Sunday, February 12, 2012

Luke 5:1-11 - Jesus' First Disciples

Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish, in the...
Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish (Raphael)
Pray and Read:  Luke 5:1-11

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 5:1-11 to teach believers that Jesus calls us to the invitation of Good News and to the obedience of discipleship.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about discipleship.

Sermon Points:
1.   Jesus calls us to the invitation of Good News (Luke 5:1-3)
2.   Jesus calls us to the obedience of discipleship (Luke 5:4-11)

Contextual Notes:
Luke begins his Gospel by calling us to trust in Jesus as the Messiah fulfilling the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (Luke 1-2). Trust begins with repentance of sin, said John the Baptist. (Luke 3:1-20). At Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21-23a), Luke calls Jesus the promised Messiah, God’s suffering Servant through his sacrificial death. Jesus fulfills not only the Davidic and Abrahamic Covenants, but unlike sinful Adam, he is a completely obedient Son of God (Luke 3:23b-38). So clearly is Jesus the Perfect Man, that he defeats Satan himself in a test of every sphere of human temptation: body, mind, and spirit (Luke 4:1-13).

In the section on Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Luke 4:14-9:50), Luke presents the Good News[1]. After Jesus encounters unbelief and rejection at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:14-30),[2] he finds believing faith and freedom and healing for the captives in the Capernaum synagogue (Luke 4:31-44). The Galilean ministry is marked also by Jesus calling and training his disciples. Now Jesus selects his best known disciples, Peter, James, and John (Luke 5:1-11). In sending his Son, God requires every person to make a choice: for or against His Son.

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Luke 5:1 – Lake Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee (also Sea of Chinnereth or Sea of Tiberias). Luke prefers lake (limne) to Matthew and Mark’s sea (thalassa) perhaps out of a precise historical sense, similar to the historian Josephus who prefers lake, too.
b.   Luke 5:3 – Because of the large numbers of people pressing in to hear him, Jesus decided to move to open air preaching and use the reflective abilities of water to teach (cf. Mark 3:9; 4:1). The people can sit or stand comfortably on the beach, and the rising shoreline serves as an amphitheater with good acoustics. Simon seems to have been present while Jesus taught, but doesn’t seem particularly moved by it.
c.   This is not the first time Jesus had met the disciples. John 1:35-2:11 tells us that several first met Jesus when John the Baptist was preaching. They went with Him to a wedding at Cana. He had spent time in Simon’s home in Capernaum (Luke 4:38), and James and John were probably his cousins. The first time Jesus met Simon, he gave Simon a new name Cephas/Peter (John 1:41). The second time is here when Jesus called him to forsake all and become a disciple (Mark 1:16-18; Luke 5:11). The third incident was Simon’s call to apostleship (Luke 6:14).
d.   APPLICATION: Here is Jesus’ model for evangelism. It is not necessary to press for a decision on a first meeting, though there is nothing wrong with that. It takes most of us time to get to know Christ, but there is always (and must be a moment of decision, when Christ calls, and we make an informed decision to follow Him.
a.   Luke 5:4-5 – “We’ve worked hard all night...I will let down the nets.” Fishing was demanding work. The men fished at night and sold or salted their catch and dried or mended nets during the day. The nets were probably long nets with floats used for night fishing in deep water. Another net was a dragnet (Matt 13:47) dragged along between two boats. Today the edible fish include varieties of carp. Josephus said that the lake held several varieties of fish then. Night fishing was profitable because during the night fish rose from the depths and stayed as long as it was dark. As soon as the sun rose, they moved back to the depths again, making it useless to fish.
b.   Even in expressing his doubts, Simon Peter is admirable in his obedience. What would a carpenter-rabbi know about fishing? He knew it was futile to fish during the day, but he obeyed, not because it made sense to him, but because Jesus asked him to do it. Acknowledging his respect of Jesus who had healed his mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39), he let the net down (Luke 5:5). Whatever it was, his faith was far from magnificent, but the great object of that faith – Jesus himself – produces a transforming miracle in Peter’s life.
c.   APPLICATION: A little faith in a very mighty Jesus can accomplish extraordinary things! Do you obey Jesus only when it makes sense to you, or do you obey him simply because he asks you to obey him? Your answer to that question will reveal the level of your faith.
d.   Luke 5:6-7 - Suddenly, he has so many fish that he needs his partners (metochos) James and John’s help, and even with that, both their boats were in danger of sinking.[3] The catch recalls the miracles of multiplying food related to Elijah (1 Kings 17:10-16) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-10, 42-44), and the provision of manna and quail in the Wilderness (Exod. 16:13; cf. Exod 8:6, 17, 24; 10:13).
e.   Luke 5:8 – “Go away. I am a sinful man.” Simon grasps the fact that the One speaking to him is the Lord, and he is suddenly overcome with the awareness of how far short he fell of what he knew he should be.
f.    APPLICATION: Whenever you or I feel as Peter felt, unworthy because of our failures to associate with Jesus Christ, we need to remember what Christ said to Peter. He is not shocked by what we are or were. He knows all about it. What counts to Him, and should count to us, is that “from now on” we will experience Christ’s power to change and renew.
g.   Luke 5:8 - Simon’s reaction is not at all surprising, but his reaction is not because he thought Jesus had better fishing techniques. He is focused on the person of Jesus. Simon has just seen Jesus more clearly, as seen in the shift of address from Master/boss (epistata[4]), a term that acknowledges respect and social superiority, to Lord (kurios), a messianic title, which suggests Peter is realizing who Jesus really is. Note the irony that up until now Luke has called him Simon, but when he falls on his knees, Luke calls him Simon Peter (Matt 4:18; 16:18). Peter’s awe at the overwhelming presence of God recalls Isaiah’s fear when he saw the glory of the Lord (Isaiah 6:5) or Job’s encounter with God (Job 40:4).
h.   APPLICATION: The trouble is, when we see Jesus more clearly, we also see ourselves more clearly. His beauty exposes all our flaws. His perfection points out our sinfulness. Man’s first reaction such a realization is often, “go away.” But only by coming to Jesus can we find forgiveness for our sins and inner personal revival.
i.    Luke 5:9-11 – “Don’t be afraid…You will catch men” – His companions (probably including Simon’s brother Andrew) and James and John are equally astonished (Luke 5:9-10). Jesus tells them that they will now “catch people alive” (zogron, catching alive, Luke 5:10). Fishermen made a better than average income, so leaving their job is an act of radical commitment that they could expect to hurt them financially. They leave their profession and all their equipment to follow Jesus. The authority and power of Jesus merges here with authentic discipleship. Moses had been a shepherd. Joseph an administrator, these men fishermen.
j.    APPLICATION: Some are afraid to trust Jesus because they are afraid he will change their lifestyles. The truth is, he probably will – for the better. When the Lord calls you, he never calls you to ruin your life. Your calling may be difficult; your situation may be difficult, but he gives you the grace to endure the smaller, temporal things in order to focus on the larger more eternal things.

[1] Just as Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 gives his thesis there for Acts. The Galilean Ministry section (4:14-9:50) culminates at Luke 9:20 with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ.

[2] The incident parallels the beginning of the birth narrative, in which the priest Zechariah responds in unbelief to the announcement of the angel Gabriel. The Capernaum synagogue’s faith parallels the believing faith of the Virgin Mary.
[3] This is not the same incident as John 21:5-11. Many details are different which make it a different event. “There is nothing improbable in two miracles of a similar kind, one granted to emphasize and illustrate the call, the other the recall, of the chief Apostle” (Plummer, 147).

[4] Epistata was a term used by workers with their supervisors or overseers. Oepke in Kittel, ed., TDNT 2:622-3. The word used only by Luke in Luke 5:5; 8:24, 45; 9:33, 49; 17:13)  translates as Hebrew “rabbi” which the other synoptic writers transliterate.