Luke 5:1-11 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Jesus had come from his time in the wilderness establishing his authority over Satan. From there he returned to Galilee and taught in their synagogues. When he came into the synagogue at Nazareth, as we have already seen, he was rejected. We were reminded of the words of Isaiah, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3) Then he healed a man in Capernaum and many others including Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Now we come to Jesus establishing his identity.
We need to remember that one’s identity is a good deal more than what might appear on your driver’s license or even your birth certificate. Your identity is what you have grown into throughout your life. Your identity is what other people see when they look at you. Your identity includes what you think about yourself, the characteristics that define you.
We know Simon Peter knew Jesus was special because he had been one of the first four who was chosen by Jesus to follow him. He had received his new name the very first time he met Jesus. Jesus clearly put a call on Simon the son of John by calling him, Peter, or Cephas. We will come back to Peter in a moment. In the meantime…
Jesus had become a magnet for the crowds. There are many examples of this found in the Gospels let’s look at a couple of them. Matthew 4:25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 8:1 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
And… Matthew 14:14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
It was practically impossible for Jesus to get away from the crowds. More than once Jesus crossed the lake to get away from the crowds. He had to dismiss the crowds from time to time in order to pray alone. Right up to the very end when the crowds followed him into the city on what we now call “Palm Sunday”. And then finally the crowds gathered in the judgment hall of Pontius Pilate and then on to Golgotha the place of the cross.
Going back to the beginning and that day beside the lake we see…
He chose Peter’s boat. Peter had already met Jesus when his brother Andrew, and, we assume, John had been following John the Baptist. John told us about it John 1:40-42 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
What happened? If Jesus had called them to follow him that day after Jesus’ baptism why were they back pulling their nets through the water? I believe it was because Jesus had gone into the wilderness for his battle with Satan and also fishing was what they knew best. They did not know anything about fishing for men. They had not been to Bible school or seminary! Little did they know that they were now enrolled in the school of the Savior! No school on earth had ever been so complete. Wherever they went…
He taught the people the word of God. Let’s look back at Luke 5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret,
I have often wished that someone had recorded Jesus’ teaching. I know there is a good number of accounts but at times like this — when he was teaching the people the word of God! It would be so awesome to know exactly what he taught them and what it meant. We do have some knowledge of what it must have included. Whenever Jesus spoke who was speaking? God! Any good preacher, and many who are less than “good” spend a good deal of time and study preparing to teach or preach. We never find Jesus “studying”! You see, he was there when “In the beginning God”. In fact, Jesus, the son of God, was there eternally before that day of creation. When he sat with the people — by the way it was traditional for rabbis to sit while they taught — wherever he took his text from the Bible he was simply sharing what he had seen at the time it was written. The crowds gathered around him because they recognized they were hearing words different from what they had heard from their teachers. They were listening to the word that comes from God. It was the word about salvation! It was the word about entering the kingdom of God! It was the word about the forgiveness of sins! It was the good news that the poor could be made spiritually rich. It was the good news that prisoners of sin could be set free! It was the good news that the spiritually blind could be given spiritual sight. It was an account of the glorious inheritance God gives to his children! All of that! And much, much more because when Jesus spoke it was God who was speaking!
The crowd was pressing in and Jesus needed a distraction as well as a place to sit.
When he chose Peter’s boat it was not a random choice. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he was working on Peter’s spiritual growth. Peter was a recognized leader of the apostles. It was important for him to recognize Jesus’ authority.
In order to establish that authority…
He asked for the nets to be lowered. Let’s continue with Luke 5:4-6. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
These fishermen had been fishing all night and had taken nothing! NOTHING! I am sure this was more than unusual. These were professional fishermen and that they knew how to catch fish. They would have known where the fish would usually be and would have been able to spread their nets in such a way that they would catch something! This time, when they drew the nets in…
Their nets overflowed. This event was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry now let’s look at the end of his ministry after his resurrection recorded in John 21:6-8. He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
In both cases, there was a remarkable lack of fish until Jesus told them where they were. He wasn’t a fisherman, he was known as the carpenter but in reality, he was God! In my imagination, I can see angels obediently moving the fish away from the nets all night long! In Luke’s account, this was done to establish his identity. In John’s account, it served much the same purpose. It was Peter who had led them back to fishing after his resurrection and it was Peter who jumped from the boat and waded ashore.
Peter, that day early in his relationship with Jesus, did not expect to catch any fish but he would obey Jesus. After all, Jesus had healed his mother-in-law!
As soon as that net filled with fish…
Simon Peter realized who he was. Let’s continue to read Luke 5:8-9. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, Peter, overwhelmed with the conviction of his unbelief had an experience similar to Isaiah’s some 700 years before. It is recorded in Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah had entered the temple after the death of his beloved King. When he did he saw the Lord God high and lifted up and, in Isaiah’s words, “And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
For both of them, this was not an “aha moment”. It was an “oh-me moment”! The realization they were in the presence of God himself was more than they could stand. Everyone should have such a life-changing experience — at least once! I don’t mean to make it a condition of salvation but it certainly is a springboard for sanctification. We need to know the presence of God in our life. It was easy for Peter, and for Isaiah, because they were physically in the presence of the image of God. We, on the other hand, do not have a physical representation of God. That is, of course, if we have placed our faith in the Lord Jesus. From that point forward he has promised he will not leave us nor forsake us! But we grow accustomed to his presence and slowly become unaware he is even there. Then, without a doubt, we will grieve the Holy Spirit. And we will quench the spirit in our life. In the same way that we no longer sense God’s presence with us.
That event was a game changer…
Peter’s life changed forever. Let’s read on Luke 5:10b. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
Jesus recognized that in Simon’s response there was fear. He was not so much rejecting Jesus’ presence as he was rejecting his own unworthiness! And one thing we can certainly be sure of none of us are worthy. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God! (Romans 3:23) And the wages of sin is death! (Romans 6:23). But we have good news, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8). That being true, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9).
Immediately Jesus began to encourage Peter as the crowd continued to look on. We might not have recognized it but Peter was afraid of who Jesus was. We know that because Jesus said, “Do not be afraid;” after all, he had been chosen by God himself. Having brought in the largest catch of fish they had ever seen at least four men left their nets to follow Jesus. We know that they came back to the fisherman’s life more than once. At the same time, they were obediently following Jesus. They did not understand who he was but they could not leave. If you will only put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ you will find it is impossible to leave him. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised from the dead and you will be saved.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.