Luke 5:1-11 NLT
“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!”11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.”
Can you imagine what it must have been like for Simon, James and John to be called, not only as disciples, but Jesus’s first disciples? Think about that moment for them. They knew Jesus to be a great teacher and healer. They saw the crowds that followed Him, and the miracles He performed. Then, after an exhausting night of unsuccessful fishing, Jesus performed a miracle for them.
Jesus told Simon to go out into the deeper water and let down the nets again. Simon thought it was pointless, but he did it, and he got so many fish that James and John had to go out with the other boat to help him. The amount of fish they had caught was so great that their boats nearly sank.
Think about this for a moment. Put yourself in a place of defeat, exhaustion and disappointment – perhaps some of you are experiencing this today – then Jesus, followed by a huge crowd, turns His attention to you and performs a miracle just for you.
I suspect that in that moment, everything would change for you.
Would you respond like Simon, falling to your knees in worship and awe? This was likely the first time Simon began to see who Jesus truly was, more than just the prophet everyone thought he was. He recognized the presence of God and knew he was unworthy. He humbly describes himself as a sinful man and begs Jesus to leave him.
Look at how Jesus responds. He tells them not to be afraid, and that they will, from that moment on, be fishing for men. Then they left everything and followed Him. Read that again. They left everything and followed Him.
They left their livelihood, their homes, their families and everything they knew and followed Jesus, without a single doubt. Could you do that?
As Christians we often talk about leaving the ‘things of this world’ behind, and living only for Jesus, but do we actually do that? In some ways, yes, we do. In other ways, we definitely do not. If Jesus stood before you today and told you to leave everything, without packing a bag or saying goodbye to friends and family, could you do it?
As a missionary, I did answer Jesus’s call when He asked me to move overseas and minister to the people of Czech Republic. However, I was given time to prepare for the transition, to say goodbye to friends and family, to train for my new role and prepare for life in a different culture. It would have been much more difficult for me if Jesus had called me to go right at that moment without preparation or goodbyes with family and friends. I also have the gifts of technology to easily keep in touch with people in Canada, and travel between countries is not difficult. These things did not exist in Jesus’s time.
Why were Simon, John and James so willing to immediately follow Jesus? What had they seen in the miracle Jesus performed that made them realize they needed to be with Him and learn from Him?
Charles Swindoll says in his commentary on Luke:
“They understood the principle Jesus taught through their massive haul of fish: With Me, you can do all things; without Me, everything you touch will come to nothing. When they were ready to accept this truth, they responded to the call of God. The men immediately dropped their nets, left everything behind, and accepted the Lord’s invitation to join an inner circle of students.”
Simon took a chance in following Jesus’s instructions to go back out on the water to fish. He believed it was pointless and did not expect to catch anything. Yet, he was wonderfully surprised. God showed His power over all the earth in this moment and the fishermen were left in awe.
In his commentary on Luke, Charles Swindoll also says:
“I wonder how many surprise gifts we forfeit by playing it safe, by depending upon our own expertise, by seeing only impossibilities in the Lord’s commands.
Simon, Andrew, James, and John didn’t allow the greatest day of their fishing careers to distract them. That day, they determined to follow Jesus anywhere He led and to do anything He commanded. Even if it led them into deep waters.”
The above hit me hard, and I wonder how many surprise gifts God had for me that I didn’t receive because I was too scared to go in the direction He was leading. I’m thankful I answered God’s calling on my life to be a missionary because through it I finally found my purpose. Of course, it has involved struggle and sadness, but the reward of following God, and the many surprise gifts from Him along the way, have been more than worth it.
Have you missed surprise gifts from the Lord because you chose not to follow where He was leading you?