5th Sunday after the Epiphany
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 5:1-11 Sermon
February 4, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
55 “Songs Of Thankfulness And Praise”
53 “Brightest And Best”
307 “Jesus Shall Reign Where e’er The Sun”
328 “Hail To The Lord’s Anointed”
FISHING WITH POWER
TEXT (vs. 4-6) “When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch. 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. When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”
There’s a story I’ve told in the past which I am going to tell again this morning. It’s a fishing story, a very powerful fishing story.
In a small sea-side town, there lived an older gentleman who was quite a fisherman. Everybody was amazed at how many fish this man caught. Even on those days when everybody else couldn’t seem to catch a thing, he always came back to shore with a huge catch. Everybody was dying to know this man’s secret for being such a good fisherman.
One day, a young man who hadn’t lived in the town for very long approached the old man. “I see you’re quite a fisherman,” he said. “Would you mind if I tagged along with you today?”
To his (and everybody else’s) surprise the old man said, “Sure, hop in the boat, and we’ll go out.”
The old man seemed to be the typical fisherman. He wore a slouch hat, had several days’ worth of whisker stubble on his face, and held a cigar in his teeth which he puffed on from time to time.
So they got into the boat, and they headed out. By and by, they came to a nice quiet cove, and the old man shut off the engine and dropped anchor. Then he reached for his beat-up old tackle box. He flipped open the lid, took out a stick of dynamite, touched the end of his cigar to the fuse, and threw it a good distance away from the boat, out into the water.
Suddenly the dynamite exploded; and shortly thereafter, the stunned fish began to rise to the surface. The old man pulled up anchor, started his boat, and trolled around with his landing net scooping up the stunned fish.
The young man with him looked at what he was doing, and then pulled a badge from his pocket. “I’m sorry to inform you of this sir,” he said, “but I’m the new game warden around here. What you’re doing is illegal, and I’m going to have to place you under arrest.”
The old man didn’t say a word. Instead, he reached into his beat-up old tackle box again, and pulled out another stick of dynamite. He touched his cigar to the fuse, and handed the dynamite to the young man.
Then he looked him square in the eye and said, “Okay son, what are you going to do? Are you going to just sit there, or are you going to fish?”
Like I said, I’ve told this story before. The first time I used it, I had an older gentleman in the congregation approach me after services. He told me that his cousin used to do the very same thing, only he climbed up a tree that overhung the water. Unfortunately for him, after he threw the dynamite into the water one day, he slipped and fell out of the tree and landed right where the dynamite was. Of course that was the last time he did that; there wasn’t a whole lot left of him after that little stunt he pulled.
Anyhow, I think that this little story is a good one to use to lead into our text for today. Our gospel lesson tells probably one of the best fishing stories there is, especially since it has a strong divine connection.
The setting is simple. There was this group of fishermen, which included Simon Peter along with James and John, the sons of Zebedee. The text indicates that there were more than just these three, but the three are the ones who were to become apostles of Jesus. We are told that they had been out fishing all night long, and they hadn’t caught even so much as a single fish. They had come back into shore, and were ready to pack it in for the day.
Jesus approaches them, and has Simon Peter take him out a little ways from shore so he could preach to the people that had gathered there. After Jesus preaches, Simon Peter vents some of his discouragement to him, explaining that they had been working all night long and had nothing to show for it.
Jesus then instructs him to go out into the deep water and put down his nets again, assuring him of a catch.
I don’t know what was going on in the mind of Simon Peter and the others too, but I’m sure that something just didn’t seem quite right to him and the others.
First of all, Jesus was no fisherman. He was a carpenter by trade, and he didn’t have the years of experience these fishermen did.
Have you ever had someone who is inexperienced come up to you while you’re trying to do something, and tell you that you’re doing it all wrong? Did someone’s lack of experience contradict what years of experience had taught you? Has something like that ever irritated you?
I’m guessing that Simon Peter would probably have been harboring some of those feelings. Jesus was telling them something contrary to their own experience. He told them to go out in broad daylight. Experienced fishermen knew that broad daylight was absolutely the worst time to go fishing. They would be going out in the most adverse conditions.
He also told them to go out after an entire night’s worth of futile attempts. How in the world could they ever hope to catch anything with these two strikes against them?
I’m fairly certain that Simon Peter, James, John, and the others would have been frustrated, irritated, tired, and hungry after their long night. Maybe they were too tired to really care, or to argue with Jesus. So they just did what they were told.
What happened next was most definitely a miracle. They not only caught fish, but so many that the nets were ripping and the boats were sinking. How could everything so right occur when everything else seemed so wrong?
Like every miracle in the Bible, it was done with a definite purpose in mind. Jesus never performed a miracle unless there was a point to it or some sort of lesson needed to be learned. Our text for today is no exception.
The thing that stands out right away, is the absolute power and total control Jesus had over this situation. Years of fishing experience and expertise couldn’t match the power of God which even control the laws of nature.
These men had to have it graphically impressed upon them as to how extensive this power of Jesus was, and what it could do. An inexperienced carpenter who had all of the power of God at his disposal was far better than even the most seasoned and experienced fisherman.
I’d like to introduce a key Bible passage into all of this, which should bring things together quite nicely. Listen now to Romans 1, 16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes….”
The Gospel is the power of God. The Greek word for “power” in this passage is “dunamis” which is where we get the English word “dynamite.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is even more powerful than dynamite, and it produces results even more dramatic than that old man in my opening illustration that used dynamite for fishing.
The deep dark section of the sea in our text for today represents the deep dark sea of sin in which we all swim. We, like the fish, swim about aimlessly with no direction or purpose. They are lost, and so are we. The efforts of sinful man are of no avail; the fish can’t find the nets or get themselves out of trouble.
But along comes Jesus. He guides the fish into the net; and for purposes of comparison, he rescues them. Then he drags them into the safety of the boat. He rescues so many in fact that the numbers are completely overwhelming.
The boat can be compared with the church, where those the Lord has rescued are brought aboard, and then gathered together. We gather together as a Christian congregation as ones the Lord has rescued from the certain peril of sin. He does this through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is dynamite—it is the power or dynamite of God. It is so powerful that it is able to gather the lost souls of this world that would otherwise be headed for perdition, and bring them into the safety of God’s family. It means salvation for all who believe.
I don’t know if you like to equate yourselves with lost fish swimming about aimlessly in a sea, but that’s exactly what we are. Without God’s divine power, we would be lost forever in a sea of sin, like mere fish destined to be nothing more than the food for other fish.
But God intervenes with his divine grace. He shows his absolute love, concern, and care for the lost fish in this world, people the likes of you and me. He sent Jesus to this earth so we might be rescued and brought safely into his family.
The dynamite of the Gospel has saved us. That dynamite of God came into our lives and worked faith in our hearts. Through that power, we came to know Jesus Christ as our Saviour; and through that power constantly working in our lives, God continues to keep us in that faith. He keeps us in fellowship with other believers. And he promises us and all true believers that we can be assured of his divine presence and assistance throughout our lives.
This miracle of Jesus had a huge impact upon those who were gathered there that day. Verse 8 of our text says, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Simon Peter knew that Jesus was indeed true God. He also knew that he was a sinner, and not deserving of God’s love and forgiveness. He humbles himself before Jesus and boldly confesses his sin. Why would Jesus want anything to do with a sinner like himself? After all, being a fisherman was anything but a glamourous profession. And certainly, he had done his share of sinning.
As it turns out, Jesus wanted everything to do with him and his companions. They had heard him preach a powerful message. They witnessed the dynamite power of Jesus when it came to filling the nets and boats with fish. They knew he was true God, the Saviour of the world. So what now?
Verses 10-11 of our text for today explain exactly what that next step was. We read, “Then Jesus said to Simon, Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men. So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
Yes, he made them “fishers of men” as it is sometimes stated. They left everything and followed him. They realized that the Gospel was what people needed, and how powerful it was. They learned the lesson they were taught with the draught of fishes, and took it to heart.
And so, armed with the dynamite of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they went and brought this good news to the world. Simon Peter later made the statement, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” And Jesus’ reply to this statement was, “On this rock, I will build my church.”
In effect, Jesus handed these men a stick of dynamite and asked them the question, “Are you going to just sit here, or are you going to fish?”
We can bring this home to ourselves as well. We have seen the miracles Jesus has done. He has worked the miracle of faith in our lives too. He has brought us out of the sea of sin into his family through faith in Jesus our Saviour.
And now he has done something else too. We have a kingdom to populate. We have a church to build. We have work to do. He has handed us the stick of dynamite we call the Gospel, and now he asks each and every one of us the question: “Are you going to just sit there, or are you going to fish?”