Luke 5:1-11 “Hearing the Call!”
As I get older, I have realized that my hearing is not what it used to be. People around me will call my name, and I will not hear them at all. I have to apologize all the time. I went to too many loud rock-n-roll Christian concerts in my youth. I drove a loud Volkswagen. I used to target practice out in the desert as a Boy Scout. Of course, my first job was mowing lawns, and we did not wear hearing protection in those days when mowing lawns or using weed whackers.
So, now my cell phone rings, and I know it is ringing because other people are giving me the look—“Why aren’t you answering your phone?” Others walk into the living room and ask, “Why is the TV so loud?” A few Christmases ago, my wife actually gave me one of those cheap hearing aids that looks like a blue-tooth earpiece. I do not know what happened to it. I never wore it.
Today’s message is about “hearing the call.” I know that things were quieter in the times of Jesus. We have so much noise pollution today. I do not think we even realize it anymore—until the power goes off. We have tuned out the noise of the refrigerator, the ceiling fans, the washing machine, the ambient road noise, the helicopters, the other person’s music blasting away in the distance, and the like. For our own sanity we have to tune it out.
Thursday mornings I like to go lap swim at the Waimea pool, but I have to be there at 7:30am to finish by 8:30am because that is when the Zumba aquatics start and the lady with the boom box hits the “play” button. I have discovered that I cannot swim and listen to music at the same time. The rhythm of the music throws off my stroke. Maybe I could swim to Haendel’s “Wassermusik,” “Water music,” but other than that, it just throws me off.
Last week in the sermon, we discussed how it was the very purpose of Christ’s coming to share the good news of the coming kingdom of God. The question comes up immediately as to whether people would hear that call. Would people accept that message from Jesus? Today’s scripture affirms that indeed they were hearing the message clearly and that they wanted to know more from Jesus.
The Bible reading states that they were pressing in around Jesus to hear more. There were so many people gathered there that the mob mentality to squeeze was taking control. At rock concerts, security guards at the front of the stage are always picking up people from that crush and letting them out of the audience through a secret passage under the stage so that they can recover. I imagine that a similar effect was happening with all the people around Jesus. They were so into what he was saying that there was no relief for them.
Jesus, in seeing this happening, and feeling the crush of the crowd himself, eyes a solution to the problem. Slightly offshore from where he was preaching, Jesus sees two “fishing boats.” The Bible that we have in the pews calls them boats, but that brings to mind what we might think of as a small fishing boat maybe seating four people at the most—a boat that could be put on a trailer and driven down the road.
This last summer, while I was in Germany, I was able to go to a museum in Frankfurt called “Das Bibelhaus.” Everything in the museum was built as if it were in the time of Jesus. In the main part of the museum there was a Galilean fishing boat recreated from the first century. Let me tell you, this is not a four-person boat. Some bibles translate it as “ship.” It is definitely bigger than what we would call a boat. I would say that it is just a bit smaller than the size of Baird Hall.
Both the prow and the stern of the ship are raised up higher than the center of the ship. In the middle is a mast for the sail. I imagine that such a ship could not be brought in that too close to the shore. Jesus would have stood at the bow really quite high over the people so that they could see him and more importantly hear him as he spoke.
Was everybody crowding around Jesus actually? Well, no. The bible tells us that the fisherman who were there were not crowding around Jesus at all. Where were they? They were in the water off-shore mending and cleaning their nets. Strange, right? All the excitement that was going on with Jesus right there on the beach, but the fisherman were only concerned with washing their nets. That is a poor excuse for missing the Kingdom of God breaking through!
Jesus, knowing Simon Peter already, as we read two weeks ago, had been to Simon’s house to heal the mother-in-law, now addresses the fisherman directly. What Jesus says, is a bit of a double entendre. He invites the fisherman to go out into the “depths.” We still have the expression today in English—“Let’s go deep.” Jesus had been speaking at one level with the people on the shore, but he is going to go deep with the fishermen. The people on shore are going to have to release Jesus to this deeper ministry.
The Greek word for “depths” is βαθος, which is used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe the depth of poverty, the depths of sinfulness, and really just the depths of what it means to be a human being. Jesus is saying to these men, “I am not giving you the superficial gospel, I am leading you into the depths of ministry.”
Jesus tells them to cast their nets once more. They bring up so much fish that they must divide the catch between two boats, both of which are about to sink for the weight of the fish. Remember what I said about the size of these ships? I can only imagine that these were just about all the fish in the sea at that time.
WE all need to get into the deeper water with Jesus. We cannot just stay on the shore. Real ministry is about getting your hands dirty. Casting nets. Pulling hard. It is about asking the deep questions and trusting the deep answers that lead us into deep faith.
I also wanted to point out an interesting side note. The fishermen were not the ones gathering around Jesus on the shore. They were the ones that even though they had not caught anything, were just hanging around their nets. One gets the sense that Jesus knows that this crew is going to need more than just an invitation to God’s Kingdom. They are not going to understand until they see a miracle. They are not going to be a part of the ministry until they get a little deeper.
Now, I do not want to sound like one of those “prosperity preachers,” but God does prosper their efforts. They are in the deeper water, they throw their nets, and the haul is more than the two ships can handle. This may have been the richest times of their lives. Once they get to shore, they could sell all they had and make a bundle. This is a great miracle. This is incredible, over the top, grace from God.
God sends the miracle to those who WERE NOT believing his words before. God sends the miracle to the ones that God wants to call into ministry but who have their phones off and are not listening to that call.
This last week, I heard Peter Snyder, a missionary to China, speak about his experience in Kunming. He and his wife were there in the early 90’s for six years with little or no results from their efforts. They were about to quit the mission and head back to the US, when as it turned out, one of the ladies in his college class for English was ill, technically passed away and had even been brought back to the morgue, when in class Peter Snyder prayed over her life that she would come back. She sat right up in the morgue, got off the table, and walked down the street toward the college, claiming to be following a bright light. The miracle had happened. From that time on, the ministry flourished. 28 churches and schools were built. Hundreds of new pastors were sent out.
I think of our story of the fisherman and relate back to the idea only because their boats were empty did Jesus effect the miracle of the catch of fish. When your boat is completely empty, that is when to watch for the greatest miracle!
Simon Peter’s response is one that many have been confused over. He gets down on his knees before Jesus and states that Jesus should leave him and the other fisherman because they are sinners.
Jesus came for sinners. Jesus came for these men to become his disciples. Jesus is choosing them in this miracle. Peter is only stating that he feels himself unworthy of the Lord’s attention. Yet, in this moment, we see that Peter states something that almost goes unnoticed. He calls Jesus “Lord.” Peter knows now for sure that Jesus is the Lord over his life! Alleluia! The message has hit home finally!
Now, going back to the idea of “prosperity preaching” once more, these fisherman find themselves now completely blessed with this great wealth of fish. What does Jesus ask in return? “Leave the fish.” They do not matter one bit. Jesus did not come to make the fisherman rich. He did not do the miracle for some economic blessing. He did it so that his future disciples would bow down to the Lord!
So, who got all the fish? The story does not tell us. I assume the people on the shore that had come to hear Jesus probably saw all the fish being left there by the disciples and had a good feast! Food was not wasted back then for sure.
They leave their boats behind, too. They leave the only life they knew up unitl that point so that they could follow their Lord. They left their kingdom behind and followed the new King.
Jesus says to them, you will now be the fishers of people. That means going deep and trusting in God that our boats will be filled. It means believing in miracles. Hearing the call of Jesus is the first step. Hear that call today. Cast your nets into the deep. Recognize Jesus as Lord.