leftovers. This is tragic. Do not despair my friends--today is a new day. Take inventory of your life and ask yourself the question, 'Have I left everything that Christ calls me to leave behind?'. If the answer is no, if we have things in our lives that we are stubbornly clinging to, today is the day to leave them.
What you leave may be of tremendous value, but surely there is nothing that can compare with heavenly treasure. Amen.