University Bible Fellowship of
Toronto
           
 
           
 
 
Bible Search 

JESUS CALLS SIMON

Luke 5:1-5:11
Key Verse: 5:10b

God calls people for his redemptive work and history. There are important callings by God in the Bible. In the Old Testament we remember God’s call to Abram and his call to Isaiah. In his gospel, Luke wrote in this chapter Jesus’ call to Peter, and his call to Levi. All these are exemplary callings in the Bible. In the previous passage, Jesus set his purpose of coming into this world: to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. Then in today’s passage Jesus calls Simon as his disciple and a kingdom worker. In this calling we see with what purpose Jesus calls and what kind of people he calls. Let’s think about Jesus who calls Simon.

First, “Put out into deep water” (1-5). Look at verse 1. “One day as Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret with the people crowing around him and listening to the word of God.” This lake appears in the gospel many times. It had three names: the Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberias, and the Lake of Gennesaret. Luke likes to call it the lake of Gennesaret. It is 21 km long and 11 km wide (13 miles by 7 miles). Verse 1 is the setting of Jesus’ calling Simon. The people were thirsty for the word of God. So they crowded around Jesus at the lake of Gennesaret from early in the morning to hear the word of God. We believe that Jesus was proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God to them standing by the lake. How precious the souls were! We don’t know how much of the morning elapsed, probably an hour. What did Jesus do next? Verse 2 says, “he saw at the water’s edge two left, there by the fishermen who were washing their nets.” Jesus’ eyes turned from the crowd to the two boats. Certainly, Jesus was not interested in the boats themselves, but the owners of the boats. But they were busy washing their nets, having left their boats on shore. They were doing what they had to do, while Jesus was teaching. They seemed to be indifferent to Jesus’ word. Seeing the two boats at the water’s edge, what did Jesus do? Look at verse 3. “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore.” What kind of action was this? Doesn't it seem impolite and rude? Jesus should have gotten the permission first. But we see that non-verbal communication was going on between Jesus and Simon. Simon was one of those who seemed inattentive to Jesus’ teaching. He was washing his net for the next fishing trial. But Jesus entered his world, getting into his boat and asking him to put out a little from shore. Luke did not write Simon’s response explicitly. In the flow of the passage it was a 'yes' to Jesus’ request. Something divine attracted him. He could not refuse the request in his tired and troublesome situation. So he nodded his head as the sign of permission, stopped washing his net, and put out his boat with Jesus in it a little from shore. Then Jesus sat down and taught the people from the boat. Most likely this time Simon drew his attention to Jesus’ teaching. This is an excellent case of Jesus’ initiative for his discipleship. Jesus was not abandoning the crowd. He was taking a step to call a man who could take care of such a crowd after him.

Look at verse 4. “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.’” Here we see more clearly that Simon was in Jesus’ mind and he was taking steps to approach Simon and now spoke to him directly. But what a sudden and unreasonable command! He was washing his nets, showing that he had just finished a long night of work. He was tired and hungry. It was common sense to fisherman that one did not fish in deep water in the morning: deep water was an unlikely place, and bright morning an unfavourable time for fishing. Why did Jesus give such a difficult command to Simon? Why did he not just call him, saying, “Follow me”? In truth, the command was Jesus’ invitation for Simon to Jesus himself. Jesus wanted Simon to experience Jesus and enter the world of Jesus.

How did Simon respond? Look at verse 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.’” This is really a beautiful attitude of Peter. Jesus’ command was uncommon, and Peter’s answer was uncommon. Here, we come to know about Simon. What kind of person was he? Firstly, he was a hardworking man. Although he had worked hard all night with no result, he would do more work despite his tiredness. Secondly, he was not fixed to his knowledge and experience as a veteran fisherman. He had a learning mind, even willing to try to learn fishing from a carpenter. Most people are closed in their own world, what they saw and heard and experienced. In their closed mind it is not easy for them to accept something new, even some good advice. People are comfortable with what they have learned and known. But Simon was different. Thirdly, he wanted to obey Jesus. When Simon said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything” it could imply, “Master, your command did not make sense to us; in my reasonable mind I cannot agree with you; but I will try, because you say so.” Young people in our times don’t want to obey anyone. They often say, “Because you say so, I don’t want to” meaning, “If you had not said so, I could have done it.” But Simon had ears to hear the divine command of Jesus and wanted to obey him beyond all things.

In this part we learn that Jesus commanded Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch,” so that Simon might enter Jesus’ world through his obedience to his command. The way to enter the spiritual world of Jesus is through obedience to his word. The obedience to one word of God is significant to enter the spiritual world. There are numerous examples of this. As you have seen in Luke’s gospel study until now, obedience to the word of God is one big teaching in this gospel. There was the obedience of the mother of Jesus, Mary. Her human mind questioned, “How can a virgin be with a child?” But when the angel told her about the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High, she answered, “May it be to me as you have said” (Lk 1:38). Through her obedience her spiritual eyes were open to see God her Saviour and her blessedness through all generations. There was Elizabeth’ obedience. Regardless of strong Jewish tradition and her neighours’ eager expectation, she named her son John, rather than after his father, in obedience to God (1:60). Then the fear of God spread in the whole village. There was the boy Jesus’ obedience (2:51). He was obedient to his parents despite his astounding knowledge and wisdom. He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb 5:9). In Chapter 4 Jesus talked about the obedience of a widow in Zarephath of Sidon and the obedience of Naaman the Syrian. In faith in God’s promise and obedience to God the widow gave the last portion of her and her son’s food to Elijah, God’s prophet in spite of her extreme poverty (1 Kings 17:15). Then she could receive the abundant provision from God. When Naaman, the commander-in-chief, came to the prophet Elisha for the healing of his leprosy, Elisha did not even show himself, bust just sent a message, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan…” It was a humiliation to him. Also, the proposed way of healing was totally different from what he had expected, i.e. that the prophet would stand, call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the spot. And in Naaman’s reasonable thinking there were better rivers in his country than the Jordan. But Naaman overcame his humiliation and expectation and reason and obeyed the prophet Elisha. He went to the Jordan and dipped himself in the river seven times. Then he was cleansed of his leprosy. More than that he could come to know the true God, the God of Israel (2 Kings 5:10-15). We will continually learn about the significance of obedience in the flow of Luke’s gospel. Luke did not use the term “obey” or “obedience” much in the strict sense of the term--only one time in 11:28, “Blessed are rather those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Yet, its teaching is obvious in the gospel of Luke. When one woman among us heard Jesus’ word, “Put out into deep water…” and “come, follow me”, she put the word of God into practice by faithfully attending the Sunday worship service in the church to which God had called her and by offering her heart and time and materials to God. Her spiritual eyes have been opened to see her personal God and the Scriptures and to see God’s people and his work. May each of us learn obedience, especially the obedience to one word of God.

Second, “You will catch men” (6-11). Look at verse 6. “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” Throughout the previous night, despite all their efforts, they had been unable to catch any fish, even one. However, when they obeyed and put out into the deep water and threw their nets, they caught a large number of fish, so large that their nets began to break. This was an exuberant emergency situation. Because of many fish their nets began to break and fish were coming out of the nets and fleeing away back into the sea, one by one. 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.” Now another problem arose: their boats began to sink. We do not know how the fishermen handled this situation, because Luke stopped talking about nets and boats with large numbers of fish.

At this situation what struck Simon was not the fish any more, but something else. Look at verse 8. “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” What an unusual response! Another uncommon response of Simon in this passage. He could have said, “Thank you Jesus. I came to know your great power when I obeyed you. You are my Lord. Please, be near me.” But he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Why? Verse 9 says, “For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken.” When Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law from high fever, nothing is written about Simon’s astonishment. But at this time, at a great catch of fish, he was astonished. When Simon said, “Because you say so, I will let down the nets,” surely he did not expect such a great catch of fish, perhaps just several fish, which would be good enough for that day or for several days. He must have never expected that catching such a large number of fish could ever happen in his life, even in his dreams. He knew all about fish in the sea and fishing was his profession. But the unexpectedly great catch of fish Simon's hidden pride was smashed; his foundation of life was shaken. Suddenly he became fearful and momentarily wanted to escape the situation. So far he thought he was a pretty nice guy, faithful and hardworking and trying to help his companions. Now he could not even think of any of merits, but only his sinfulness and unworthiness. He could not have any hope in himself. He saw God in Jesus. So Simon fell at his knees calling him now Lord. He was obviously a sinner before Lord Jesus. In the presence of the holy God sinful man trembles.

How did the Lord Jesus respond to Simon when he knelt at his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!” Jesus did not go away from him. Look at verse 10b. “Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” “Don’t be afraid” includes Jesus’ welcome and embrace in spite of Simon's sinfulness and unworthiness. Jesus would be happy with him. And then Jesus said, “You will catch men.” When Simon could not have any hope in him, Jesus was full of hope for him. When Simon’s future uncertain, Jesus was certain and sure of his future. In Jesus Simon’s life would be full of hope and certainty and meaning. Up until now his life was to catch fish to kill or to sell. That life was to eat three meals a day for him and for his family members. Basically he lived for himself. But from now on Simon would catch men. He would catch men alive and for life. He would catch men to impart life. The world in which we live is the sea of sin and death. And there is an invisible world, the world of life that is eternal. People should be moved from the sea of death to the sea of life. Simon would participate in this marvellous work. Jesus said, “From now on…” Jesus gave him a clear life direction.

Let’s think more about Jesus’ words, “…you will catch men.” People can give words of encouragement or advice, or sometimes command to others. But these words of Jesus were not an advice or just an encouragement and comfort, or even not just a direction. This is the word of Jesus’ promise: “You will catch men.” Who can promise anything in another's lives? No one can live another’s life. One’s life is up to oneself alone. But Jesus promised that Simon Peter would catch men. Again, Jesus did not say, “You may catch men” or “You should catch men” or “most likely you will catch men,” but said, “…you will catch men.” It was because Simon Peter’s life would be in Jesus’ hand. Again, who is Jesus? He is the Lord, God himself. All the fish of the sea was in his control. Certainly, Simon Peter’s life would be in Jesus’ hand and in his control.

It does not mean that Simon Peter’s life would be carefree or fixed. We could see that there were many ups and downs in his life in the gospel story. But Jesus was there always, especially at the critical point in his life. Luke describes very well??? how Jesus’ promise would be fulfilling in Simon’s life. Jesus said to Simon at the last supper, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” In MSG, “Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat.” Jesus said continually, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fall. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32). At the very time of Jesus’ trial before the high priest, Peter denied Jesus three times. At his last denial he replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” when another man said to him, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed (22:60). Then right after, in the next verse Luke wrote, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” At this look of Jesus Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times. And he went outside and wept bitterly (23:61-62). We also remember in John’s gospel. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter remained as a failed disciple. But Jesus visited him early in the morning on the shore of this Sea of Galilee and restored him in his unfailing love and reinstated him as a shepherd for God’s flock. So when Jesus said, “You will catch men,” Jesus was willing to protect and strengthen and restore him. Of course, this promise also includes that Peter would grow in understanding people and in shepherding and leading people to God. Jesus would make Simon catcher of men for God. So what an amazing promise it is, when Jesus said, “From now on, you will catch men.” No one, but only Jesus can give such a promise. In nature, this promise is the same as the promise God gave to Abraham, “You will be a blessing” (Ge 12:2).

Our God is the God of promise. He is faithful to keep his promise. The Bible testifies to the faithfulness of God. God kept his promise to Abraham and gave him a son after 25 years of his life in God. And according to his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he brought the Israelites out of the bandage of Pharaoh in Egypt into the promised land after 430 years. God did not forget his promise during those years. Finally, according to his promise God sent his Son into this world as the Savour. As we have studied, Zechariah was marveled at God’s faithfulness and said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people” (1:68). And at the time of Jesus’ birth, the angel said to the shepherds in the field, “Today, in the time of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (2:11). When Simeon saw the baby Jesus at the temple, he took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people” (2:29-30). All these testify to the faithfulness of God. David confessed in his psalms, “…your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (36:5; 57:10; 108:4). Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus was faithful to Peter, keeping his promise to him. He will be faithful to all those who believe his promise and follow him no matter what.

In this promise of Jesus the call was implied, rather than expressed. Then what was Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’ call and promise? Look at verse 11. “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” We don’t know what happened with the large number of fish. Now Simon’s focus was Jesus; he left everything and followed Jesus. This is another uncommon response of Simon. All his companions were the same. It showed that they also accepted Jesus’ promise to Simon as Jesus’ promise to them too.

Thank Jesus who called Simon Peter in his great love and faithfulness. He is calling each of us. Life without calling goes nowhere and remains pitiful. But life with God’s call is full of meaning and life, although it includes hardships and suffering. Jesus calls for his work of catching people from the sea of death to the sea of life. May God help us to personally respond to his words, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch” and “From now on you will catch men.” May we go deeper in obedience to his word and hold firmly to his promise, “You will catch men.”

UBF headquarters | Chicago UBF | UBF TV | Northwestern UBF | Washington UBF | New York UBF | Europe UBF  | Email Us | Site Admin
Home