Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
This is the third of our ‘recruiting or calling the disciples’ stories, there is one more to come when Jesus meets Levi. There are also quite a few ‘teaching or training’ and finally ‘sending out’ of the disciples readings. The reason I am including so much about Jesus and the disciples is because this theme forms the very essence of the finding him, following him and becoming like him journey that we are on.
The disciples mentioned in Luke chapter 5 have done quite a bit of initial listening and watching. They probably started out as mildly interested before becoming ‘wanting to find him searchers’. They are now moving from the finding to the following part of their journey.
Daniel has been gradually ‘coming to Jesus’ over the last couple of years. It started with a curious visit to church; then I visited and chatted to him and his wife in their home; then a few more visits to church punctuated by lots of absences. After a while I persuaded him to come on an enquirers’ course and eventually he ended up helping to lead one. And he is still not yet at the point of ‘fully following’ Jesus. Maybe it was like that for these first fishermen followers. Several meetings, a thinking about it period and a few calls before they did actually fully and for all time ‘leave their nets’.
Back to Luke chapter 5, the key movement or shift in the story happens when Jesus looks away from the crowd of the mildly interested and into the eyes of the hungrily searching and calls them to follow him. In the previous story from Mark the Greek wording used means ‘to invite’, here in Luke it is a bit stronger implying ‘to summon’. This is not a forced recruitment. It is warm and invitational but Jesus is definitely looking deep into their eyes and souls and beckoning these first disciples.
The other big difference between this and the Mark story is that here Luke adds on the amazing catch of fish and the conversation between Jesus and Peter. There are two little insights or thoughts that I want to pick out of their talk. Both of them strike me as ‘telling details’ and set me off thinking deeply about my own relationship to Jesus.
Firstly, Peter knows everything there is to know about fishing. He can thread a hook, cast a line and gut a fish in his sleep. He has got the wind in his beard and the fish scales under his finger nails. Jesus is a preacher and perhaps before that he was some sort of jobbing labourer with his father. Peter lives by the sea; Jesus was brought up in the hills and valleys. Peter spends his life catching fish; Jesus spends his eating them. So why does Peter, the big confident fisherman, listen to and follow the advice of Jesus when he tells him how to do his job? What does Jesus know about deep water and bulging nets?
Peter has clearly seen and heard, perhaps over several weeks, something in this Jesus which leads him to put all his own thoughts to one side and follow him. In fact he has become so trusting of Jesus that he follows him not just with his religious ideas and persuasions, but in the practical details of how he is doing his job. Jesus tells a fisherman how to fish; the fisherman listens.
Jesus is not just a religious guru interested in our Sunday morning thoughts and prayers; he is interested and wants to be involved in all the seven days a week, practical aspects of our lives. Maybe, just maybe, he knows more about some of the lifestyle issues of your life than you do. Home improvements, career moves, child care and money management are not usually seen as spiritual issues but then neither is fishing. John and Lorraine were new Christians considering moving house but not quite sure. When I suggested that they pray and ask God to guide them, it was a completely novel, even ‘spooky’ idea. Up to that moment they had thought God was just about religion and not ordinary life. Our lives become better, happier, and richer when we learn to listen to and trust in him.
Secondly, I love the phrase, ‘from now on’. As one of life’s grey melancholics I have an inborn inclination to look back at my life negatively. I look back at mistakes I made, things people said and did to me that still leave a mark, things I said which I wish I hadn’t and opportunities missed. When Peter met Jesus he met a completely looking forward, let’s start a new life sort of leader. Jesus leaves the past, looks to the future and says ‘from now on’. He invites Peter to start a new chapter, to begin again with a whole new optimism and vision of what his future life can be about.
‘From now on’ is a blue sky, lift your vision above the horizon, bump up your spirits to number 10, let’s all believe something good is going to happen, type of statement. It acknowledges the past with its regrets and disappointments but takes us forward. It is as if Jesus is saying, ‘Yes, I know what has happened in recent years, I know why your heart has developed a bit of a limp. I know why some of your ‘young man dreams’ never quite worked out. But, and it is a very big ‘but’, ‘from now on things can be very different’’. ‘From now on’ is the big new start, the new beginning, the turning of the page in a man or a woman’s life story.
Here then is a big question for you, ‘What does his ‘from now on’ to you feel like?’
In the beginning,
From now on,
Choose the narrow path.
Be born again,
Jesus is big on new beginnings.
I hear you calling me.
Calling me to a crossroads question,
To a ‘from now on’ decision.
Help me to follow you,
And to become like you,