Epiphany 5 – The Lord Calls and Sends Messengers
Watch the service
Read the sermon
Take Jesus At His Word
Following what people say can be dangerous. Almost 25 years ago, Karin and I went on a hike. The hiking book we bought had many details in it. And amongst all those details it said that we should bring some water. But we didn’t need to bring too much since there were “multiple water sources” along the way. So, we did just that. But the streams were either dried up or infested with swampy water. We set up our tent and wondered what would happen the next day. We got up the next day early to finish our hike. But there was an amazing surprise. It began to rain. And as we got a little farther along our trail, we found an area where people had made a pool out of the rocks. We were able to get our water and finish our hike. It can be dangerous to take some person at their word. And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus invites us to do. He invites us to take him at his word. In Luke 5, we hear that invitation: “1 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, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”” (Luke 5:1–5 NIV11-GKE)
In these words Jesus has called Peter, James, and John to be disciples, followers of Jesus. But he hasn’t called them to be apostles yet. Right now they are just listeners and learners. And there’s this big, massive crowd of people that Jesus is teaching over the course of a long day. And as Jesus is teaching, Peter, James, and John are there. They were fishing all through the night and caught nothing. And in the morning they are cleaning our their nets. And they hear the hours of Jesus teaching them. And they are moved by what they have heard. And so, when Jesus tells them to go out into the deep water, Peter lets Jesus know that they already tried that and it didn’t work. But notice what Peter also does. He takes Jesus at his word. He doesn’t put Jesus to the test. So they go out into the deep water, and what happens? “6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.” (Luke 5:6–10 NIV11-GKE)
They put our their nets. And what happens next? Miracles happen. First, there’s the major miracle: they have a so much fish that they need to call in the other boats to help. But then there’s another miracle: The boats are so full of fish that they begin to sink. And Jesus is the one who keeps them above the water.
Peter sees these miracles and what is his reaction? He took Jesus at his word. And look where that led him. It filled him with full-strength fear. He calls Jesus, “Lord.”1 Earlier on, he calls Jesus “sir”.2 Here, Peter calls Jesus the full-strength word for God. He calls him, “The Lord.” Peter has come face to face with God himself. And he knew it.
But he doesn’t just call Jesus, Lord. He calls himself, “sinner.”3 This word, too, deserves a little time. This is the word for a professional sinner—Someone who gets through life and makes a living by sinning. Tax collectors and prostitutes were in this category in the OT. Peter surely isn’t in this category. He has an honest job. He’s a fisherman. But coming face to face with the Lord has brought him face to face with his own sin. And in full-strength fear he falls down at Jesus’ feet and begs him to go away.
And my friends in Christ, we learn so much from Peter. In our lives there are times when we play games with God and it catches up with us. I remember when I was young, I used to play games with my brother. I’d tease him or pick on him. And all the whole while I thought my dad didn’t know. And I’d antagonize my brother again and again and nothing would happen. And, after a little while, I began to conclude that my dad didn’t know what was going on. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I’d get a spanking and realize that dad knew all along. It’s one truth to have in our hearts the idea that God knows all and sees all and can do all. It’s another level of learning entirely to see it in action. Jesus is the Lord. He had the power to sink their boats to the bottom of the sea. And, when Peter saw his sins, he knew that Jesus had every right to do this as well.
Taking Jesus at his word means that, when we do so, we will find full-strength fear of God. You will learn that, yes, Jesus is your friend. But Jesus is not your buddy. He will hold you accountable to who you are and what you have done in your life. Taking Jesus at his word leads to full-strength fear. But also leads in another direction: “10 Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10–11 NIV11-GKE)
First of all, notice the forgiveness that is not really spoken. Instead, it’s shown. Jesus simply, and kindly says, “You do not need to be afraid any longer.”4 Jesus says the same to us today. For each of us holds in our hearts sins—these commandments that God gives us for our good, and yet we have broken them. And there are these times that our conscience let’s us know how really truly bad these sins are. And they are so bad we hide them and do not tell anyone about them. We are ashamed of them and terrified of our Lord God who sees them. And then Jesus comes along and says, “You do not need to be afraid any longer.” Jesus doesn’t just see our sin. He also pays for it and forgives it.
The second truth we learn here is that when we take Jesus at his word, it leads to full-strength following. Jesus is the one who chooses our path in this life, not us. There is this irony in our lives. Jesus deliberately puts us in a place in our lives where we need to plan and prepare. As we get older we grow into this. Especially when we get to high school and college we really grow into this. We work hard and pick out classes to take. We pick out future careers to go into. And, my dear friends in Christ, this is good. This is part of growing up. But there is another truth we need to hold in the same context. Taking Jesus at his word means full-strength following. Jesus is the one who directs our life and our steps. And we follow him not a little bit. We follow him all the way. Like the disciples, we leave it all behind to follow Jesus. We might be something when we grow up. But Jesus has the right to move us to place where we cannot be what we prepared for. He has the right to change our health so that we cannot do what we trained for. He has the right to change the health of someone we love and we are put in the place where we put our careers on hold to care for that person we love. Taking Jesus at his word, means full-strength following.
And finally, full-strength following means that we help each other when these course-corrections in our lives come. I cannot speak about this in your lives. But I can speak about this in my own life as a pastor. Peter left it all behind. He would not go back to full-time fishing again. Instead, he would be a fisher of people. He would be an apostle. And there were consequences for that. He would not see his parents very often. And the same is true today for pastors. Most of you have the great gift, that if you want to see grandma or grandpa, you can just travel across the town or field. For us pastors, it’s not the same. We have to travel hours, if not even days away to visit our parents. So, it is your role to see this, understand it, and guard that time so that the pastor and his family can visit his parents and parents-in-law.
Let us take Jesus at his word, knowing that it will not be like following the advice of the person who wrote that hiking book. For taking Jesus at his word leads to full-strength fear. And it leads to full-strength following. Amen.
1 “ⲕ̅ⲉ̅” (Luke 5:8 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲉⲡⲓⲥⲧⲁⲧⲁ” (Luke 5:5 GNT-ALEX)
3 “ⲁⲙⲁⲣⲧⲱⲗⲟⲥ” (Luke 5:8 GNT-ALEX)
4 “ⲙⲏⲫⲟⲃⲟⲩ” (Luke 5:10 GNT-ALEX)