Sermon: A Fishing Lesson that has Nothing to do with Fish (Luke 5:1-11)

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A Fishing Lesson that has Nothing to do with Fish

Jesus has been moving from place to place and from synagogue to synagogue preaching the Word of God to the people.  As He traveled and spoke people were astonished at what He said.  They recognized that He was no ordinary man.  His Words came accompanied with authority.

Luke has made his point very well.  In example after example, he shows us that the words of Jesus were the source of great amazement for the people who heard Him.  Over the course of history there have not been too many people ever hear God actually speak.  Some of the prophets did and some of the apostles and the Israelites in the wilderness and a few others, but that’s about it.

The people were so hungry for spiritual food that they began to follow Jesus around.  The crowd, at times, became so large that Jesus had to do things a little different.  Here in this text, Simon’s boat becomes Jesus’ pulpit and the great multitude of fish becomes a life changing experience.

Please, hear God’s Word…

Luke 5:1-11 (ESV)

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.

So, ends the reading of God’s Word.

1. Jesus is God’s Word (1:1-3)

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.

In these opening verses, Luke shows us God Himself sitting down in a fishing boat and teaching the people.  The reason for this unusual pulpit was because there were so many people and so many pressing against Him to hear a Word from God.

Jesus and Peter step onto Peter’s fishing boat and Jesus sits down and asks Peter to push out just little bit.  This way He could see everyone and everyone could hear Him teach because of the superior acoustics that the water caused.

The crowd was so hungry for a Word from God that they pushed and pressed in to hear what Jesus would say next.  No doubt, some were excited to see His next miracle, others were probably there thinking about some means of personal gain, others were there for the right reasons.

The eternal word here is speaking eternal words and the people are again amazed and want more.  We’ll see here in this text that Luke is now portraying Jesus as Creator God.

We should do a quick summary and examine Jesus as Creator…

Genesis 1:1-3 (ESV)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. [2] The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

[3] And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

If you were to continue reading, you would read the same phrase over and over again, and God said. When man builds something, he must have tools and material to assemble whatever it is he’s going to make.  When God creates, He uses His Word as the tool and with the Word He creates out of nothing a finished product.  God only starts with His Word…He speaks it…and creates out of nothing everything, even the material that we use to make whatever it is we might make.

John 1:1 (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The eternal Word, John tells us has taken on flesh and become the incarnate Word.  This is the same Logos or Word that said, let there be light and in the speaking it happened.

Col. 1:15-17 (ESV)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus, the Word of God, did the creating in Genesis 1:1, when the Son said let there be light, light appeared out of nothing to shine brightly.  This same Word of God sat down in a fishing boat and showed grace and mercy by teaching the people.  Remember when the Son speaks He creates.  When He spoke dead lifeless hearts were made alive.  In His speaking, He created life where previously there was none.  When Jesus speaks things are made new.  When the Creator speaks, creation obeys.

2.  Creation Obeys God’s Word (5:4-7)

[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.

When you read someone on this text and they start out by telling you that Jesus is all-knowing because He knew where the fish were, is not fully grasping the magnitude of this event.  Jesus is not the omniscient fishfinder.  Jesus is all-knowing (omniscient) and He knew where the fish were because He put them there.

When Jesus said Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch., with that Word, the fish were either created there or caused to swim there and wait for the Master to come.

Any fisherman knew that it was at night when one would have the greatest success with nets, Master, we toiled all night. Most believe by the time Jesus had finished teaching the people that it was about noon, the worst time of the day to fish.  Jesus asked them to launch out into the deep, the worst place to fish with nets.  Simon and everyone else knew that all their fishing buddies would be on the shore pointing their fingers and smirking, who ever heard of fishing at noon out in the deep with a Carpenter leading the expedition.  With the deck stacked against them, Simon agrees to do what Jesus says.

They throw their nets into the water and pull the rope which seals the net shut and guess what happened?  There were so many fish in the net that it began to tear and they couldn’t lift it into the boat.

[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.

The Greek literally says a Great Multitude of fish.  That phrase will be important in a minute.  The original, uses language that might remind us of a balloon filled to the point that it bursts.  The nets were bursting with fish.  It’s as if these crazy fish were intentionally swimming into the net not trying to get away.  Almost like every fish in the entire sea of Galilee was trying to fit into that one net.

Simon and his fishing partners called to James and John in the other boat to come and help.

Both boats were filled with so many fish that they were about to sink.  The picture is that if one more fish was brought in, that would be all that the boats could stand.  The brim of the boat was just an inch above the water…and they were out in the deep.

We must pause for a moment and see the generosity of Christ.  God is not stingy.  He lavishes blessings on His people.

Ephes. 1:1-8 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: [2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,  [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

[5] he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

In the same way, Jesus fills our boats so full of mercy and grace that they’re just about ready to sink.

3. Simon Sees Reality (5:8-11)

[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.

This is a monumental turning point for Peter.  With this one event his life is forever changed.  Jesus took something that Peter knew all about and proved that He is the Son of God.  When Peter saw the holiness of the Son of God, he immediately realized his sinfulness.  This is very similar to when Isaiah saw the greatness of Christ in the temple.

Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  [2] Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  [3] And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

[4] And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  [5] 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!”

Like Isaiah, Peter sees the majesty of Jesus and immediately his legs go out from under him and he does what everyone will eventually do, he bows to the King.  He realized that this great catch of fish pointed to something greater, namely, Jesus as Lord of creation.

Jesus had done other miracles that Peter saw and no doubt amazed at those as well.  But this one was different.  Peter was a fisherman.  He knew everything there was to know about the fishing business.  He was an expert.  This miracle literally blew his mind.

As great as this miraculous catch of fish was, Jesus tells Simon that we’ve only just begun.  And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Jesus is explaining to Peter that this fishing lesson really has nothing to do with fish.

Remember, Jesus’ Words create.  When He said this to Peter, Jesus had already preordained the events that would happen in Peter’s life.  He and the others would catch men for the kingdom of God.  It would happen because the Logos spoke it.

Just as this was a turning point in Peter’s life, God wants it to be a turning point in your life.  Out on the boat that day, Peter was commissioned to go and preach the same message that Jesus preached.  Every one of us has also received the Great Commission from Jesus Himself.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus speaks and with His Words, He creates.  When He commands us to go and make disciples, we must do it.  We must be faithful like Peter was.

I pray this would build your confidence when it comes to telling others about Christ and the Gospel.  We don’t need to be afraid or hesitant.  Jesus has spoken and it will come to pass.  Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.

Please, don’t think you know more about evangelism than Jesus does.  Peter thought he was an expert at fishing.  He thought he knew where and when to fish.  Jesus taught him that with man this was impossible but with God, all things are possible.  Do you think you’re an expert in knowing who God will save and who is a hopeless case?  Do you think you’re an expert in how others might react?  Perhaps there is someone you’ve just about stopped praying for or have refused to go to because you think nothing will happen.  Jesus would tell us… Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch!

Pray that the Holy Spirit would show you someone who needs to hear the Good News.  Remember this fishing lesson really doesn’t have anything to do with fishing.

[11] And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

They left it all and followed King Jesus.

Jesus calls some people to leave everything to follow Him.  There are some folks working in remote areas today that have left everything.  Jesus doesn’t call most people to leave everything to follow Him.  He does call us to leave some things.  Every Christian is called to leave something behind.  Maybe it’s a sin that you’ve loved so much.  Maybe it’s a certain lifestyle.  Maybe it’s how you spend your money or your time.

What is it Jesus is calling you to leave behind and follow Him?

Jesus taught Peter and the others a great lesson that day and it really had nothing to do with fish.  He showed His authority as God’s Son.  He called them into service as His disciples.  Peter learned that as amazing as that great multitude of fish were, he’d be catching great multitudes of people.

Acts 2:37-41 (ESV)

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  [38] And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  [39] For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  [40] And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”  [41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Peter would be fishing for men.  The great multitude of fish was a picture of the great multitude of people that would be caught for Christ.

Jesus was right…

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