years ago, before MTV, little children in Sunday School would sing a song: “I
will make you fishers of men, if you follow me.” We think of fishing as a
recreational sport; Christ knew it was hard work. Working faith; an
essential for the Christian.
Now it happened that while the crowd was
pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen
had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the
boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land.
And He sat down and began teaching the
people 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 and said, "Master, we worked hard all
night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and
let down the nets." When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity
of fish, and their nets began to break;
so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help
them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.
But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell
down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful
man!" For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the
catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were
James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said
to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be
catching men." When they had brought their boats to land, they left
everything and followed Him.
(Luke 5:1-11 NASB)
virtue of obedience
live in a culture that glorifies rebellion. Sergeant York in World War I has
given way to the cynical rebelliousness of Dr. Hawkeye Pierce. We are now so
attuned to this that your teacher must explicitly state the obvious: obedience
to God is a virtue – not a sign of lack of intelligence. We see it here in the
please, that the disciples were hard at work cleaning their nets. They
know their trade; even though the night’s catch was nothing, the nets
still need care. Jesus commands Peter to take him out a little way to
speak to the crowd. That means Peter, instead of tending to his business,
must sit and listen. Often our questions of obedience are like this – not
good versus evil, but good versus best. The right response is to ask the
Lord’s will – and follow it.
obedience is shown in one word: “Master.” The word in the original means
one who is entitled to give orders – a commander. So often we are pleased
to call Jesus “savior”; it pleases us to think of him as “friend.” But
do we really call him “Master?”
being an honest man, feels it only fair to warn the Lord that they’ve been
out all night and caught nothing. The Man, after all, is a carpenter;
what would he know about fishing? (Perhaps it’s fish he knew; he created
them.) Then come the words of obedience: “I will do as you say.” I may
not understand; I may think I have a better idea; I may think this just
won’t work – but I will do as you say.
we would only obey! The old hymn taught us to “trust and obey.” We want the
blessings of faith without the humility of obedience.
result of such obedience is the providence of God – he fills the net to
overflowing. What can we learn here?
providence fills the net. But somebody has to row the boat and let the
net down and haul it up again. God expects us to do our own work; we are
co-laborers with him.
course, once the catch comes in, Peter reacts (as Isaiah did) just as if
he had found a ticking time bomb. How little is our faith! But see again
the virtue of obedience: because he obeyed, he saw the power of God
revealed to him.
a lesson in here: when God tells you to go fishing, expect to catch a lot
of fish. His providence is given for his work; if you are fighting the
good fight, you will never lack for ammunition and supplies.
is the call in its simplicity: follow me. We can see in this call the
blessings and perils of the call today:
huge catch is a two edged sword. You can look at it as evidence that God
will provide. It is also evidence that there are still a lot of fish left
in the lake. You must choose to leave the fish; he will not force you.
call gives no roadmap. Indeed, the first thing Christ tells them to do is
to put out into deep water. Where? Only God knows. His call is not to a
route or a system, but to a guide.
the call is intensely personal. It is personal in that it is for you, personally.
No one else will receive the call quite like you will. Your reaction is
personal too; no one else can serve him quite like you can.
seems like an interlude, something just stuck in along the way.
While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he
saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are
willing, You can make me clean." And He stretched out His hand and touched
him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed."
And immediately the leprosy left him. And He ordered him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest and make an
offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to
(Luke 5:12-14 NASB)
is a frequent connection here: the greater your needs might be, the more
humbly you must approach God. We often reverse this; in our times of great
need we go to God in our self-importance, telling him that he should do great
things for us. This comes of not knowing who God really is. Such a
misconception puts iron bars on our faith, keeping it from growing as our pride
you see it here? There is no sense of this man making a bargain with Jesus.
He does not promise to spread Christ’s fame; he does not promise anything. He
came to beg his healing, not to bargain down the doctor’s fee. Indeed, he
makes the public gesture of humility common in his time: he falls down before
him and puts his face to the ground. Then he begs.
will of God
– a powerful word in our language. This man recognizes the main point: his
healing depends upon the will of God.
must remember that we are dealing with the will of God, not our own
will. No matter how much we want, it’s his will that counts.
must also remember that it’s his will. We are not dealing with
some heathen god who automatically reacts to our sacrifices; we are
dealing with the ultimate person.
there is no sense asking God for anything without faith. The man acknowledges
that his healing can be accomplished – both by his words and by his actions.
But will Christ act?
is only one thing of which we can be certain here: the will of God is
intrinsically bound into his character. If we ask that which is contrary to
his character, we court rejection and worse. But if we ask on the basis of his
character, we ask him to do his will – in us.
to the law
may seem curious: Jesus commands the man to make the sacrifices associated
with his cleansing, as prescribed in the Old Testament. This is not an
afterthought, but an essential part of Christ’s personality as well.
does this so as to keep the man faithful. To omit these sacrifices would,
in his time, defile his conscience.
is also good practice. Only those who are acting in obedience can sustain
the obedient mind so pleasing to God.
this we see the harmony of the Old Testament with the New Testament –
God’s will is a part of his eternal nature.
But the news about Him was spreading even
farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him
and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. One
day He was teaching; and there were some
Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. And some men were
carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in
and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they
went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into
the middle of the crowd, in front of
Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your
sins are forgiven you." The scribes and the Pharisees began to
reason, saying, "Who is this man
who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" But Jesus,
aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why
are you reasoning in your hearts? "Which is
easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and
walk'? "But, so that you may know that the
Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"--He said to the
paralytic--"I say to you, get up, and pick up your
stretcher and go home." Immediately he got up before them, and
picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. They were
all struck with astonishment and began
glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen
remarkable things today."
(Luke 5:15-26 NASB)
mission of Christ – and the Christian
any great work, it helps immensely to know the main point of the business. The
crowds came to see the famous rabbi, to see if he would perform some miracle of
healing. People still do that today; they come to God’s church to be healed
of whatever disaster they have made of their lives. It is tempting for the
church to become some sort of walk-in psychological self-help center. But it
is not our mission.
came to this place to teach; that was his purpose there. Healing was not his
purpose; merely his credential. The church must remember that we are here to
seek and save the lost, not just to say, “there, there.”
includes our preparation as well. Christ went into the desert to pray before
he came to teach. He kept his inner life with the Father; it precedes his
works. This is an example to us: the life of prayer, meditation and study is
the necessary precursor to the work of faith. Without it, we will burn out
like a skyrocket when we should be a candle set on a hill, for all to see.
nature of faith
you think about it, it is really astounding: God allows our faith to be the
source of healing for others. Intercession is an amazing privilege; the king
of kings, the lord of lords, the creator of all things created allows us to
approach him in petition for those around us.
expects us to do so, in fact. Indeed, he expects us to do so under adverse
circumstances. For example:
men find a physical obstacle in their way – the crowd. Obstacles do not
dismay a man of faith; they are simply facts to be dealt with.
such an obstacle is social convention – the politeness needed. Would a
good Christian tear up someone else’s roof?
faith without works is dead. If our faith does not result in action, how
is it really faith?
faith in what? Many will preach that faith itself will move mountains – that
this is the nature of faith. This is not what Scripture teaches. Faith is
powerful because it reaches out to the one who is omnipotent. Christ shows
that power here, and in so doing demonstrates his authority over sin. The
argument is relatively simple:
the one offended can forgive the offense. When we sin, God is the one
offended. Therefore, he can forgive. He can also do this in a perfect
way. When we forgive, we usually find ourselves forgiving each other.
God needs no forgiveness, but is generous in forgiving.
if I claim to be able to forgive sins in general, I am claiming to be
God. Such a claim needs evidence, to say the least.
evidence is before their eyes. No one but God could do such healing; God
would not permit a blasphemer to do so. There is only one possible
conclusion. None of the prophets did this; none of the priests; only
God. Therefore, this must be God in the flesh.
then, how Christ gives this forgiveness: gently. There is no sense here that
the man is not a sinner. On the contrary, he is forgiven, which means that he
certainly is a sinner. But Christ does not recite his sins; rather, in
response to his faith, he forgives without embarrassing him.
so doing he has not solved all the man’s problems. He has put an end to the
disease – but not to the struggle with sin. This is why Christ often tells
people to “go and sin no more.”
are called to be fishers of men, in simple obedience to his, “Follow me.” He
is the Holy One; we must therefore keep ourselves in humility, knowing that it
is his grace that saves us. We are just passing on the Good News. In so
doing, we must have working faith – faith that genuinely knows that God can and
will act – and faith that results in our action as well.