Luke 5:1-11 “Discipled”
This last week on Monday I was down at Salt Pond on my day off swimming laps in the ocean. It was early morning still. I was the only one in the water at the time. When I had finished the exercise, done talking to the fish as it were, came up to the shore. Just then, I heard a voice right behind me. I turned around to see nobody there. First I thought, “God, is that You?” Then, I looked down the beach to see a couple walking at the edge of the water. They were talking to each other. I could just make out their lips moving. Sure enough, I was hearing their conversation from that far away!
I went home and looked up on the computer how it might be possible for the sound to carry that way, from so far away to my ears. Sure enough the internet offered a scientific answer. When a body of water is calm, and the wind is still, and the sun is just beginning to rise, the condensation off the water creates a cushion of cold air that does not immediately mix with the warmer air above it. There is a channel of cold air over the water that functions to compress the sound waves rather than just having the sound waves dissipate into the warmer air above. It is like speaking though a tube in fact.
I realized then that perhaps it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me to share this out with all of you at the start of this sermon. We often wonder how it is that the people on the shore of the lake could hear Jesus from a boat offshore. Here is the scientific answer! It was morning. The lake was calm. The air was still. The sound carried out in this cold air channel right to the people’s ears.
Another factor in this was that in those days, people’s hearing was better because there was not the constant white noise and noise pollution of our current daily lives. Simply put, the television was not always on in the background! The weed whackers were not constantly buzzing outside your window. Donkeys generally do not need mufflers—although they can get loud at times. Chickens too, as we all experience here on Kauai.
All of this is super important because we can read here that the people are gathering there in the morning on the edge of the sea specifically to do what? Buy fish for breakfast? No, the text is really clear and it contrasts greatly with what we have been reading so far in Luke. Remember that the people were coming to Jesus to be healed in that last chapter. Now in chapter 5, they are coming to Jesus in the morning to “Hear the Word of God.” They are coming to listen to Jesus, so it should matter that they can actually hear what he has to say to them.
They may have been hungry for fish, but they are ever more so hungering to hear the Word of God. And, did you notice what happened at the end of Jesus’ sermon? The fishermen go out and actually catch the fish that they just drop on the shore. The text says that they “dropped everything” and followed Jesus. The ministry is all about the abundance of God’s grace in Word and Providence. There were more fish than could be loaded onto one boat! Then, they just drop it there for the people. It is more fish than they could ever sell!
As an aside, this whole scene is a great foreshadowing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, in John 21 we see the resurrected Jesus back up on the Sea of Galilee, on the water’s edge once more, this time looking at his disciples once again trying unsuccessfully to catch fish all night. He tells them to throw the net into the water again. They catch a plethora of fish (153 to be exact). It is in this abundance of providence and grace that Simon Peter finally recognizes Jesus on the shore.
This tells us that we must minister in our own lives from the standpoint of the abundance of grace and providence of God. I know that recently we have heard things such as “We have a protein shortage in the United States.” “We should all start hording ground beef in whatever form.” I am thinking I have to go buy all the canned spaghetti and meatballs and pork and beans to save myself and my family. What would happen to Kauai if we ever ran out of Spam, right?
The same time that we have this issue of scarcity of meat protein, there has been this goat, a wild goat at that, that has come to live in the yard at the parsonage. I have mentioned him before. We have named him “Bigote.” He has already eaten a nice young bottlebrush palm and all of my bird-of-paradise plants. If there really is a shortage of meat, well than, the Lord has provided! We will sacrifice the goat for this is what the Lord has provided. Now I look at Bigote in the yard and see souvlaki—Greek-style goat barbecue!
The point is this, the Word of the Lord is about the abundance of life and living! And, like the fishermen that spends all night catching nothing, if we do not trust in the Lord, then we are just fishing for nothing!
Following up on this point, Simon Peter has a great response to Jesus when Jesus says to cast the nets into the deep water once more. What does Peter say? “We have already tried that before!”
We have an adage in English that I know that you have all heard before: “The very definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.” You know that these words are from Albert Einstein. That means we have the choice of listening to Albert Einstein or Jesus! Jesus says “YOU are going to drop your nets into the exact same water, but this time, the results are going to blow you away.” It is not crazy. It is God.
Do you remember how Adam and Eve betrayed God in the Book of Genesis? Isn’t God crazy to think that we will be any different this time around? Are not humans always going to screw up on paradise? Are we not always going to mess up the perfect relationship with God? Is God crazy to send His Son to us thinking in any form that we will get it right this time?!
I believe that God is smarter than Albert Einstein, and that Einstein is in heaven now hearing the Truth of the universe. If God tells you that there will be a different result in doing the same thing, then do what God says!
I love Peter’s response: “On YOUR word, I will do it.” I should explain that the pronoun “YOU” is being used in the Greek, which is only used to emphasize. So, we must read this with emphasis “On YOUR word.” That is almost like asking Jesus, “You promise that this is not in vain?” If I trust You Jesus, You have to make this thing happen.
Too often we trust in ourselves. When the nets come up empty, then we just think to ourselves that we have failed. We must stop that kind of thinking. Trust in the Lord. Hear the word of Jesus over your life.
Peter is afraid at this point. He does not say it, but Jesus tells him, “Do not be afraid.” I know we are all afraid to trust so completely in God, and in so doing maybe even look foolish—like fishing in the same spot again after catching nothing. But, the truth is the fish bite when the fish bite! Sometimes you just got to wait for the fish.
I was not going to tell this fishing story, but I think there is time. Fishing off the coast of Evia with some Greek buddies on a boat in the morning: trying to catch sardines for breakfast, women waiting back at the house to cook them for breakfast, nobody was catching anything on their drop lines with multiple hooks, and they all want to go try another spot. Just then I feel the tugs on my line. I had eight sardines straight up. Everybody was then super excited and said that they would stay right where they were! In your personal ministry with others, just sometimes you have to wait for the bite. You can be sharing God with people for a really long time before they need to hear what you are saying.
In the story from the Bible, we have to notice in fact that Luke has left us with a huge hole in the middle. Jesus gets out on the boat with everyone listening intently on shore. What does Jesus say? Luke does not tell us about what or how long Jesus speaks there on the shore! It really could not have been that long because there is still time to have the fishermen go out to make the catch for the people on shore and for those same men to drop everything and follow. That is okay. Sometimes you do not have to say a lot.
I want to share with you that in my preaching course in seminary way back in the 1980’s, I recall being told to never preach longer than forty minutes. Back then, people could hold attention for forty minutes. Today I think the average is under thirty minutes, and is more likely 15-20 minutes. After twenty minutes, people tune out. So, preaching a long sermon is kind of useless in a way. I have noticed even on Christian radio that the classic sermons from twenty years ago are split into at least two parts: “Tune in tomorrow to hear the rest of this sermon by the great preacher. . . .” The longest segment on the news program 60 Minutes is only 16 minutes long now!
In the days of the early church, the entire gospel of Jesus Christ would have been read in one evening however. You would have heard the whole thing, including the Sermon on the Mount, which then would give you the understanding of what Jesus preached THIS day!
When Simon Peter is faced with the option of trusting in Christ, to stop being a fisherman and become a saint, he told Christ to go away! He tells Christ to leave because he felt that he had lived a sinful life.
We do that sometimes too. We push Christ away because we think that somehow we are not worthy of his Love. The fact of the matter is that WE ARE NOT WORTHY of his love at all. Simon Peter was right in that he states openly that he is not worthy of Christ’s love. But, that is the whole point of grace! If Christ can choose an unworthy sinful fisherman to become a disciple, apostle, and saint; then there is hope for all of us! And, although we are admittedly unworthy of this grace from God, God still seeks to grant it to His children.
Christ’s response to Simon Peter is simple: “Do NOT be afraid!” I like to read this as “Simon, don’t have a panic attack over this. You are a natural fisherman, you’re just going to be catching bigger fish now!”
Don’t be afraid. This is the commandment in the Bible that is spoken most often! I believe that it is spoken most often because we are always forgetting it and are turning to panic. Christ calls you to be a new person? Chillax (as the kids say). Don’t have a phobia. If Christ can use people like Simon, James and John; he can handle you, too.