Two were brothers. The other two were friends and business partners in a fishing business on the Sea of Galilee. Their names were Simon Peter, his brother Andrew and their business partners, James and John. These four men’s lives were radically altered when they met and got to know Jesus. So what happened?
These four men had been out on the lake fishing with their nets all night long; it was common knowledge the best time to catch fish on the Sea of Galilee was at night. On this particular night, Simon Peter and his friends did not catch anything. Some nights were like that, however, the dawn of a new day did not just bring exhaustion from working all night, but it brought an unexpected opportunity (Luke 5:4-11).
Jesus’ Call for Faith (vv. 4-5)
Jesus said to these exhausted, experienced fishermen, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” (v. 4). Simon’s response to Jesus is noteworthy for several reasons. First, “Simon answered, ‘Master’” (v. 5a). The title “Master”, used throughout the Gospel of Luke in reference to Jesus, literally means ‘one who stands over another.’ It emphasizes that Simon is acknowledging Jesus’ authority, but also that Simon trusts Jesus’ lead in his life. Second, Simon does not deny how he feels about Jesus’ call to trust Him. He says, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” (v.5b). In other words, Simon is pointing out that he and his friends are exhausted and that Jesus’ idea to go fish at the worst time of day is a bad idea. However, it is the third part of what Simon says that is the most noteworthy: “But because You say so, I will let down the nets.” (v. 5c).
Without the “but”, Simon and the others would not have experienced what led to abundant blessing and abundant living. Even though it was counter intuitive (went against how Simon felt and what he thought), Simon chose to trust that Jesus saw something that he did not. This is not so much a story about fishing or making a living. Rather, it will prove to be a story about making a life.
Simon’s Response of Faith (vv. 6-11)
Notice what Simon and the others experienced when they determined that Jesus was worthy of their trust: “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” (v. 6). It was not from contemplating but from taking that next step of faith that life began to change. Simon “fell at Jesus’ knees”, in a posture of submission and worship, pouring out his soul saying, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” (v. 8). Simon didn’t literally want Jesus to go away. He was simply acknowledging that he and his friends were not worthy of Christ. The truth is no one is. Jesus does not pursue you because of who you are. He pursues you because of Who He is. You can’t earn His love and grace. He simply offers it because that is Who Jesus is.
Jesus responded to this. “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’” (v. 10b). The phrase “don’t be afraid” refers to living in a state of fear. These four discovered they could choose faith in Jesus over fear — that He was more than enough for them. “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.” (v.11).
These men were so inspired and impacted by Jesus that they were willing to leave everything they had known, everything that was familiar and comfortable, and follow Jesus into the unknown. To “follow” Jesus in scripture refers to not only trusting His lead, but developing deeper companionship with Jesus on the journey.
Out of the 12 original disciples, 11 of them followed Jesus and their lives were transformed in the process. Only Judas fell short and ultimately betrayed Jesus. Why? The 11 got to know and followed the actual Jesus, while Judas created and followed “lesser than” Jesus. Judas insisted that Jesus be a political messiah with temporary answers. Any “lesser than” version of Jesus will always fall short and end up in discouragement. Only in getting to know and following Who Jesus actually is will transform your life. What is the version of Jesus you are placing your faith in today?
“When He had finished speaking He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.”