Luke 5:1-11 - EXEGESIS:
LUKE 5:1-11. JESUS CALLS THE FIRST DISCIPLES
Each of the four Gospels tells of the call of the first disciples:
• In Mark 1:16-20, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew-and then, in a separate action, calls James and John. All four "immediately" leave nets and family to follow Jesus. This is the opening act of Jesus' ministry in Mark's Gospel.
• Matthew 4:18-21 closely follows the Markan model.
• The Gospel of John is, as we would expect, distinctive. In that account, Jesus does not call the disciples. Instead, John the Baptist says, in the presence of two of his disciples, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36) and the two disciples begin to follow Jesus. One of those disciples, Andrew, then goes to find his brother, Simon, saying, "We have found the Messiah," (John 1:41) and the two come to meet Jesus. Jesus gives Simon his new name, Peter. There is no talk of nets or fish or disciples who leave everything behind to follow Jesus. Even though this is not a Synoptic Gospel, this is again the opening act of Jesus' ministry.
• Luke's account is also distinctive. It is the lengthiest of the four accounts. In this Gospel, Jesus begins his ministry, not with the call of the disciples, but with his sermon at the Nazareth synagogue. He then drives out an unclean spirit (4:31-37), heals Simon's mother-in-law (4:38-41), and preaches in the synagogues of Judea (4:42-44). These actions result in crowds which "pressed on him and heard the word of God" (5:1). They also establish a rationale for the disciples to follow Jesus. This is the only account of the call stories to mention the great catch of fish, although the Gospel of John includes a similar story-but only after the resurrection (John 21:1-23). Luke's account is not a typical call story, because Jesus does not extend a formal invitation to discipleship, but says simply, "Don't be afraid. From now on you will be catching people" (5:10). This account is also distinctive in that it focuses on Simon Peter, mentioning James and John only briefly in verse 10 and Andrew not at all. The response of the crowd (v. 1) and the disciples (vv. 3-11) presents a nice counterpoint to the rejection that Jesus has just experienced in the Nazareth synagogue (4:16-30).
Peter's response to the miracle of the abundant catch fits nicely with the Old Testament and Epistle lessons:
• Isaiah 6:1-8 tells the story of the call of Isaiah, who protested, "Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of Armies!" We might consider this story a model for the Gospel lesson. Both Isaiah and Peter feel the magnitude of their unworthiness in the presence of the holy. Both protest their unworthiness. A seraph cleanses Isaiah lips with a burning coal, and Jesus has a cleansing word for Peter. Both Isaiah and Peter prove faithful to the call.
• In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul pronounces himself "the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the assembly of God."
Jesus' work has grown to require the recruitment of disciples. Luke will expand this theme with:
• The call of Levi (5:27-32)
• The call of the Twelve (6:12-16)
• The mission of the Twelve (9:1-6)
• The mission of the Seventy (10:1-20)
• The seven chosen to serve (Acts 6:1-7)
• The conversion of Saul (Acts 9:1-22)
• The men of Cyprus and Cyrene who proclaimed Christ in Antioch (Acts 11:20-24)
• The commissioning of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:1-3).
God chooses to work through human beings, vessels of clay bearing the treasure of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:7). Because God chooses to work in this way, our response is crucial.
LUKE 5:1-3. THE MULTITUDE PRESSED ON HIM
Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.
"Now it happened, while the multitude pressed on him and heard the word of God, that he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret" (v. 1). Gennesaret is a region at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. Luke refers to the sea as the lake of Gennesaret.
"while the multitude pressed on him and heard the word of God" (v. 1a). The crowds are pressing in on Jesus, excited to see the young prophet, and hoping to hear "the word of God" (v. 1). Luke uses that phrase, "word of God," frequently (3:2; 8:11, 21; 11:28; Acts 4:31; 6:2, 7; 8:14; 11:1; 13:5, 7, 46; 17:13; 18:11). Recently, Jesus told the multitudes who were trying to keep him with them, "I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities also" (4:43)-thus equating Jesus' preaching with news of the kingdom of God. In the book of Acts, Luke uses "word of God" more broadly-to encompass the full content of the apostles' preaching.
"He saw two boats standing by the lake" (v. 2a). The significance of two boats will become apparent in verse 7 when the disciples in Simon's boat must signal their partners in the other boat to come and help with the massive catch of fish.
"but the fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets" (v. 2b). The fishermen are cleaning their nets after a long night. They must be tired and discouraged after a long, fruitless night. They are ready to call it a day. It is time to go home, to eat, and to get some sleep.
"He entered into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land" (v. 3a). This is Simon's first appearance in this Gospel (although his name was mentioned in 4:38), and it is his first act of obedience. Given his fatigue and frustration, Simon cannot be in the best mood at this moment. He is ready to go home-not to get back into his boat. The amazing thing is not that Simon responds favorably later after seeing the miracle of the great catch, but that he responds favorably now to Jesus' request to go out once again.
In their versions of this story, Mark and Matthew mention Simon, Andrew, James, and John (Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 4:18-22). We know that Luke uses Mark as one of his sources, so we must ask why he mentions only Simon here. The answer must be that Luke, having seen Mark's unattractive portrayal of Peter and knowing of Peter's great work in the early church, singles out Peter to show him in a more favorable light. Throughout Luke-Acts, Luke treats Peter more favorably than do Mark or Matthew.
"He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat" (v. 3b). The boat is probably large enough for Jesus to stand, but teachers sit to teach. In this Gospel, Jesus began his ministry in synagogues (4:16-30; 42-44), but now he takes his ministry to the people-to ordinary places where ordinary people spend their days. The boat becomes his pulpit-a solution to the press of the crowd (v. 1b).
LUKE 5:4-7. AT YOUR WORD
4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.
"Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch" (v. 4). These words constitute a test for Simon. They also present Simon with an opportunity to see the kinds of wonders of which Jesus is capable. Will Simon obey? Will he trust Jesus?
"Master (epistata), we worked all night, and took nothing" (v. 5a). Peter's common sense tells him that there is no reason to try again. He must hate to ask the other men to "saddle up" and to get the newly cleaned nets dirty again. He voices his doubt to Jesus, but nevertheless addresses Jesus as Master (epistata)-a person who stands over the others, such as a commander or officer.
Peter's common sense tells him that there is no reason to try again. He must hate to ask the other men to "saddle up" and to get the newly cleaned nets dirty again. He voices his doubt to Jesus, but nevertheless addresses Jesus as Master (Greek: epistata), a title used in the Gospels for Jesus only in Luke and used only by the disciples (8:24, 45; 9:33; 49; 17:13) and, in one instance, by a person asking for help (17:13). It means "one who 'stands over' as an authority" (Johnson, 88).
"But at your word, I will let down the net" (v. 5b). This is Peter's second act of obedience-again remarkable. Jesus' instructions are counter-intuitive. Peter is the fisherman, and knows best where to find fish. He and his partners have fished all night without results-have proved that there are no fish to be caught. They have been washing nets, wrapping things up (v. 2). They are tired-eager to go home. Letting down the nets again will necessitate additional cleanup-not an attractive prospect for tired, frustrated fishermen. But Peter accepts Jesus' word as authoritative. If Jesus says it, Peter will do it. This obedience in the face of doubt opens the door to the miracle. So with us! Only when we are obedient can we harness Christ's power and experience his miracles.
"When they had done this, they caught a great multitude of fish, and their net was breaking" (v. 6). In verse 5b, Peter says that he will let down the nets, but verse 6 suggests that he enlisted the help of the crew. Commercial fishing involves large nets and requires teamwork. The great catch brings the disciples to the brink of disaster-the blessing is almost too much. In the next chapter, Jesus will teach the disciples, "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you" (6:38). Too often, we measure obedience and charity with an eyedropper instead of a bucket, but eyedropper faith generates only eyedropper rewards. Jesus prefers giving more generously-bucket rewards-fire-hose rewards!
"They beckoned to their partners in the other boat, that they should come and help them. They came, and filled both boats, so that they began to sink" (v. 7). This is a miracle of abundance like the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16), the widow's meal and oil (1 Kings 17:8-16), the unending supply of oil (2 Kings 4:1-7), and Elisha's feeding a hundred men with twenty loaves of bread (2 Kings 4:42-44). Later in this Gospel, Jesus will feed five thousand with five loaves and two fish (9:12-17). The Gospel of John reports the miracle of wine at Cana (John 2:1-11). These abundance miracles have two common characteristics: (1) they meet human needs and (2) they demonstrate God's power. The outcome of this particular miracle is that the disciples "left everything, and followed him" (v. 11).
LUKE 5:8-11. THEY LEFT EVERYTHING, AND FOLLOWED HIM
8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which 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 fear, from now on you will be catching men." 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
"But Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell down at Jesus' knees" (v. 8a). This is the first time that Simon is called Peter in this Gospel. The two names, Simon Peter, are used together frequently in the Gospel of John, but only here and on the occasion of Peter's confession (Matthew 16:16) in the Synoptics.
"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord" (v. 8b). This is an epiphany story-a moment of sudden insight-especially for Peter. Faced with a miracle, he finds himself in the presence of the Holy and overwhelmed by his own unholiness. Like a poorly dressed person in elegant company, Peter wants only to escape the unfavorable contrast.
Each of these three became great Godly leaders, but their greatness had its roots, not in their wisdom, talents, or spirituality, but in God's call. God calls whom God calls-and God often gets the best mileage out of the least likely candidates. Jesus says, "For whoever is least among you all, this one will be great" (9:48)-perhaps because the least are quicker to respond-less likely to count the cost-more apt to trust. Happily, God calls each of us to some important task-often one that seems of no more consequence than letting down the nets one more time. The fishermen who obeyed Jesus that day could not imagine that, two thousand years later, we would still be deriving spiritual nourishment from the story of their obedience-but we are. It matters not whether Christ calls us to serve on a faraway mission field or to a far humbler task-ushering, singing in the choir, setting up coffee, visiting a shut-in, feeding a hungry person, or giving our last dollar. In Christ's hands, the modest task becomes a vehicle for epiphany-revelation-discovery-greater faith. Christ can turn our most humble act of obedience into a net-breaking, boat-sinking miracle of abundance.
We have largely lost our sense of wonder and fear in God's presence. Instead, we worship at the altar of science and technology, which present us with new wonders every day. We worship at the altar of self-esteem, resisting humility and contriteness as if they constituted some sort of emotional disease. We even imagine that we have the right to set conditions under which we will accept God-and to spell out attributes that we expect God to bring to the table if he is to win our approval-but, in our better moments, we kneel in God's presence, acknowledging our debt to God for every breath that we take. Simon is correct when he says that he is a sinful man, but Jesus has come to redeem sinners and outcasts, as he demonstrates in this chapter-touching a leper (5:12-16); forgiving the sins of a paralytic (5:17-26); calling a tax collector (5:27-28); and sitting at table with tax collectors and sinners (5:29-32). He says, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do" (5:31).
"For he was amazed, and all who were with him" (v. 9). Luke singles out Peter as the key disciple in this story, but it is not only Peter who is amazed, but all of them. Luke finally names Peter's partners, James and John (v. 10a). He does not mention Andrew.
"Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid'" (v. 10). These were the words of the angel, who said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (1:30) and "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people" (2:10). Jesus will use these words twice again in this Gospel. "Therefore don't be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows" (12:7) and "Don't be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (12:32).
"From now on you will be catching (zogron-capture alive) people alive" (v. 10b). Jesus promises to expand the role that these fishermen will play-from catching fish in their nets to catching people. Their work will be evangelistic-spreading the Good News of the grace available through Jesus. The fulfillment of Jesus' promise will begin in earnest at Pentecost. Peter will preach a sermon, and three thousand people will be baptized in one day-and that will be just the beginning. The work continues. We are Peter's heirs, proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing to Christ.
Ours is an uncomfortable role in a world that demands tolerance of all beliefs but, nevertheless, despises Christian belief. Of course, it was not comfortable for Peter either. The book of Acts tells us that he experienced opposition and arrest. Tradition tells us that he died by crucifixion. Catching fish has limits as a metaphor for winning disciples, because the fate of the caught fish is to be killed and eaten while the disciple's role is to live for Christ. The Greek word zogron is commonly used for trapping-capturing alive. Jesus' disciples will be inviting people into the kingdom of God, where they will become free from the things that had bound them.
"When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything, and followed him" (v. 11). Jesus addresses Simon, but the other disciples hear the words to include them as well. They too abandon everything to follow Jesus.
In their versions of this story, Mark and Matthew have the fishermen leaving their father and their boat to follow Jesus (Mark 1:20; Matthew 4:22). Luke tells us that they left everything (Stein, 170). This kind of abandonment is characteristic of discipleship:
Discipleship, then, means shifting one's concerns from the things of this world to the things of God. In the book of Acts, Luke will continue this emphasis with the story of the early church sharing everything in common (Acts 2:44-47).
-LUKE 5 PART I-
Lk. 5:1-11 Introduction and Exegesis
Five characteristics of a disciple in Luke 5:1-11
Imagine what would have happened, however, if while were we sitting there waiting for our fillets, a man came up and said, "Hey, if you think catching lake trout was fun, I can show you how to catch the mythical Lake Monster. I know where he lives, and I know how to catch him. Of course, it's going to be a little bit more expensive than Fishin' with Shorty. To catch the Lake Monster, I want you to give to me everything you own. What do you say?"
Summary of Luke 1-4
Before we look there, let me remind you what we have learned so far in Luke. We have seen the birth of Jesus Christ, and we learned a little bit about his growing up years.
We also learned that Luke pretty much skips the entire first year of Christ's three year ministry. This is because of the way Christ ordered his three years of ministry, and because of Luke's purpose in writing. Christ spent his first year of ministry going around and getting as many people to believe in him as possible. Then, near the beginning of his second year of ministry, he picked a few of the believers in order to teach and train them to become his apostles. So Christ's first year of ministry was all about gaining believers. Christ's second and third years of ministry were all about turning some of those believers into committed and faithful disciples.
Which explains why Luke tells us almost nothing of Christ's first year of ministry. Luke wrote his Gospel to help believers, to help those who were already Christians, to become committed and faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Luke is not an evangelistic book. It is a discipleship book. The Gospel of John is an evangelistic book, which is why John does tell us a lot about what happened in Christ's first year of ministry, and why John tells us almost 100 times in his gospel that God gives eternal life to anyone who simply believes in Jesus Christ for it. But Luke was written to Christians to tell them how to become disciples or followers of Jesus Christ. This is what we see in Luke 5. Jesus calls some of the men who have believed in Him during the previous year to follow Him, to become His disciples. And in this passage, we will see five characteristics of a disciple, of a follower of Jesus Christ. First, all disciples of Jesus Christ love to hear the Word of God taught. We see this in Luke 5:1-3.
1. Disciples love to hear the Word of God taught (Luke 5:1-3)
Luke 5:1. 1 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret;
We remember from the end of Luke 4 that Jesus was going all over the region of Galilee preaching and teaching in the synagogues. And if you remember, we learned that His normal style and practice of teaching was to teach through books of Bible line by line. This has always been the way God intended His Word to be taught. But Jesus didn't just teach this way in the synagogues. Luke 5:1 says that He was teaching the word of God as He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret. The Lake of Gennesaret is another name of the Sea of Galilee.
And the people pressed about Him to hear the Bible taught and explained. This is a clear, identifying characteristic of a true disciple of Jesus Christ. They love to hear the Word of God taught. They long to hear the Bible explained to them. You see, the word "disciple" means "pupil" or "student." And all disciples of Jesus Christ know that their main text book, their only source of information about God and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, about salvation, about heaven, about all things relating to spirituality is the Word of God. And people who truly love God, want to know as much about God as possible, and the only way to do this is to study God's Word and hear God's word taught.
• This is why the followers of Jesus Christ were pressing around Jesus. As He explained the Word of God to them, they hung on His every word. They wanted to make sure they understood. They longed to hear more. But eventually, the crowd pressed in so close that Jesus found Himself getting pushed closer and closer to the water's edge. And so he looked over his shoulder,
Luke 5:2. 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.
The fishermen had spent all night fishing, and now had beached their boats, and were off to the side cleaning their nets. Most likely, they were able to listen to Jesus teach while they went about their work. When Wendy and I went down to Mexico about four years ago, we were able to witness first hand the same fishing practices that we read about here. We went to Kino, Mexico where the main source of income was fishing. It was fascinating to watch them clean and mend their nets and realize that this is the same thing we read about here in Luke 5.
Jesus sees the two empty boats, and the fishermen cleaning their nets, and the crowd pressing close and closer, so He decides to teach them from one of the boats.
Luke 5:3. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.
Near the very beginning of Christ's ministry, Jesus had been walking along the shore, and had seen Peter and Andrew fishing, and had called them to come follow Him. Walking a little further, Jesus had seen James and John mending their nets and had also called them to come follow Him. All four did come follow Him, and for a whole year, they witnessed His miracles, and listened to His teachings. They heard him teach over and over that God gives eternal life to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for it. Most likely, it is during this year that Peter, Andrew, James and John all believed in Jesus for eternal life.
• But now, they have gone back to fishing. And one day, as they are out fishing, Jesus shows up again, and begins to preach. They enjoy listening to Him teach about the Bible - it gives them something to listen to while they clean their nets. But they don't stop what they are doing. After all, listening to sermons never put any food on the table. And some of them, like Simon for example, had a wife at home who he needs to provide for. They had followed him for a year, but now they needed to get back to making a living. But they were having a hard time of it. It had been a difficult night of fishing. They had fished all night, but hadn't caught a single fish. So now they were cleaning their nets so that they would be well prepared for later tonight when they might have more luck.
• As they clean their nets, Jesus continues to teach, and the crowd begins to press in on him more and more, until finally, Jesus gets into Simon's boat and asked Simon to take them a little way out so that Jesus can teach from there. Simon had just finished cleaning his nets, and was kind of hoping to get some sleep because he had to go fishing again later, and now Jesus wants to borrow his boat. But the sermon was good, and this would allow Simon to hear it better, if he was in the same boat with Jesus, and so he picked up his nets, put them in the boat, and then shoved off and rowed a little way out from shore so that Jesus could continue to teach.
• And how grateful Simon was that he had decided to stay and listen to the teaching. It always seemed that when God's Word was opened and explained, God had something especially for him in the message. As Jesus continued to teach the Word of God, Simon's heart raced to hear the Bible being explained. He found himself thinking, "So that's what that verse means! I've always been confused by that verse." A little later, he found himself almost coming to tears because it seemed like God was speaking to him through Jesus. Again, Simon thought to himself, "That is exactly what I needed to hear today. I'm sure glad I decided to stay and listen rather than go sleep. This is better than anything else I could be doing."
• Now, I don't know if this was actually what Simon was thinking. You all understand I'm taking a little creative liberty with the text. But here is what I do know. There have been many, many times in my own life when I did not want to go to church, or I did not want to go to Bible study, or I did not want to do my devotions. I was too sick, or too busy, or too tired, or had other things that seemed like they would be more fun. And some of those times, I chose to do the other thing rather than attend church or do my devotions. And it was fun. It was relaxing. I did get sleep. But, some of those times, I chose to go to church, or go to the Bible study, or do my devotions even though I didn't want to, and do you know what happened?
• Without fail, it always happens that those are the times that God uses His Word most powerfully in my life. Those are the times that God's Word seems to just jump out at me. Those are the times that it seems that the voice of the preacher is the voice of God Himself speaking right into my soul. Those are the times I get shivers from the sermon. And I believe that in those times that I chose to sleep, or chose to go fishing rather than get into God's Word, I believe I missed out on something that God had especially for me. I have found that when I am tired and I don't feel like going to church, that is because God has something for me at church, and Satan doesn't want me to hear it. I have found that when I am most busy, and I don't think I can fit my devotions into my schedule, that is because God has something special for me in my Bible reading that day, and Satan doesn't want me to receive it.
• Some Sundays do you feel like you just don't want to go to church? Those are the Sunday's you really need to come, because God has something for you that you don't want to miss. So come, look for it. Pray that God will speak to you, and He will give you something that will make you so glad you came. It's the same with your devotions or Bible study or any other spiritual exercise.
• I am certain that after a long night of fishing without catching any fish, and then after a long morning of cleaning nets, Simon didn't feel like listening to a sermon. But I am certain that after listening to Jesus preach, he was glad he did. Simon revealed the first characteristic of being a disciple of Jesus. Disciples love and long to hear the Word of God. They can't get enough of it. If it were possible, they want it morning, noon, and night. They want it so bad, they press in on Jesus so that He has to get into a boat just so he can continue to teach. They want it more than sleep, more than rest, more than food. Simon certainly needed all these things, be as a true disciple, he chose to listen to the teaching of the Word of God instead.
• And because of Simon's decision to forsake himself and listen to Jesus, Jesus is now going to bless Simon with first a physical blessing, but then an even greater spiritual blessing. When we obey Jesus, blessings always follow. But sometimes, obedience isn't easy. Sometimes, Jesus asks us to do some pretty strange things. But this is the second characteristic of a disciple. They obey Jesus even when it doesn't make sense.
2. Disciples obey Jesus even when it doesn't make sense (Luke 5:4-7)
Luke 5:4. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."
Pause and try to understand what Jesus was asking Simon to do here. First of all, Simon was the fisherman, Jesus was a carpenter and a teacher. Who knows more about fishing? Peter should be instructing Jesus about how to fish, not the other way around. Second, Simon had already been fishing all night long, and he hadn't caught a thing. And besides that, this was probably near the middle of the day now, and everybody knows that the middle of the day is generally the worst time to fish. The fish have retreated to hide under their rocks and submerged logs. They have gone to the cooler parts of the water. As long as the sun is out, they hide where no predators can see them. So chances are, if they didn't catch anything at night, they surely wouldn't catch anything during the day. And finally, most frustrating of all for Simon, is that he had just finished cleaning his nets to get them ready for fishing later when the fishing would hopefully be better. If he dropped them in the lake now, he would have to clean them again later.
• This request of Jesus to put into deep water let down the nets doesn't make any sense at all, and will only cause more work for Simon. Yet look what Simon says in Luke 5:5.
Luke 5:5. 5 Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets."
Wow! There is a statement of faith! Simon tells Jesus that this request doesn't make much sense, but he will obey Jesus anyway. He says, nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net. Sometimes, the things God wants us to do doesn't make much sense to other people, or even to ourselves. But if God has spoken to us through His Word, we must obey. This is what Simon did.
Luke 5:6-7. 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.
Obedience to Christ's commands always results in divine blessing. Here the blessing was a boatload of fish. So many, in fact, that their nets were about to break, and they had to call their friends over to help them. But even then, the two boats were not large enough to hold all the fish. They filled both the boats to overflowing, and then the boats began to sink!
• When God tells you to do something, do it, even if it doesn't make sense. God told Noah to build an ark because a flood was coming when nobody had ever even heard of rain. And Noah did it. God called Abraham to pack up his possessions and start walking. And Abraham did it, even thought he didn't know where he was going. God told the people of Israel to march around Jericho for seven days if they wanted the walls to fall down, and they did it.
• God wants to work through you. God wants to bless you. But you have to be like Simon who says, "That doesn't make sense, but nevertheless, at your word, I will obey." Disciples obey Jesus even when it doesn't make sense. The third characteristic of disciples is found in Luke 5:8-10, and there we learn that disciples are aware of their own sinfulness.
3. Disciples are aware of their own sinfulness (Luke 5:8-10a)
Luke 5:8-10a. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10a and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
Simon Peter's response initially surprises us. Is this the way you would respond to a miracle? Why is it that this event caused Simon Peter to realize his own sinfulness? Put yourself in his shoes. How would you respond if you just caught a record breaking number of fish? You would shout and yell, and celebrate. But Peter does exactly the opposite. He fell down and tells Jesus to leave him because of how sinful he is. Why does he do this?
• For the answer, remember what has happened to Simon Peter and the recent decisions he has made. A year prior to this event, Jesus had called Simon to follow him and be his disciple. At that time, Peter had accepted the call. He committed himself to following Jesus. But in that year, he probably didn't make a whole lot of money. Oh sure, Jesus made certain that Simon's needs were met, but there was rarely abundance. So now, Peter had gone back to fishing. A man's gotta work, you know. He has to provide for his family. He has to put food on the table. So Simon stops following Jesus, and goes back to fishing. But he has trouble with it. He doesn't enjoy it like he used to. A lot of times, he doesn't even catch any fish.
• One of these times, Jesus shows up on the shore in the morning and starts teaching. Afterwards, Jesus takes Simon out fishing, and they catch a record number of fish. And Simon realizes then that God will supply all of his needs. If he follows Jesus, he will not go without food or clothes. Simon Peter realizes his own proud and arrogant self-sufficiency. Jesus had asked Simon to follow Him, and Simon, after following Jesus for a while, had gone back to fishing. This implied that he had more important, more practical things to do. In Luke 5:8, Simon Peter recognizes his grave mistake. There is nothing more important than following Jesus. And when we follow Jesus, He promises to provide for our needs.
• Making something or someone else in our lives more important than following Jesus is sin. That is what Simon Peter realizes here. He put fishing and providing for his family above following Jesus. Fishing is enjoyable. I love to fish. Providing for your family is important - vitally important. But both must come after the supreme priority of becoming a disciple of Jesus. Nothing is more important than this.
But not only is nothing more important than following Jesus - nothing is more rewarding either. Simon was chasing after a few fish. He got a boatload of fish, but even still, it's only a boatload of fish. Some of us chase after a bigger paycheck, a nice house, a newer car. We may get it, but these are only a paycheck, a house, a car. They are not nearly as valuable as what Jesus offers to Simon next.
4. Disciples are fishers of men (Luke 5:10b)
Luke 5:10b. 10b And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be (fishers of) catching men."
Jesus has just given them the biggest success in their fishing careers. Never, in all of their whole lives, have they caught as many fish at one time. In today's terminology, we could say that this was their big contract, this was the huge opportunity. This was the money making chance of a life time. Their boat had finally come in. And now, Jesus says to them, "Leave it. From now on you will catch men." He says, "You think this is a big success? It's a bigger success to catch men. You think catching a boatload of fish is exciting. Reeling a human life into the kingdom of God is even more exciting."
• It's kind of like that story I started out with - the man on the shore who invites you to go fishing for the mythical Lake monster. That is what Jesus is doing. He gave them the best day of fishing ever, then told them that if they were up to it, He has even better things in store for them than that. And you know, the Bible tells us this same thing all over. Proverbs 11:30 says that he who wins souls in wise. The value of single human is greater than a boatload of fish. If the disciples catch one single person out of the clutches of the devil and help bring that person into the loving arms of God the Father, that catch alone is of infinite and eternal value. When all the fish in the world have died, or been eaten up, that human being will live on and on and on in eternity. Jesus is inviting the disciples to make a catch that will last for eternity. He has given them a choice. They can continue to be fishermen, going out every day trying to catch a few morsels of meat, or they can fishers of men, going out every day trying to catch human lives that last for eternity.
• You know, Jesus has made the same invitation to you. Your worldly profession may be rancher, or contractor, or mill worker, or businessman, but that is just something to put food on the table. Your real profession is to be a fisher of men. And you can catch men wherever you are, and whatever you are doing. And you say, "Oh Pastor, I know I am supposed to witness. I know I am supposed to evangelize. I know I am supposed to be a catcher of men, but I don't know how! I get scared. I don't know what to say. I'm afraid I won't be able to answer their questions."
• Guess what? That is normal. That is okay. Everybody feels that way. But do you want to know how to overcome it? In Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17, when Jesus first called Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John to be his disciples, he gave them the key to becoming fishers of men. He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
• How do you become a fisher of men? By following Jesus. Nobody becomes a fisher of men naturally. Nobody becomes a fisher of men by being told a thousand times, "You better go witness, because that's what Christians do." Nobody becomes a fisher of men by being put on a guilt trip that they aren't out there doing door-to-door evangelism. You become a fisher of men by following Jesus. If you decide to follow Jesus down the path of discipleship, He will make you fishers of men. And that is why this is the fourth mark of a true disciples. They become fishers of men.
• So we've seen that true disciples love to hear God's Word taught, they obey Jesus even when it doesn't make sense, they are aware of their own sinfulness, and they become fishers of men. Let's see the final characteristic found in Luke 5:11. They are willing to forsake all and follow Christ.
5. Disciples are willing to forsake all and follow Christ (Luke 5:11)
Luke 5:11. 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
Simon just had the greatest fishing day of his life. He had the greatest fishing day he had ever heard of anybody ever having. He had probably caught more fish in one day than he had ever caught before in an entire year. Enough to fill two boats. Hey, they could sell the fish, and not work for a whole year! That would be great. Think of the family vacations they could go on. Think of the nice clothes he could buy for his wife. Think of the new house they could afford. But Jesus has just called them to go after something bigger and more valuable. He had called them to be fishers of men.
• And they realized that this was of such supreme importance, that they forsook all and followed Him. They didn't even pause to count the fish. They just beached the boats, then jumped to land, and left it all behind. The boats, the nets, the record number of fish, everything. They knew that following Jesus was much more valuable than a boatload of fish. And they knew that if Jesus could give them a boatload of fish in the middle of the day, He would certainly provide for their needs later as they arose. So they didn't care about what they were leaving behind. It didn't matter when compared to the value of following Jesus.
• Becoming a Christian is absolutely free. There is no cost whatsoever. Jesus paid it all. Through his death, he paid the penalty for our sin. We receive the free gift of eternal life simply by believing in Jesus Christ for it. But becoming a disciple is completely different. There is great cost involved to becoming a disciple. It may cost everything you have, everything you are, everything you own. But the results are well worth it. The reward far outweighs the cost. This is what Simon and his companions realized, and this is why they left everything and followed Christ. They were already believers. They had already believed in Jesus for eternal life and so were guaranteed a place in heaven. But now Jesus was calling them to much more. Jesus was calling them to become a disciple, and they answered the call with a resounding YES!
• Are you willing to give up your schedule and your priorities, and make listening to God's Word a priority? Are you willing to give up what you think you know about life and success and just obey Jesus no matter what? Are you willing to give up your priorities and make following Jesus your top priority? Are you willing to give up your plans for you life and let God use you to bring people into His kingdom? Are you willing to give up all your possession and worldly wealth and forsake it all for the sake of following Jesus? Simon Peter did, and it not only changed his life, it changed eternity.
• About two years after this event, Jesus had died on the cross, and then risen from the dead. It was amazing to think about, but Simon Peter always found he could think better when he was fishing. So that is what he did. He went fishing. He and his buddies fished all night, but once again, they didn't catch anything. And then, just as dawn was breaking, it was déjà vu. A man appeared on the shore, and yells out, "Have you caught anything?"
• "No." Simon Peter yells back. "Just some seaweed and sticks."
• "Try throwing your nets on the other side of the boat" the man hollers back. Simon Peter rolls his eyes. Who does this guy think he is? Jesus? But he glances at his fishing buddies in the boat with him, and they all shrug. Why not? What could it hurt? So they do it. They haul in their nets, and toss them off the other side of the boat. And just as before, they caught so many fish, they couldn't bring them all into the boat! Simon Peter knew it was the Lord, and so he jumped into the water and swam to Jesus. Let his friends deal with the fish - he just wanted to be with Jesus. Who cares how silly he looked splashing around in the water, he just wanted to be with Jesus.
• Simon Peter had gone back to fishing, but he found that nothing in the entire world compared to being with Jesus. And Simon Peter became one of the greatest fishers of men the world has ever seen. And it's all because of the time when Jesus said, "Come follow me" Peter responded with, "Yes, I will."
-LUKE 5 PART II-
Lk. 5:27-32 Introduction and Exegesis
What is the reaction in the pit of your stomach when you get a letter in your mail from the IRS? Maybe you don't get those occasional letters. I do. As you sort through your mail, you come across that one which says "Internal Revenue Service" in the upper left hand corner. And every time I get one, my heart skips a beat, and my stomach jumps into my throat. Oh, it's not because I'm scared. I pay my taxes. I don't cheat the government. But just the thought of getting audited, or getting some sort of official document from the most dreaded government agency of all time is enough to raise your stress level a bit.
Now, what if the IRS did not have the governmental control that it does? What if you were to mix the Mafia with the IRS? Imagine if the IRS not only collected taxes, but did so with Mafia-like techniques? They just show up one day with their two shady, beefed up hit men, and in that gravelly, Godfather type voice, say "Pay me $10,000."
And you say, "But I already paid my taxes." They tell you it doesn't matter. There was a tax hike in your community, and you get to pay it. "I didn't read about this tax hike in the paper" you object. "We're telling you about it right now," they rasp.
Well, I don't need to carry this out much further here, but if that were to happen, people would dislike the IRS much more than they already do. They would be seen as licensed crooks. They would be hated. They would be despised. They would be feared. People would shun them, avoid them, stay away from them. But this is very close to the way tax gathering was done in the time of Christ. At that time, there were two kinds of tax collectors, the Gabbai and the Mokhes.
Tax Collectors in the Days of Jesus
GABBAI: The Gabbai were general tax collectors. They collected property tax, income tax and the poll tax. They had a poll tax which everybody had to pay whether they worked or not. It was a tax just for existing in the Roman empire. Then there was ground tax which consisted of one-tenth of all grain grown, and one-fifth of all oil and wine. You could pay this with the grain, oil and wine, or with money. Then there was the income tax, which was one percent. These taxes were set by official assessments, and so there was no much room for the Gabbai tax collectors to take more than what was due them.
MOLKES: The Mokhes, however, collected a duty on imports and exports. They would set up toll booths on roads, harbor docks and bridges and could tax almost anybody for anything that moved along the road. You could be walking down a road which you have been using for ten years, and all of a sudden, a tax collector sets up his booth on that road, and starts charging people for using the road. And the tax was worse if you had a cart. You had to pay extra for every wheel on the cart. And if the cart was being pulled by animals, that was extra also. The tax collector could tell the man to open his packs and bundles of goods, and tax him whatever he wanted. And in all of this, there was very little governmental control. Only the tax collectors and the government knew what the tax rate was, and it was always changing anyway, so the tax collectors could basically charge the people anything they wanted.
• And on top of this, there were two kinds of Mokhes - the Great Mokhes and the Little Mokhes. A Great Mokhes stayed behind the scenes and hired others - the Little Mokhes - to collect the taxes for him. Zaccheus, by the way, was probably a Great Mokhes because Luke 19:2 calls him a chief tax collector. And these Great Mokhes were hated by the Jewish people. But it was the Little Mokhes who were despised the most. He was the one people saw and interacted with. He was the one who set up random toll booths on roads and bridges and charged people anything he wanted. If you got angry at him for dumping your possessions all over the road, he could tax you more and there was nothing you could do about it. In any culture, such tax gatherers would be despised and hated. But they were hated and despised even more so in Israel. Why?
• Because these tax gatherers were considered to be traitors. The Roman government always had a difficult time collecting taxes from the Jewish people, because many of the Jews had no qualms whatsoever about killing a Gentile who wanted to take their money to support the pagan Roman government. Eventually though, the Roman government found a way to collect their taxes and keep their tax collectors from getting killed. They hired Jewish people to collect the taxes for them. Jewish zealots who didn't mind killing Gentiles would never think of harming another Jew, even if they viewed this Jew as a traitor.
• And the Roman government had a curious way of paying their tax collectors. They told the tax collectors how much money to send in to the government. Anything that the tax collector could get above and beyond that amount could be kept for himself. So the tax collectors became greedy, and often extorted money from their own Jewish people. They would often use thugs to strong-arm people into paying far beyond a reasonable amount. Because of this, they were despised, hated, and scorned by the other Jewish people.
• All of this brings us to our text today where we encounter a man named Levi. He was a Jewish man who collected taxes for the government using Mafia techniques. Not the kind of guy you want to have around. But Jesus is never constrained by cultural stigmas. In fact, as we saw a few weeks ago with the leper, He always loves those that are outcast and looked down upon by society. In Luke 5:27-32, Jesus calls sinners like Levi to follow Him.
1. Jesus Calls Sinners to Follow Him (Luke 5:27-28)
Luke 5:27. 27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named [a]Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me."
Jesus is out in the town, and he sees a tax collector named Levi. This Levi is most often called Matthew in the Gospels. He is the one who eventually writes the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, after this account, he is never called Levi again in the Gospels. Many people in the Bible have two names - one for before they met Jesus, and one for after. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul. Levi becomes Matthew. Levi means "joined" whereas Matthew means "gift of God." And in Luke 5, we see that Levi receives the greatest gift of God that there is.
• As Jesus is walking through town, he sees Levi sitting there, at his tax collecting booth, with his body guards on either side of him, and He said to him, "Follow Me."
• Alfred Edersheim, a Biblical scholar and historian, thinks that Levi followed Jesus about and taxed the crowds that came to hear Jesus teach. Imagine if you came to church next Sunday, and there was an IRS agent standing out there taking down names and social security numbers to see if you paid your taxes. It would probably dampen your desire to come to church.
• That's kind of what Levi might have been doing. He followed Jesus around and taxed the crowds who came to hear Jesus teach. But as Levi sat there with his booth, taxing people who came to hear Jesus teach, he also got to hear the teaching of Jesus for Himself. This was probably like water to a dusty soul. You see, tax gatherers were not allowed to come into the synagogue to hear the Word of God taught. Levi was able to hear truths from Jesus that he had never heard before. All his professional life, he had been told that he was headed for hell. All his life, he had been told that it was impossible for God to forgive him. But Jesus taught the exact opposite.
• Levi kept showing up - to hear the words of Jesus. I doubt Levi's presence bothered Jesus. It certainly bothered the crowds. They didn't like tax gatherers, and they didn't like to get taxed. But there was nothing Jesus could do - except one thing. Rather than asking Levi to stop coming around, Jesus asks Levi to become one of his disciples! Incredible! Technically, if Levi had been following Jesus about, he had long ago become one of Christ's disciples, but he never dared dream that Christ would recognize him as such. He never dared dream that Christ would speak to him. He never dared dream that Christ would invite him to become a follower.
• I love this about Jesus. There are people who think they have sinned too much to have Jesus love them. But He does. There are people who think they have made too many mistakes to have Jesus notice them, or care about them. But He does. Jesus doesn't care that society hates Levi. Jesus doesn't care that Levi is wretched sinner. He just wants Levi to follow him. And look how Levi responds in Luke 5:28.
Luke 5:28. 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.
This is nearly identical to what we saw Peter do when Jesus called him to be a fisher of men. Back in Luke 5:11, Peter, James and John left all and followed Jesus. Levi does the same thing here. He left his street thugs behind. He left his tax gathering booth. He left all the money, and rose up and followed Jesus. This was a once in lifetime opportunity for Levi, and he knew a good investment when he saw one. On the one hand, he could continue to be a tax collector, earning piles of money, but continue to have everybody hate him and despise him. Or, he could leave all his money behind, and follow Jesus, where there was love, and acceptance, and most of all, forgiveness. It's not even a choice he had to think about. He just got, left all, and followed Jesus.
• Very likely, the tax gathering booth did not stay empty for long. Although being a tax gatherer cost you your friends and family and the respect of your neighbors, it gave you great wealth, and there are always people who will do almost anything for money. In that society, just like in ours, there were men who were willing to be seen as a traitor if they could just become rich. Though tax collectors were hated, there were always people ready and waiting to become a tax collector. Once Levi left his booth, that was like turning in his resignation. There was no going back for him. They probably had his position filled within a day. But He didn't care. Though he had been serving money for years, and had spent his days trying to get just one more denarius, he finally found in Jesus what he had been searching for.
• Maybe, many years ago, he had thought that having lots of money would give him complete fulfillment in life. Now, he had all the money he ever wanted, but he was still not happy. But when Jesus came along, and asked Levi to follow, Levi knew that Jesus was what he had been looking for. Whereas money could never fill the hole in his life, Jesus could. The cost of leaving everything behind to follow Jesus was well worth it.
• What Would you Give Up to Follow Jesus? What would you give up to follow Jesus? Are there things in life that you have been searching for which you thought would give you fulfillment and satisfaction? Maybe you have even sinned a lot in order to achieve these dreams. You've cheated and lied and cut corners. Maybe you've made a lot of mistakes in life. If people knew half of what you've done, they would never want to be near you again.
• But do you want to hear something amazing? It doesn't matter to Jesus. He is calling you. It doesn't matter what is in your past. It doesn't matter what is in your life right now. He wants you to follow him. It doesn't matter what other people think of you. You are someone He wants by His side. You don't have to fix your life before you follow Him. Just follow Him right now. This is what Levi did. He left all and followed Christ.
Let me clarify something though. This is very important.
• Following Jesus is not the same thing as believing in Jesus. Following Jesus, and obeying Him, and even loving Him, will not guarantee you eternal life. Only believing in Jesus gives you eternal life. God gives eternal life only to those who believe in Jesus Christ for it. Today, and in the months ahead as we study Luke, we will be talking a lot about discipleship and repentance and following Jesus. None of these things give you eternal life. Faith alone in Christ alone is the only condition of eternal life. These other things are good things to do, and things that all of us should do, but they will not give you eternal life.
• Take Levi, for example. I don't know if Levi has eternal life or not at this point. We aren't really told. All we are told is that he left all and followed Christ. If Levi did not have eternal life prior to this event, his actions here did not allow him to receive eternal life either. We are not given eternal life because of good works. If Levi did already have eternal life, then his actions here are a decision to become a dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ. Levi, like everybody else, receives eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ for it. You do not receive eternal life by turning from sin. You do not receive eternal life by repenting. You do not receive eternal life by following Jesus. You receive eternal life by believing in Christ alone for it (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47).
• You see, repentance is for all men (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9). Non-Christians can repent and follow Jesus. This does not give them eternal life, but it may lead them to believe in Jesus later for eternal life. But repentance is not just for non-believers. It is for believers also. All of us who have believed in Jesus constantly struggle with sin every day. And if we are going to continue down the path of discipleship with Jesus, we are going to have repent of the sin in our life that He brings to light.
• So I don't know if Levi was a believer here or not. If he wasn't, then his decision to repent of his sin, leave all, and follow Jesus eventually leads to him believing in Jesus for eternal life. If he was a believer, then he is simply deciding to leave a sin that was still in his life, and follow Jesus through greater commitment and obedience. There is only one condition for receiving eternal life - and that is believing in Jesus Christ for it. But there are many conditions for becoming a committed disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. Repentance from sin is one of them. Following Jesus is another. And it is when we admit that we are a sinner and repent of our sin, that Jesus comes to fellowship with us.
2. Jesus Fellowships with Sinners (Luke 5:29-30)
Luke 5:29. 29 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.
Although Levi had quit his job, he hadn't left his house or all of his money. He had simply stopped working at his sinful profession. And now, one of the first things he does is have a party for Jesus and invite a bunch of other tax collectors. Why the tax collectors? Because these were the only people he knew. He didn't know any religious people. He didn't know any of the social elite. He didn't know any upright and socially acceptable people. They would never want him for a friend. So Levi just got together those friends he did have, and invited Jesus over for a meal. Levi has found what he was looking for in Jesus, and he wants to share Jesus with as many of his friends as he can.
• By the way, studies tell us that generally those who are most effective in evangelism are those who have just started following Jesus. Why is that? Because they still have friends who are not Christians. When they believe in Jesus for eternal life, and discover that He forgives them for all of their sins for free, they love to tell their friends about it - just as we see Levi doing here. But generally, the longer one is a Christian, the fewer non-Christian friends he or she has, and so evangelism tapers off. This is why it is so important to make sure that we maintain contact with non-Christians and continually show compassion for them. We do not have to take part in their sin, but we do need to be part of their lives. When we follow Jesus, Jesus also wants to follow us into our homes, and workplaces and among our friends. Jesus has no qualms about sitting down for a meal and having a good time with those whom society considers "the sinful people." Look who is at this great feast. Luke says that there were a great number of tax collectors and others.
• From a cultural viewpoint, a tax collector was on the same level as a prostitute (Matt. 21:32). The religious people and the upright citizens didn't want to have anything to do with either, but Jesus loves both and shows compassion toward both. Here we see him sharing a meal with tax collectors. And look how the religious rulers react in verse 30.
Luke 5:30. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?"
The scribes and Pharisees remember, were so concerned with remaining separate from sinful society, that they would never allow themselves to get near somebody they thought was sinful. They believed in guilt by association. They did business as much as possible only with other Pharisees. When they traveled, they stayed with other Pharisees. They lived inside a little Pharisee bubble. Talking with a sinner or touching a sinner was bad enough. But sitting down and sharing a meal with them was about the worst thing you could do. In their minds, sitting and eating with a sinner was the same thing as endorsing the sin.
• And so they condemn Jesus and his disciples. They say, "What is He doing?" If he wants to be respected and well like in society, he needs to hang out with different people. Their message to people outside their little legalistic bubble was that people need to believe like them, dress like them, act like them, like what they like, and don't like what they don't like in order to be accepted.
• Sound's like us Christians sometimes, doesn't it? The assumption we sometimes make is that only people who are genuinely interested in God are those who are interested in church and the way we do Christianity. But this is simply not true. I wonder sometimes if Jesus would "fit in" at some churches today. You see, Jesus did completely the opposite of many Christians today. He reached out to people that everybody - both the Pharisees and society - considered sinful. And he did it in a way that offended the Pharisees. He certainly didn't join sinners in their sin, but He did join with them in every other way. I'm not sure what he would do today. Have prostitutes over for dinner? Become best friends with the child molester?
• When the Pharisees saw this, they had a conniption fit. They were horrified. This is always how the self-righteous react when Godly people reach out in loving ways toward those whom society considers sinful. But he reaches out to them, not just so that He can befriend them, but so that He can call them to repentance.
3. Jesus Calls Sinners to Repent (Luke 5:31-32)
Luke 5:31-32. 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Jesus draws an analogy here between the sick and sinners. When you are sick, what is it you do? You go to the doctor. You seek out help. You expect him to give you medicine or tell you something to change in your lifestyle that will help your health improve. Similarly, Jesus has come to help those who know they are sinners. Just as healthy people don't need doctors, righteous people don't need repentance. Of course, there are lots of sick people out there who think they are just fine. And similarly, there are lots of sinners out there who think they are pretty good people. There are people realize that although they sin occasionally, they're really not all that bad.
• Jesus didn't really come for these sorts of people. Jesus doesn't spend a whole lot of his ministry trying to convince people that they are sinners. Sometimes He does, though usually it is the religious people He tries to convince, not the non-religious. This is usually the opposite of the way churches do it today. We try to point out the sin in all the non-religious people, while we sit back and try to act holy and righteous. When Jesus pointed out sin, it was usually just to the religious people. But most of the time, He didn't focus on sin at all; He just helped those who already know that they needed His help. This is because it is the Holy Spirit's job to convict people of their sin (John 16:8). And the Holy Spirit does this through our conscience and the Word of God. Jesus is not going around trying to convince people that they need His help. He focuses on those who already know they need help.
• And when they come to Him for help, he doesn't give them some purple, grape-flavored placebo to make them feel better about themselves for a few hours. Nor does he try to cover over the effects by giving them some pain killers and nice music to listen to. Oh no. Jesus goes right for the root of the problem and gives them the cure. He tells sinners that their problem is sin, and they need to stop sinning. When sinners come to Him for help, He tells them to repent.
• Although Jesus wants you to follow Him no matter what sin is in your life right now, He doesn't want you to remain in that sin but wants you to become aware of it and repent of it. Will you respond to the call? It begins with recognizing you are a sinner and that you must turn from your sin in order to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. This passage is not about other people. It is about me. It is about you.
• Don't deny that you are a sinner. Don't ignore or excuse sin either. A lot of people recognize that they sin, but it's too much trouble to deal with it now, or they figure that it's not so bad, because other people do worse things. Don't try to treat yourself either. There is no home remedy for sin. You need to go to the great physician, Jesus Christ. And do you want to know what He will tell You? Repent. Let each one of us humbly repent of the sin that is in our own lives and leave all to follow Jesus on the path of discipleship.
• And even more importantly, let's make sure that we associate with the people that Jesus would associate with. He loved to spend time with people that society and "religious" people rejected. Ask yourself, "Who are the people that probably won't come to church on Sunday, and how can you show Christ's love to them?" There are many people that all of us come into contact with who may never come to church unless we go to them first. That is what Jesus did. If we are Christ's followers, we will do the same thing. Christ is teaching his disciples how to be fishers of men. The fishing tip he gives them here is if you want to catch fish, go where the fish are.