SSL 8 - Luke 5:4-11, 27-32 - THE FIRST DISCIPLES
BACKGROUND: Last week Luke told us the story of Jesus' rejection by the people of His hometown synagogue in Nazareth. We learned three important points of application from it: (1) You must accept Jesus for who He claims to be, both Lord (God) and Messiah (Savior). Jesus, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2a, acting and speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit, claimed to be the "anointed one," the Messiah. He did not come of his own initiative, but was sent by the Father to bring God's salvation to the world. (2) People reject Christ because they do not want to admit their sinful condition. The crowd in Nazareth probably thought themselves to be basically good people. After all, they were Jews, not idolatrous pagans. Then along comes this hometown boy who says God's message is for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the downtrodden, and He had the nerve to say that He would take God's blessings to the Gentiles. They simply could not conceive Jesus as Lord and Messiah, and their sinful self-righteousness and arrogance blinded them to the truth. (3) If you reject Jesus today, you might not get another opportunity to receive Him. The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, so he passed through them and went on His way. Rejection of the gospel can be final and fatal. Today Luke tells the story of Jesus calling the first disciples, which forms a sharp counterpoint to the rejection that Jesus has just experienced in the Nazareth synagogue. In the first three verses of Luke Chapter 5, we find Jesus teaching a crowd by Lake Gennesaret (N. Sea of Galilee). When He saw two boats left by fishermen, He got into the one owned by Simon and began teaching from the boat.
PART I - Luke 5:4-11 THEY PUT DOWN THEIR NETS AND FOLLOWED HIM
Read Luke 5:4-7 - I WILL DO AS YOU SAY
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.
v. 4: "When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch'" - These words constitute a test for Simon but also present an opportunity to see the kinds of wonders of which Jesus is capable. Test: Will Simon obey Jesus...will he trust Him?
v. 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.'" - Note that Simon addresses Jesus as "Master" (Gk. epistata = one who stands over). Peter's common sense tells him there's no reason to try again, yet, in an act of obedience, he replies "I will do as You say." It would have been hard for him to order his men to pick up their newly cleaned nets and get them ready to go again. They were tired; ready to quit.
v. 6: "When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break;" - The catch is so immense, it nearly brings the fishermen to the brink of disaster. In the next chapter Jesus will say, "For the measure you measure will be measured back to you" (6:38). Too often, Christians measure their giving and generosity with a thimble instead of a bucket.
v. 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" - This miracle compared to the abundance of manna from heaven (Exodus 16), the widow's meal and oil (1 Kings 17) and Elisha feeding 100 men with 20 loaves (2 Kings 4). Later, Jesus will feed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (9:12-17). Abundance miracles have two common characteristics: (1) they meet human needs and (2) demonstrate God's power.
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.
v. 8a: "But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet" - This marks the first time Simon is called Peter in this gospel. The name Simon Peter is used frequently in the gospel of John.
v. 8b: "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" - This is the type of reaction appropriate to the presence of God Himself, e.g., Moses hid his face from the burning bush (Exodus 3:6), Isaiah said, "I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5). It expresses wonder, awe, and fear all rolled into one.
v. 9: "For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken;" - Although Luke identifies Peter as the key disciple in this story, Luke also mentions that the other fishermen involved in the catch were similarly astonished. Why wouldn't they be?
v. 10a: "and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon." - Luke now specifically names James and John as Peters' partners but doesn't mention Peter's brother, Andrew, whom John originally described as disciple of Johnson the Baptist (John 1:35-42).
10b: "And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men" - (Matthew 4:19 phrases it as "fishers of men".) Jesus promises to expand their role from catching fish in nets to catching people into God's kingdom. Their role would be evangelistic-spreading the good news of grace available through Jesus. Today we are Peter's heirs and our work continues.
v. 11: "When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him" - Though Jesus is speaking to Peter, but James and John leave everything behind and follow, too.
This kind of abandonment is characteristic of discipleship. Discipleship involves shifting one's concern for the things of the world to the things of God. Luke will continue this emphasis in the Book of Acts.
PART II - LUKE 5:27-32 JESUS CALL SINNERS TO FOLLOW HIM
After Jesus called the first disciples, He visited several cities (presumably in Gallilee) where He cleansed a leper (5:12-16) and healed a paralytic (5:17-26, which we we'll cover next week). As we continue today, we'll move to Capernaum and hear Luke tell the story of Levi, the tax collector, whom we know as the gospel writer Matthew. Levi, a tax collector or Publican, held one of the most despised positions in all of Israel, even more so than the Roman soldiers who occupied the country. Publicans bought the job as a franchise from the Roman government and used Roman soldiers as their enforcers. They were allowed to keep as profit whatever they collected over and above the actual tax due. They levied all kinds of assessments: property tax, income tax, poll tax, sales tax, and duties on imported goods. They were held in such disrepute they were not allowed in the Temple.
Luke 5:27-28 - JESUS NOTICED A TAX COLLECTOR
27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.
v. 27a: "After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth" - Except for this account, he is never called Levi again except in these passages Many in the Bible have two names and in the NT, some have one name before they met Jesus and another after: Simon-Peter, Levi-Matthew, and Saul-Paul. Levi means "joined," whereas Matthew means "gift of God."
v. 27b: "and He said to him, "Follow Me." Some scholars have suggested that before this time, Levi followed Jesus around and taxed the crowds that came to hear Jesus teach, in which he would have had the opportunity beforehand to hear Jesus teach.
v. 28: And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him" - After Jesus gave the call, "Follow Me," very much like Simon, James, and John in v. 11, Levi dropped what he was doing and left everything behind. This asks the question: What would you be willing to give up to follow Jesus? Levi/Matthew realized that riches could never fill the void in his life that Jesus occupied. Only Jesus by His grace can fill us, make us whole, true children of God.
Read Luke 5:29-30 - JESUS ASSOCIATES WITH SINNERS
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. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?"
v. 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" - For us this would be a party that included guests like prostitutes and criminals. But these were Matthew's friends, and as a new believer, he wanted his friends to know Jesus, too. When we follow Jesus, Jesus also wants to follow us into our homes and workplaces and meet our families and friends. Jesus has no hesitation towards sitting down and fellowshipping with people whom our society classifies as "sinful outcasts."
v. 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 Pharisees and scribes are, in effect, accusing Jesus and His disciples of "guilt by association," that like Covid-19, you could somehow catch sin from sinners simply by being in close physical proximity to them. These Pharisees and their scribes lived in a legalistic bubble that insulated them from what they considered to be the undesirable underbelly of Jewish society. This is the way self-righteous people always react to other people who don't think or act like them or agree with them-a terminal audience. This is completely contrary to the attitude expressed by Jesus in v. 29-to share the gospel message with the captives (of sin) and the weak.
Read Luke 5:31-32 - JESUS CALLS SINNERS TO REPENT
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."
vv. 31-32: Here we see Jesus draw an analogy between the physically sick and sinners. So, what do you so when you're sick? Go to the doctor, correct? You expect him to prescribe a treatment that includes medicines and/or healing steps (that can sometimes involve lifestyle changes) you need to take. Yes? In the same way, Jesus offers a prescription that will cure you from the effects of sin in your life. Just like there are lots of sick people who think they're okay and really aren't (i.e., denial), there are lots of sinners out there (i.e., law-abiding, courteous, and kind) who suffer from the mistaken belief that they're already "good people" (by the world's standards). Did any of you really think of yourself as a "morally bad" person before you were saved? Just as healthy people don't need doctors, "righteous" people don't need repentance. But who, apart from Christ, is truly righteous? The apostle Paul teaches that "None is righteous, no, not one?" (Romans 3:11). So, who needs Jesus? The only correct answer is "everyone." You might notice that Jesus doesn't really spend a lot of time trying to convince people they're sinners. He doesn't have to because the people He ministers to already know they need help-they're aware of their emptiness, their lostness, their need for a Savior. And when people come to Jesus, he doesn't berate them over their past sins but goes right to the root of the problem and offers them the cure: He informs them their problem is sin, and they need to stop sinning. When sinners ask Him what to do, He simply tells them they need to repent, and when they accept Jesus and repent, they receive the Holy Spirit and are forever changed and redeemed. Matthew remembered what Jesus told them and wrote it down in his gospel: 28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.
APPLICATION-Called as disciples:
1. Every born-again Christian believer is called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. In the here and now of the year 2020, every saved Christian believer is an heir to original the call of Peter that we just studied in vv. 4-11 of this chapter of Luke. And our evangelistic role as a disciple--spreading the good news of grace available through Jesus-hasn't changed.
2. Discipleship involves shifting your concern for the things of the world to the things of God. Today's lesson showed us that the fishermen Peter, James, and John, and later, the tax collector Levi, left everything behind when Jesus called them to follow Him (vv. 11 and 28). Does this mean we should all quit our jobs when called? Well for some, yes, and for others, no. It varies from person to person. Some are called out into fulltime ministry and others are not. While you must be prepared to leave a lot of your former life behind, Jesus might very well leave you in your regular workplace and allow you to use as a base for spreading the gospel and making new disciples. His yoke is "easy."
3. Jesus' love extends to all sinners. Jesus doesn't care what others think about other people or how they value them. In the story of the call of Levi, Jesus clearly demonstrated His love for the outcasts and lowlifes in society. As called Christian believers we must imitate the love of Christ for all people regardless of the sin in their lives. I can well imagine that for Peter, James, and John, sitting alongside Jesus at the table with tax collectors and other undesirables, must have been a very uncomfortable experience, yes? As disciples, Jesus is calling every one of us to get out of our "comfort zones" in order to reach people with the gospel and make new disciples.