Fishers of Men

Our Scripture lesson this morning is taken from Luke 5:1-11:
Luke 5:1–11 ESV
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, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 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.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
May God now bless this the reading of His holy and infallible Word.
In our text today, we have a picture of...

Failed Fishermen

Clearly, in our text today fishing is an allegory of evangelism, and in this allegory...

The Failure of Peter Highlights the Success of Christ

Peter was a professional fisherman who labored all night, yet caught nothing. In contrast, Jesus, who by trade was a carpenter, was able to secure a miraculously large catch of fish simply by speaking a word. The contrast could not be sharper; but as I noted earlier, this text is not really about catching fish, but catching men.
To understand this text, we must understand what evangelism really is.

The Great Commission and the Shalom of God

Unfortunately, most Christians today have formed their understanding of what evangelism is by nineteenth-century sentimentalism and individualism, rather than by Scripture. Their primary motivation to evangelize is their compassion for lost sinners. Most certainly, that should be one of our motivations, but emotional feelings are a very poor motive to do anything. Our emotions, such as compassion rise and fail like the waves of the sea, and as a result our motivation does as well. Evangelism, and the reason to do it, is much bigger than individual sinners and our compassion for them. In Colossians 1:20 we read that the reconciliation of individual sinners is a part of the reconciliation of both heaven and earth:
Colossians 1:20 ESV
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
By His death on the cross, Jesus is not just reconciling individual sinners to God, He is reconciling all things on earth and in heaven to Himself! This brings us to one of the mega-themes of Scripture—God’s Shalom, usually translated “peace” in our English bibles. Shalom is the cession of all conflict and chaos. As the Bible opens, it begins in a state of Shalom, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen 1:31). As the Bible closes, it closes in a state of Shalom:
Revelation 21:3–4 ESV
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Sadly, however, in between both heaven and earth are rocked by a cosmic rebellion. In anticipation for this rebellion, God gave Adam and Eve a Great Commission:
Genesis 1:28 ESV
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God was commissioning Adam and Eve to spread His Shalom to all the earth. Sadly, Adam and Eve failed in their commission—they joined Satan in His rebellion; but it did not have to be this way.

Peter’s Failure Points Us to Adam’s Failure

Genesis 3 opens in a very strange way, Satan chooses to manifest himself as a “beast of the field”. This was no accident, God is revealing to us that as image bearers of God, Satan and his angels fall under our dominion!
How, you as can we who are weak in our human flesh and blood have dominion over angels?
The answer to this question brings us to the second great Scriptural mega-theme we find in this passage—Christ as the Second Adam.

The Success of the “Master” Fisherman

As I said previously, the failure of Peter highlights the success of Jesus. The same can be said of the failure of the first Adam.

In the Weakness of His Flesh, Jesus Subdued Satan by the Word of God

If you will recall, the first temptation Satan threw at Jesus, was to abandon the limitations and weakness of His human nature: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (Lk 4:3) If Jesus had done this, God’s plan to bring His peace to both heaven and earth would have been overturned. This is because Jesus sacrificial death depended upon Him sharing in our weakness and limitations. However, in His “weakness” Jesus was “strong”. He was strong because He answered each of Satan’s temptations with the Word of God!
This is what Adam should have done. James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) If Adam, as the representative head of all humanity, had resisted Satan by the Word of God, the Serpent would have fled from the garden!
What a great lesson this is for us, this is how we can resist the Devil. According to Paul, the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and by that sword we can put to death our sin nature and vanquish the Forces of Darkness!
Now that we have seen how Christ vanquishes “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12), let us turn to how He brings God’s Peace on earth.

The Miraculous Catch

We are told by Luke that the people were “astonished at the catch of fish” and that Peter fell at His knees in worship and adoration. This astonishment was due, not just to the large numbers, but by the way this catch took place—simply by the Word of Christ. You see, there can be no other explanation. For Jesus commanded them to cast the wrong type of net, at the wrong time of day, in the wrong depth of water!
How do we know this?
We know this by comparing Luke’s account of this day to Mark’s.
Mark’s writing style is to keep things brief and moving on. His favorite word to use is the word “immediately”. He limits himself to just what took place on shore, not even mentioning Jesus’ teach from the boat and the miraculous catch of fish. However, there is one little detail that he includes that Luke leaves out. Mark tells us that when Jesus first came upon Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, they were casting a small circular day net into the sea. I am sure you have seen pictures of fishermen doing this.
In Luke’s account, however, a totally different Greek word is used for net. These nets were heavy night nets, made to be used only in deep water. This was why Peter was so hesitant at first to obey Christ. It is a great testimony to Peter’s faith that he would say, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” This multitude of fish caught by the power of His Word turn our attention back to the multitude that gathered by the lake that day to hear Him speak.

Jesus Speaks God’s Peace to Those Who Have Faith in Him

We know what Jesus was speaking about that day, because Luke has already told us. Remember the verse we read last week:
Luke 4:43 ESV
but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
As further evidence that it is the preaching and teaching of the Gospel that gives people the faith that is necessary to enjoy God’s peace, I want to turn to the closing chapter of Luke’s gospel.
Luke 24:36 ESV
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
What were the disciples “talking about”? Luke tells us, they were talking about what Jesus had taught the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Specifically, how He opened up to them what the Old Testament taught about Him. In other words, by hearing and discussing the Word of God, the Holy Spirit created faith in them. It was at this point that Jesus said to them, “Peace to you”!
We can also see this illustrated by Peter in our story. As Peter responds to Jesus in repentance and faith, Jesus says to him, “Do not fear”. This is another way of pronouncing God’s peace upon a person.
I would be remiss at this point if I did not ask you, “Has Christ spoken His peace to you?” Romans 5:1 says:
Romans 5:1 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Apart from repentance and faith in Christ, there is no other way of experiencing God’s peace. The more you try to take other paths, the more you will experience chaos and conflict. Your master will not be Jesus, but Satan!
For those however, who have made Christ their Master, there is now a new opportunity.

The Master Calls You to be a Fisher of Men

As the Second Adam,...

Jesus is Finishing What Adam Failed to Do

Adam was not to finish God’s great Peace Work alone, he was given a “helper”, his wife Eve. Together, they and their children were given the task of bringing God’s Shalom to the whole earth.
In the same way, the Second Adam, Jesus, was given a bride—the church (Eph 5:22-32), moreover through Christ, believers are children of God. Consequently, Jesus is at the head of a great host of believers, “filling the earth, and subduing it” (Gen 1:28) in order that God’s peace would have “dominion” over all things. This is clearly seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20:
2 Corinthians 5:17–20 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
One of the things that I hope you will take away from this sermon today is that Evangelism is not just personal, it is cosmic in nature. The end goal it that all things might be brought under the authority of Jesus Christ. As I close, I want to encourage you with...

A Prophetic Vision of the Final Catch

We find this vision in the book of Revelation:
Revelation 7:9 ESV
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
For over two-thousand years the Christ and His church has been laboring, a great multitude has already been caught. It is now our turn to man the nets. Let us not be slack in casting the net, but rather let us be all the more diligent in hauling in the final catch!
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