Jesus Calls the First Disciples
1 “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.
- More than a lakeside chat
The town of Capernaum was near Bethsaida and framed the backdrop for many of the Gospel stories and miracles of Jesus and His ministry. It was a small town with a trading economy as it was situated by a lake on a major trade route. It was also an outpost for the empire of Rome and had tax collection duties for the region. As a result, the city was small but significant and shared many cultures with the traders and travelers who came through it. It had peaceful Roman and Jewish relations without tension or strife like Jerusalem. The primary trade commerce was related to the lake or Sea of Gennesaret aka Galilee.
Here (Capernaum/ Bethsaida) is where Jesus called Matthew (tax collector) and performed many early miracles in the area. In this passage Jesus called Simon (Peter) and brothers James & John – and Andrew.
- More than another religious teacher
The region of Israel was full of various teachers and religious zealots – many sought to gain influence by building a core of disciples and followers. This Jesus was different. He wasn’t seeking to grow a following – as we see in the text, he was only seeking out 12 specific men to become his personal band of brothers.
Jesus was yet to be fully revealed as Messiah, and had a growing company of followers who were curious about who he was and what he would do next. The guys in the boats were just minding their own business, not active in the pursuit of Jesus.
Jesus just ‘seemed’ to stop by the lake-shore where they were… by sheer coincidence. We know better. There are no coincidences with God.
- More than a suggestion
“Put out into the deep….. and let down your nets”.
When God asks us to do something there is always more than what meets the eye. Much more beneath the surface.
For these fishermen, they have no idea what God is asking of them, or of the multiple blessings offered in this commandment. They have listened to him speaking to the crowds and have seen some of his miracles around town, but this is the closest they have come to him for themselves.
Jesus is engaging them where they live and in what they do, he’s about to teach them a critical lesson on fishing and the power of living a life of obedience.
When God seeks us out to “ask” us to obey him, he approaches us where we live. Not waiting for us to reach some glamorous or prestigious position or place in our life or careers , but right where we live. For these men, he comes to their place of work and asks them to trust him with their livelihood.
He asks them and in illumination… all men, to “put out into the deep”! To trust he knows more about their business than they do. That He knows where the fish are and when to catch them. This would have been contrary to all their considerable skill and long experience had taught them to do.
They were being more than “polite” to Jesus – they were responding to his request in faith. Not knowing the details and being exhausted from their all night efforts, they were frustrated and irritated, but eventually they trusted and obeyed. “Master we have toiled all night and took nothing.”
- More than plenty
“But at your word, I will let down the nets.”
These are the words of faith. Marion (a parishioner at St. Margaret’s Anglican) says it all the time….”But GOD”.
The very foundation of our faith is firmly settled in the belief that God has the ability to change any circumstance or situation he is allowed to enter.
- The first key is to hear his voice for ourselves.
That when we listen for His voice we can respond in faith and expect Him to exceed our best efforts.
But how do we know it’s Gods voice ? – (at His Word) – how do we “hear” his words for ourselves? It’s a process of learning to be ‘still’ and waiting for His confirmation. (Sermons, Scripture, Prayer, Words of Knowledge, Affirmation of faith)
- The 2nd key is a surrender of our way and accepting of His way to fish. Means we can’t rely on our own vast depth of wisdom and practicality. (AKA control)
- The 3rd key is to recognize the absurdity of the request. He works in mysterious ways unlike our own, and that odd style is consistent with divine methods and helps to reveal the “way” in which God works and moves among us.
The results of trusting God are always bigger and more extravagant than we can imagine. The fishing is “grand” with Him. The principle isn’t to turn to God for our financial blessings, but to recognize Him as the “source” of our provision and like the exhausted fisherman – learn to believe and trust his advice for our labors, especially after we’re worn down from the all night efforts that seem to bear no fruit.
The conclusion is this… Jesus is calling to us all. Not randomly, not generically, but specifically. His call is unique to each of us, a personal request for our services as His precisely picked ‘fishermen’. He’s asking us each to respond to His personal invitation.
The question is… will we trust Him enough to ‘put out into the deep” or will we decide we’re too exhausted for a miracle?