Luke 5:1-11, 27-32.

Following the Call to Faith

        American Journal of Biblical Theology               September 26, 2004            Copyright © 2004, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com          Scripture quotes from KJV


This study continues the study of Jesus' early ministry as described in the Book of Luke. Previously, in Luke, Chapter 4, verses 31 - 44, we were shown the new and radical authority that Jesus has. In Verses 31-32 He taught in Capernaum where He taught on the Sabbath. This implies that the people revered him as a Rabbi. The verses state that the people were amazed because His words had power (dunamis) or authority.  Rather than simply reading the scriptures as was done by the Rabbis, he was teaching their true context and meaning from first-hand understanding, something the Rabbis could not do.

In verses 33-37 Jesus demonstrated authority over Satan and his demons. They were completely at Jesus' mercy and had absolutely no power when confronted with Him. What does this mean about the power of Satan over us?  Satan has no power over the Christian  when the Holy Spirit is called upon.

In verses 38-41 Jesus demonstrated authority over sickness. Jesus commanded Peter's wife's mother's sickness to be gone.

In Chapter 5 we continue to see how Jesus has the authority to call each of us to have faith in Him, and how we can respond to Him accordingly.

Luke 5:1.

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,

The Lake of Gennesaret is more commonly called the Sea of Galilee. The Lake of Gennesaret is fed by several streams and empties as the source of the Jordan River. The Jordan river flows into a great hole in the ground, the Dead Sea from which there is no exit. The level of the Dead Sea rises and falls based upon evaporation of the incoming waters. Consequently, it has such a high salt content that nothing can live in it.

What was Jesus doing by the Lake? He was teaching a crowd of people.   Why did people crowd around Him?  They were amazed by the power of his teaching and by his healing of the people.  They had never experienced anyone who spoke with such authority and demonstrated such confidence and power.  Jesus attracted crowds everywhere he went.

Luke 5:2.

He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.

We will see that the fishermen are Simon, and the brothers James and John.  During Jesus' ministry these three, who had been close partners in their fishing enterprise, were the first to be called to follow Him, and were the closest to Him during His ministry. These three were taken aside many times to receive additional teaching and additional experiences such as the witnessing of the transfiguration of Jesus.

What were the fishermen doing as Jesus approached them, and why were they doing it?  They were washing their fishing nets, indicating that they had just completed a fishing trip. Observe the scene that Jesus witnessed. Two boats are beached, and at least three fishermen are with them, cleaning the nets. What's missing from this picture?  Our scene is lacking of fish, and probably filled with disappointment in the faces and demeanor of the fishermen.  How do you think they felt, having not caught a single fish? They may have questioned their skills, their equipment, or blamed one another for poor decisions, etc.   Often in our lives we fail in the tasks we attempt. What do we do when we fail? We often get discouraged, and may want to quit. We can always know that Jesus is there when we fail, and will carry us through the hard times, enabling us to become stronger, having learned patience and wisdom in the process. We will be better prepared to handle future failures.

Luke 5:3.

And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. . 

Upon seeing this, what did Jesus do?  He got into Simon's boat and spoke to the people from the water, separating himself from the crowd.  How do you suppose Peter, James and John felt to have their boat used by Jesus?  Certainly, this was a change in the monotony of their routine, welcome at this time of disappointment, taking their mind off of the frustration.  There might have been a little feeling of pride in knowing that their boat was seen by everyone.  They probably gave little attention or notice of the change that was about to take place in their lives.

What is the purpose of the fishing boat? It is designed to assist in the catching of fish. What was Jesus using the boat for? He was using it as a platform from which to "catch men.". God can often use those every-day and mundane things what we have for His purpose.  What are some examples of ways that God can use the things we own if we commit their use to Him? We can use our automobiles to take people to the store, to doctors, or to church.  We can use the tools that we own to make repairs to things belonging to others.  God can use anything we own when we use it to minister to someone when we care for them in Jesus' name.

Luke 5:4-5.

Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 

Up to this point, Jesus was teaching the crowd. Now it was time for Jesus to get down to some serious illustration. He told Simon to take Him out to the deep water. This statement would probably astonish these seasoned fishermen.  They knew well that if one is fishing during the daytime the best location to search for fish is in the sunlit shallows where the fish feed off of insects and plant debris churned up by the waves. Jesus was taking Simon out to where there would be the smallest possibility of catching fish.  Simon may have thought, "this guy may be a good preacher, but he doesn't know a thing about fishing!"   He is certain that to go back out into the deep water is a waste of time and effort, and Jesus is going to be embarrassed by the action he is about to take, so he tries to warn him.

Often when we are asked to do something that we have little confidence in, we will be resistant.  Simon resists when he simply does not see that the events that will surround his efforts will be empowered by God's purpose.  Likewise, when asked to serve the Lord in some capacity, we will usually look only to our own ability, assess our limitations, and resist involvement.  However, from this illustration we will be able to see that when we commit to service to the Lord, we serve as God's agent in His purpose, and the true power to accomplish the task is held by Him.  When we accomplish that which is beyond ourselves, we are blessed by witnessing what God can do in our lives.  No such blessing comes from working in our own power, or rejecting the opportunity to serve God because of our own lack of confidence.

Simon was not in much of a position to refuse.  However, the grammar of his response clearly shows his reluctance.  Pressured by Jesus' authority, and possibly by the witness of the other fishermen, or even possibly the crowds on the shore, Simon relented and let down the net.

Luke 5:6-7.

And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 

Upon lowering their net, the multitude of fish that filled their nets was so great that it took the crew from both boats to bring in the haul, a haul that was so large that it threatened to sink the boats. Nothing like this had ever been witnessed.

Again, what is the purpose of the fishing boat? It is simply to catch fish.   What happens when God uses the fishing boat to catch fish?  He catches LOTS of fish, beyond anything we could ever believe without seeing ourselves.  Likewise, if we give the use of the things we have to God, He can do great things with them, things that are far beyond both our ability or our expectations.

Luke 5:8-9.

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 

Now realize, they were out in deep water, so the crowds probably did not see what was taking place. Only Jesus and the fishermen were there. How did the fishermen respond to this miraculous catch of fish?  We find in many situations, it is Simon's response that is recorded.  Simon was usually the first to speak, and probably represented the others with him.  When the realization of what had just happened struck the fishermen, they turned to Jesus in awe.  Simon clearly recognized Jesus as someone who is far above himself in righteousness and power.  He probably felt stupid for his apparent arrogance when he tried to convince Jesus of the foolishness of dropping the nets in deep water.  When we compare the way we want to accomplish tasks with what God can do, there is simply no grounds for that comparison.  This is where Simon found himself.  

Simon instantly changed from an attitude of arrogance to one of veneration.  His testimony revealed that he felt unworthy to even be in the presence of this teacher and Rabbi who commanded such power, even power over nature.  Are we worthy, on our own, to be in God's presence? God is a Holy and Just God.  He does not sin, and cannot allow sin in His presence. Furthermore, God must always punish sin. So, like Simon, in sin we cannot have fellowship or a relationship with God.  Our natural bent is to reject God, and so our life from birth is characterized by sin, so it would appear that all men are doomed.  However,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,  (John 3:16): 

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, (Romans 5:8): 

Jesus came so that all people, as sinners who don't deserve to be in God's presence, who deserve to be separated from Him for eternity, can be saved. Jesus died on the cross, taking upon himself the punishment for the sins of all people who would accept God's gift of grace. Jesus taught us that if we follow Him in obedience, we will be saved from an eternity of separation from God. 

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, ( Romans 10:9-10).

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  When the New Testament writers refer to matters of the heart, they are not referring to emotions or feelings.  Ancient culture attributed emotions and feelings to the bowels.  Perhaps this is because fear is often felt in the pit of the stomach when the "fight or flight" response tightens the muscles.  The heart of the body was considered the center of the mind and personal decisions.  A confession of the Lord is one of decision, not feeling, though emotions certainly are engaged in the process of choice.

When Simon declared, "Go away from me, Lord..." he was confessing that Jesus was the Messiah, and that he accepted His authority. He accepted Jesus as Lord, but not necessarily his own Lord.  This brings up a serious point for consideration.

Do you believe in Jesus?  Do you believe that Jesus is Lord?  Do you believe that what the Bible teaches about Jesus is true? Some might argue that an affirmative answer to these three questions is a confession of faith, but it is not.   The writer of the book of James states, "The devils believe and tremble." Satan believes all of these are true, and his belief comes from first-hand knowledge. The difference between a Christian and Satan is that a Christian accepts Jesus as his personal Lord, as his boss. A Christian seeks to obey God, something that Satan will never do.  When a person confesses a belief of these three questions, but does not make a decision to accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, no commitment to faith has taken place.  Such is only a commitment to belief that is shared by Satan and his demons.  If Satan can convince one that such a confession is sufficient for salvation, Satan wins the battle, and the individual with such a belief is forever lost, and separated from God.   

Like Simon, we are not saved until we accept the radical authority that Jesus has over us, doing so by faith, depending upon Him for our future. In return Jesus promises never to leave us. He will be there in our times of difficulty and in our times of joy. 

Luke 5:10-11.

And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Was Simon's confession one of belief or one of faith?  A confession of belief will leave one satisfied of the facts, but does not cause a real change in one's life.  A confession of faith causes a radical change in one's life as the central authority that is realized in life changes from one's self to that of the Lord.  One's choices become influenced by that which would be obedient to the Lordship of Jesus.

Jesus used the catch of the boat to illustrate to the fishermen, and to us, what God intends to do in our lives. Jesus wasn't trying to impress the fishermen with His power, He was illustrating to them what God can do when something is used for His purpose. Jesus was showing the fishermen that He was going to do with them the same thing he did with the boat: use them to be witnesses of God's grace through Jesus and in doing so, to reap a harvest of saved souls.

God did use Peter, James and John to bring many people to Jesus. Their work, and the work of other Christians has continued through the years to reap a harvest of millions of people who have come to Jesus. As with Peter, James and John, Jesus is calling us to follow Him. Jesus invited the men to follow him, leaving behind their boats, and their career.  That is nothing less than a radical choice that requires tremendous faith.  There is no indication that the men discussed among themselves the consequences of their choice.  When one commits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, such thoughts will not even be relevant.  God's ultimate purpose is to bring the people of this world into relationship with Him.  When we turn to Him in faith, we join Him in that purpose, and are used of Him to present Himself to a lost and dying world.  When we turn our lives over to him, not only does he bless and guide our efforts, He uses them in this ultimate purpose, and with Him we become "fishers of men."

Luke 5:27-32 

And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. 28And he left all, rose up, and followed him. 

In these verses we find the description of the calling of Matthew. What do you see as a similarity between Matthew's response to Jesus call and that of Peter, James and John. He left everything behind to follow Jesus.  Unlike Peter, James, and John who were somewhat respected by their Jewish peers, Matthew was despised by the Jewish people, considered a thief and traitor to Rome, as he collected the tax.  Jesus' call to commitment in Him is extended to all people without regard to their value to the other people of this world culture.  Jesus found that those who were the most oppressed and downtrodden were usually the most responsive to His message of love.

Consider Paul's statement in: Phil 3:13-15 

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you, (Phil 3:13-15 ).

Imagine committing yourself to an important race whereby if you lose, you lose something of significance, like your life, or the life of a loved one. What are you going to carry with you as you run that race? Imagine being required to carry a bowling ball in each hand. What effect would that additional 32 pounds (15 Kg) have? This is what Paul is referring to when he says, "forgetting what is behind." A common error committed by the Christian, is to bring the weight of the world along with them into their faith. What is some of the excess baggage that we carry? We might bring guilt over past sins, broken relationships that need repairing, or sinful and inappropriate habits that we refuse to give up.  We might bring with us an evaluation of ourselves that is consistent with that of sinful men rather than that of a loving God.  All these things would cause us to be encumbered in the race.

A second argument that Paul gives here concerns focus. Again, you are running the race from a start to a finish line. What is the shortest distance between these two points? When one is running the race, the eyes must be focused clearly on the finish line.  What happens when one looks down at their own feet when they run?  The chances are good that they will stumble or run into an obstacle.  This is what happens when we take our eyes off of the goal and look to our own abilities and limitations, or the weights of the world that we bring into the race.  

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God, (Luke 9:62).

What was Jesus saying here? If we long for our past life, if we long for the sensual and temporal rewards of this evil world, if our desire is not for Jesus Christ, we will be of little or no purpose to the Kingdom. When one is tending a plow, what happens when the driver takes his eyes off of the end of the furrow and looks back?  The reference point for the row is lost, and the plow will no longer be driven in a straight line.  Consider some of the examples out of Chapter 9 that preceded this statement:

And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest, (Luke 9:57).

When people see Jesus, or when they hear the Gospel, what are some of the responses we observe?  Responses can be divided into two major categories, those who reject Jesus, and those who do not. Of those who do not, some never make a commitment and soon leave. Some never make a commitment but continue to "hang around". Others make a commitment and their lives are never the same again.

It is easy to say, "I'll follow you wherever you go." It's quite another to do it. There is a cost.  Here Jesus met a man along the road. Matt:8:19 reveals that this man was a teacher of the law. To follow Jesus was a significant act since it involves adopting His teachings, His lifestyle, and accept His authority. Obviously He had talked to the man and revealed who He was.  The man expressed a sincere desire to follow Jesus in obedience.

And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head, (Luke 9:58).

The man said, in an almost boastful and sweeping manner that he would follow Christ. It appears Jesus perceived the lack of commitment in the man's statement. What did Jesus say to the man?  He told the man that to follow him he would have to step out in faith. He would have to leave behind the life as he knew it and take the risk of the life ahead, trusting in God alone. The man would have to change his priorities. 

What does this say about our pilgrimage as disciples?  If we follow Jesus, we will have to do the same. We must act in faith and let God be God.  Why did this man apparently reject Jesus? (He could not leave the security of his lifestyle and step out in faith, experiencing the suffering the Jesus experienced along with the joys.

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God, (Luke 9:59-60).

Here we see a similar request from another man, and like the first, he was probably a Samaritan. It appears at first that Jesus' response was a bit harsh, but as we look at the situation, another truth is revealed.  The man was not grieving his father's death.   If his father had just died, he would be home burying his father. Actually, the words are a common cliché that refers to taking care of the father in his old age, awaiting his death so that he could obtain the inheritance. This man though that if he followed Jesus he would lose his inheritance.  Ancient Jews defined who they were and saw their future fully in their inheritance.

Understanding this, Jesus' response may make more sense. He is saying that those who fail to follow Him, those who are dead in their sin, will be around to bury the father. Jesus called upon the man to "Go and proclaim the kingdom of God.", with the implication by the word, "Go", that he is to leave the old world behind.

The first man valued his security and comfort so much that it could stand in the way of following Jesus. Where was this man's value? Note that in their day, the "inheritance" was a specific and primary valued thing. It had ties to their ancestry, their progeny, and served to define who they were. The man would have to change his priorities.

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house, (Luke 9:59-61).

What happened to this third man? Note he said, "let me first..." He could not place Jesus first in his life. Where the second man wanted to delay his discipleship for an extended period, this third man wanted to delay it for a short period. 

Our commitment to Jesus Christ is not to be taken lightly. What we have done in accepting His covenant has eternal significance for ourselves and those who we have opportunity to influence. Let us not fail in our task because of the influence that the world has on our lives, but rather run the race, free of encumbrance and focused on the high calling to which we are called.