Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You reach out in love to humans in order to recreate us into humble, uplifted servants of Your kingdom. And we also know that You used other humble Christians to touch our lives so that we could know and experience Your grace, thereby taking on that same high calling. Lord, because we are forgetful and slow to respond, reawaken us to the joy of living and doing for You, thereby making an eternal difference with our lives. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE CHIEF FISHER OF MEN!
TEXT: Luke 5: 1-11
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
When we hear the words of Scripture, sometimes the stories seem distant and far removed from our lives. So, let’s briefly update this text thereby increasing our focus.
Peter and his brother Andrew lived on the North Shore, up the coast from Boston. They ran their fishing boat out of Rockport and were good friends with an older fellow named Zebedee, (Zeb for short) who also ran a fishing trawler with his two sons, James and John. All these men were very religious. Perhaps living on the sea gave them extra time to think. And we should not forget that they lived totally controlled by God’s providence.—Either He provided fish and good weather, or He didn’t. Anyway, both sets of brothers had met up with John the Baptist after he came down from the mountains of Maine and set up his ministry on the north shore. They listened to John. They came to believe that he was the fore-runner of the Messiah, God’s Son, Who was coming to save the world. A few months after meeting John the Baptist, this great prophet introduced them Jesus, Whom John announced was the Messiah! The brothers were intrigued. After all, Jesus appeared normal. His height was average. His looks non-descript. And then Jesus called them to be His disciples—and John said: “Leave me and follow Him!” They did along with a couple other fellows. They even went with Jesus to a wedding in Ipswich where he somehow changed water into wine, to the joy, amazement, and relief of everyone there. After that, Jesus went by himself to some other north shore communities to preach, while the two sets of brothers returned to Rockport to fish. After all, Peter had a wife and family and they all needed the money.
After a few weeks, we find Peter and Andrew at Crane’s Beach in Ipswich. They have their boat pulled up on the beach after a long night of fruitless fishing. Their buddies, James and John are also there. All are washing, and/or repairing their nets. About mid-morning Jesus suddenly appears on the scene. A crowd begins to gather to hear what He has to say. Then Jesus turns to Peter and says: “I need your boat. Push it out a little from shore so that more can hear My message.” Peter and Andrew do this and the sermon continues. When the final “Amen” is said, Jesus tells Peter: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter is pretty amazed at this. After all, he’s a life-long fisherman. He knows the sun is high and the fishing has been lousy. He gives a little excuse, but then agrees in order to placate Jesus. Almost as soon as they finish getting the nets completely in the water, they realize a huge school of haddock has been caught! Quickly they begin hauling this bounty in! But, it’s so huge, bigger than anything they’ve ever experienced in all their years, that their boat actually begins to sink from the weight! They get on the CB radio and call James and John to help them. They, too, arrive on the scene and then their boat also is filled with fish and begins to sink. Peter is about to call the Coast Guard for help, but then he revs up the engine and both boats beach on the sands of Crane’s Beach.
Now, Peter has seen a miracle before—at the wedding in Ipswich. But, he’s never actually been the recipient of a miracle. Now, he is! And amid all those haddock flopping around, he kneels before Jesus and says: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Indeed, all the fishermen are astonished at the huge catch of fish! But, then Jesus responds with those kind words: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So, they left their boats, gave their catch to family and friends, and from then on they followed Jesus—all the way to Calvary’s cross.
What does this little story teach us? Simply this:
JESUS WANTS HUMBLE PEOPLE TO DO HIS WORK!
You catch fish with a net or with a hook. But, what do you use to catch men? How do you capture another human being so that they actually want to follow God’s ways instead of merely doing their own thing? The only bait which can capture hearts for God is your heart. A humble heart which has been purged of all arrogance and self-interest. Let’s face it, when out of the blue someone is really nice to you, what’s your usual reaction? Isn’t it: “What’s their angle?” Isn’t it: “They’re trying to use me?” From the earliest of ages, we all learn that the world is made up of givers and takers, and that the takers outnumber the givers—exponentially. Taking from others, using people as stepping stones to get our own way, expecting a pay-back from them greater than our own expenditure of time and energy—that’s the norm by which we all operate. But, Jesus wants something totally different from us. And He offers something totally different to us. He offers us His humble love, His kindness with no strings attached, His grace. He offers to us the complete forgiveness for all sins. He offers us eternal life in heaven. He offers us a guilt-free conscience. And all He expects in return for His gifts to us is faith and appreciation.
Christian faith and appreciation breed humbleness. And with such humbleness comes love. Love for our Savior and love for other hurting sinners. We want them to experience the joy we possess in Christ. We want them to have a better life—guided by God instead of floundering along corrupted by this sin-sickened world. And the only way to break through the hard, outer shell of self-interest (which makes for lonely lives) is to adopt a humble heart which isn’t afraid to share itself with anyone and everyone.
There’s an old Saturday Night Live skit in which some of the actors bow down to some pooh-bah and intone: “We are not worthy, we are not worthy!” Well, that’s exactly what St. Peter did before Christ when on the receiving end of a miracle. Peter was totally honest. He knew that he wasn’t worthy of standing in God’s presence. But, Christ made him worthy by building up faith inside his heart. And in response, Peter shared his heart with countless others to honor His Savior.
Do you think Peter never had anyone rebuff his efforts at being a fisher of men? Do you think Peter was never disappointed in sinners who put Jesus off? Of course he was. In fact, even Peter had moments of weakness and indecision about his own commitment. And yet, Jesus remained totally committed to Peter, to Andrew, to John, to James and to each of us. And He sealed His commitment by dying in our place and then rising to a new life—our new life!
You and I are also called by Christ today to be fishers of men. So, don’t be afraid to use your humbled heart to touch theirs—for the better! Amen