The Call to Follow Jesus
Living God, help us to hear your holy Word with open hearts so that we may truly understand; and, understanding, that we may believe; and, believing, that we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Friends, we’re going to jump right into our story for today, no opening story or illustration from me, I’ll save that for near the end.
Over the past few weeks as we’ve been studying the gospel of Luke we’ve watched as Jesus’s public ministry takes shape. He’s been teaching and preaching and healing, casting out demons and healing the sick, preaching from town to town about the good news of the Kingdom of God. And though he’s experienced death threats in his hometown of Nazareth, word is getting out about this Jesus, with so far mostly positive reviews. The people are amazed by the authority with which he’s teaching and the power he has over the demonic and sick. By all accounts, Jesus is the talk of the town. And in many ways, so far, he’s been a bit of a one man band. A ministry lone ranger, if you will. And even though he’s started to draw quite the crowd, he hasn’t quite yet begun to assemble much of a team. Though he had fans, he didn’t quite yet have followers. And yet, all of that is about to change in our story for today.
As we find Jesus teaching on the shores of Lake Gen-ess-are-at, (more commonly known as the Sea of Galilee). He’s attracted such a following at this point with the crowd pressing in on him from all sides that he asks Simon if he can borrow his boat for a while, which he’ll use as a makeshift pulpit of sorts. As for why Jesus did this, I suppose it’s possible that the man just needed a little personal space or maybe he loved talking with his hands and wanted more space for hand motions. However, my hunch is, this was his way of opening a conversational door and getting Simon’s attention, as Jesus, with the crowd and his fans gathered all around him began to build his team of followers with the call of an ordinary fisherman named Simon, who you and I will later come to know as Peter.
You see, this is the story of the call that Jesus placed on Simon to follow Him. And as we look at this story, we’ll see not only the particulars that defined Simon’s call to follow Jesus, but also the generals that define our stories and call to follow Jesus ourselves. And so for this morning, we’ll look at Simon’s story in three parts
The Command, The Confession, The Calling, and as we do we’ll strive to reflect on our stories as well. So let’s dive in.
Simon and his fellow fisherman have just finished a long night of fishing and unfortunately they’ve come up empty handed, and they’re doing what they always do after a night of fishing – they’re washing their nets, cleaning their gear, tidying up shop so they can go home, call it a night, get some rest and try again and other day.
And it’s at this precise moment that Jesus says to them, “Hey guys, put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” In other words, “Guys, I want you to give it one more try.”
And Simon’s response is both reluctant and agreeable at the same time, saying, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
One on hand I’m sure Simon is tired and ready to go home after a long night of fishing – it’s quitting time after all! To reuse the nets will mean that they’ll have to be cleaned all over again, which means going home to sleep and rest will have to wait. Even more, Simon and his team likely fish for a living, it’s their expertise, and so if they can’t catch anything at night, when it’s easier to catch fish, then how could Jesus during the day, when it’s far more difficult?
But nevertheless, Simon says, “but because you say so, I will let down the nets.” As we saw last week, Simon has just watched Jesus heal his mother in law from a high fever, and so maybe Simon wonders maybe this Jesus can do the impossible when it comes to fishing too. And so Simon and his fishing buddies let down their nets.
Now, the truth is when it comes to you and me, Jesus likely won’t ask us to go fishing with him, which is good news to all of us who don’t enjoy or are indifferent to all things fishing. Nevertheless, whenever Jesus (and the bible as a whole) commands us to do something, consider it as an opportunity and invitation to trust. To trust that maybe just maybe God knows more than you or that he’s better at fishing or XYZ than you or that God knows what’s better for you than you do. Friends, every time you come across a command in scripture, consider it an opportunity and invitation to trust God, even when it doesn’t make much sense at times.
Simon didn’t respond to Jesus by saying, “No way man, we’re not getting the nets back out … it’s too late, we’re too tired.”
No, instead it says they put the nets out and when they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
Which brings us to the …
Here I find Simon’s response both admirable and a little strange.
On one hand I admire the fact that he’s more in awe of the miracle worker than the miracle itself. That is, Simon’s first response isn’t this overjoyed response of “Oh my gosh, this is amazing, we’ve got dinner for weeks!” but rather instead to fall at Jesus’s knees.
But yet, notice what Simon says, he says, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
At first glance, kind of a strange response, right? Like, what does sin and sinfulness have to do anything? I would think a more appropriate response would be, “Jesus, get away from me! You’re making me feel insecure by the fact that you’re such a better fisherman than me! But yet, sin, what’s sin got to do with it?
Well, my sense is that Simon is experiencing like never before that Grand Canyon-like chasm between the mere mortal that he is in the midst of the holy and mighty God.
Like, when their fishing nets begin to break and their boat begins to sink, Simon realizes that this isn’t the work of some expert fisherman, as if the resident expert from Bass Pro Shops came out to share his expertise. Rather, the only kind of being who could perform such a miracle is one who created the fish and the sea itself, a holy and mighty God.
Which means Peter is feeling his unworthiness and inadequacy and sinfulness like never before. Every legitimate follower of Jesus has had this moment before – a profound experience of their smallness in the midst of God’s greatness.
And yet Jesus’s response to Peter’s confession isn’t to say, “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry to bother you.” Rather he gives him a new mission, a renewed purpose, rather he gives him, and this brings us to the third and final portion of our story this morning ..
Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
You see, the confession and calling go hand in hand. Simon’s confession, that sense of unworthiness, that sense of inadequacy makes him the perfect candidate to receive this calling from Jesus. He knows this Jesus is worthy of his worship. And rather than initially calling the religious elite and the spiritual know-it-alls, Jesus calls ordinary fishermen, people like Simon, people like you and me.
And here again is the calling Jesus gives Simon, “From now on you will fish for people.”
An interesting way to put it, for sure, but fitting for sure as Jesus uses this fishing metaphor to illustrate their new calling. Rather than their primary calling being fishermen, they will be fishers of men, or more broadly, of all people. That is, they will be tasked with this new calling of inviting people to join in on this Kingdom of God and into a relationship with Jesus himself.
And this is not simply their new calling, it’s the calling of every Christian ever. The life long calling and pursuit of sharing God’s love and inviting people to know this Jesus like we do.
Now before I share a story about what this all can look like, let me first clarify what this doesn’t mean.
Jesus’s calling on our lives that you and I will “fish for people” does not mean that vocational ministry – roles such as pastor or chaplain or working at a church are the spiritual or Christian professions and that all the others are secular ones. Even though Simon and his fishing buddies left their fishing jobs to follow Jesus does not mean that we have to leave our careers in order to follow Jesus.
That said, I do think it’s important for us all to consider how we all in some ways work in the “people” business. Whether we’re in the teaching business, plumbing business, ranching business or medicine business or the business business, we’re all in some sense ultimately in the people business, where we can be Investing, equipping, loving and serving others and sharing about Jesus when the opportunity presents itself no matter the job or title we hold.
Or as Jesus says, “From now on you will fish for people”
And while that’s a little bit about what it doesn’t mean, here’s a bit about what it does mean, or what this can look like:
And to do that I want to briefly here share with you about a megachurch found in the suburbs outside of Indianapolis. College Park Church is located in an affluent suburb, where the majority of residents are college graduates and where the median household income is well above $100,000. Twenty five years ago when church members asked the mayor which part of the city needed the most help, he pointed to a neighborhood 30min south called Brookside, where the median household income was roughly $29,000 and its homicide rates made it one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Indianapolis.
In response the church helped launch a number of key initiatives, a free legal clinic, a ministry for low income mothers, a classical school with a heart for underprivileged neighborhoods and a furniture making company that employed formerly homeless men.
And years later, at some point, members of the church took an even greater step - they decided to move there. Today there are 12 College Park families living within a few blocks of one another and more thinking of making the move. And as for the moms they were serving in the low income moms ministry, now they walk together on Tuesday evenings and have coffee with them on Saturday mornings.
One College Park resident said, “We think the gospel has the power to light up the whole neighborhood. He’s seen it in the smiles and waves of neighbors, kids giving speeches at school and the men praying before work at the furniture company, in the funeral he did for a neighbor in which he laid out the gospel message. He sees it in the houses themselves, with their fresh paint and cut lawns and bright flowers. And he sees it in himself, in his prejudices that have been challenged and his heart that has been softened. He says, “God is on the move.”
What a testimony, right? I love that story and I love how that church is embracing their calling. And what I love about that story is that it tells us something about both ministry and fishing. Whether it’s people or fish you seek to catch, you’ve got to get near them. You have to go where they are. No right minded fisherman has ever sat on his couch wondering if and when the fish will come to him. No, he (or she) makes the drive to the river or lake where the fish actually are. The same is true of people. We’ve got to go to them. Or as Jesus says, “From now on you will fish for people.”
And I’ll finish with this:
Friends, what really strikes me about this story is that while Jesus had fans, what he really wants are followers. On that day, the crowd was pressing in on him, his name was spreading throughout the towns of Galilee, he was growing in popularity, the man could seriously draw a crowd. But yet what he really wanted and what he really wants for us as he approached Simon and the other fisherman that day is for us to become his followers.
All of which tells us something about our own walk with Jesus. He doesn’t want us passively and halfheartedly sitting on the sidelines. Rather, he wants us to be all in.
Even more, our story today tells us something about what we should want and strive for as a church as well. Where we would be a church, not first and foremost made up of fans, but of followers.
You see, the ultimate goal here cannot be to simply witness a sanctuary full of people on a future Sunday morning. Now, if or when that happens, I’ll be celebrating and thanking God right there with you. But friends, that’s only the starting gate, not the finish line. What Jesus really wants and what he really wants for you and me is for us to be all in followers of him. Bible reading, prayer depending, spiritually growing, neighbor loving, outward facing, sacrificially serving, followers of Jesus.
Friends, in one sense, Jesus isn’t in it for the numbers, but yet he is if that number includes you. He’s not here for the crowd or merely putting people in pews. No, what he really wants is followers, followers like you.