Luke 5:1–11 One time, while the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. 2He saw two boats there along the lakeshore. The fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3Jesus got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. He sat down and began teaching the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.”
5Simon answered him, “Master, we worked hard all through the night and caught nothing. But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were about to tear apart. 7They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord.” 9For Peter and all those with him were amazed at the number of fish they had caught, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Have no fear. From now on you will be catching people.”
11After they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
What did Jesus see in Simon Peter? Or in Peter’s brother, Andrew? Or James or John, the sons of Zebedee?
I suppose Jesus saw hardworking fishermen washing their nets on the shore.
But Jesus saw more in these four men. He saw men who were afraid of not catching enough fish to provide for their families or keep their fishing business afloat. He saw men who were keenly aware of their sinfulness and unworthiness. For after Jesus provides a miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and cried out, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).
Jesus saw hell-bound men who needed the gift of heaven. He saw men with a need – not necessarily a need to catch fish – but a raw, desperate, eternal need. There was so much need along the shore of Lake Gennesaret that it drew the Son of God to the water’s edge.
Jesus also saw potential. He saw the potential in these four men to be his disciples – to sit at his feet and learn. He saw the potential to be his apostles – to be the ones with beautiful feet by preaching the good news of peace (Romans 10:15).
He saw the potential in Peter to stand up before the Sanhedrin, who wished to silence his preaching of this good news of peace in Jesus’ name, and said to them, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
He saw potential in Andrew to do friendship evangelism to invite his brother to meet Jesus saying excitedly, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41)!
Jesus saw potential in James as being courageous enough in his faith to be the first apostle martyred (Acts 12:1-2) and his brother John to be the writer of the Gospel and epistles that bear his name and the author of Jesus Christ’s Revelation to the Christian churches.
What Jesus saw in these four men, he also saw in you.
He saw you trapped in the darkness of error and evil, so he “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
He saw you caught in your sin, so he called you to be his holy people (Romans 1:16).
He saw you confused about the difficulties and depressions of life, so he called you according to his divine purpose (Romans 8:28).
He saw you feeling lost, alone and afraid, so he lavished his Father’s love on you so that you could be called a child of God (1 John 3:1).
He saw you engaging in all the vile posts, foul language and unloving actions that pervade our society, so he called you to live contrary to that lifestyle, repaying evil with blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
Jesus has called you.
According to the Gospel of John, Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John had already started following Jesus (John 1:40-41). But they had not yet been called as full-time disciples. They were still following their calling as fishermen.
St. Luke reports that Jesus was standing at the water’s edge of Lake Gennesaret. This was also known as the Sea of Galilee. After working hard all night long and not catching anything, Jesus told Simon Peter to let his nets down in the deep water, in the broad daylight. Though this was a rabbi and a former carpenter who was giving an experienced fisherman advice on his fishing business, Peter was ready to do so. For Jesus was also the Lord. “Because you say so, I will let down the nets,” Peter answered (Luke 5:4-5).
St. Luke reports about Peter’s midday fishing expedition. “When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were about to tear apart” (Luke 5:6). Peter’s obedience was not displaced.
After witnessing this miracle, Peter clamored to the shore, fell on his knees and cried out, “Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord” (Luke 5:8).
Jesus said to Simon, “Have no fear. From now on you will be catching people.” After they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him (John 5:10-11).
Jesus called these fishermen to cast aside their nets and instead to start casting their gospel nets to fish for people. He called them to do something different than what they had been doing.
How many times don’t you wish that Jesus would call you to do something different than what you are doing right now?
If you are homebound, you might wish to do something different – to just be able to get outside.
If you are husband and father who leaves home every day to go to work, you might desire a new job that you enjoy going to every day.
If you are a stay-at-home mother, you might crave some adult conversation.
Whatever our situation in life, we might welcome a call from the Lord that would summon us to leave behind our nets of various callings in life to follow Jesus in doing something more, perhaps something better, perhaps something more “spiritual” and “sanctified.” It might be nice to abandon our family schedules, work requirements and routine obligations in exchange for some exciting endeavors nearly anywhere else.
Yet, for most of us, the Lord’s call to discipleship means faithfully tending the nets we’ve been given for now. Jesus calls us to follow him in the faithful vocations of a working dad, a stay-at-home mom, a carpenter, an electrician or office manager. God calls us to faithful service. In that service, whether it is battling traffic, picking up trash, closing a big business deal or wiping a child’s runny nose, do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Christ has called you to faith. Now he is calling you to share your faith wherever you are and with whatever you do.
Martin Luther’s greatest gifts to the Christian Church were the restoration of pure and right doctrine taught in the Scriptures, as well as Luther’s translation of the Scriptures into German for everyday Christians (before Luther, only priests and monks were able and allowed to read the Bible). One of Luther’s lesser known, but also important, gifts to the Church was the teaching on vocation.
In Luther’s time, the Church wrongly taught that people were serving a higher purpose for the Lord if they became priests, monks or nuns. Luther used the clear teachings of the Bible to instruct people that God calls the Christian to serve the Lord, as well as their family and neighbors through one’s normal, everyday occupation. Whether that be a spouse, parent, child, citizen, employee, employer, soldier, young person, widow, widower, etc.
Luther noted the value God places on the simple, everyday ways that Christians live out their various vocations. You are serving the Lord of the Church through your various vocations. “Everything you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
But God is also acting through you. He is working through you to care for others. Luther wrote, “God’s people please God even in the least and most trifling matters. For he will be working all things through you; he will milk the cow through you and perform the most servile duties through you, and all the greatest and least duties alike will be pleasing to him” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 6, p. 10).
God is elevating your seemingly “ordinary” life to be “extraordinary” glory to God and service to others. You don’t have to be “special” or “super Christians” to serve God. You serve God through your faith-filled vocation.
I am reminded of my youngest sister, Brenda. Several months into her pregnancy with her first child, Brenda called me as her brother, who also happened to be a pastor. She told me how she and her husband, Tom, had learned in the ultrasound that their daughter had an issue with her heart. She would need multiple surgeries throughout her life and eventually need a heart transplant. Through her tears she asked me, “Mike, why would God give us a child like this?”
Before I could speak, she answered her own question. “Maybe God is giving us a child like this because he knows we can handle it.”
I’m glad I could help.
I believe God saw potential in my sister and her husband in raising their now beautiful and healthy 16-year-old daughter.
Life is not always easy. Sometimes it is a drudgery. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes it is depressing. Sometimes it feels downright debilitating. But God is not calling you to cast those nets aside. He is calling you to live for him through your daily vocation. He sees potential in you.
You wonder why your spouse is suffering with the agonizing disease of dementia. Perhaps God is calling you to fulfill your marriage vows of loving “in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live.”
You wonder why you are not being blessed with children of your own to love. Perhaps God is calling you to bless someone else’s child with your love through adoption.
You wonder why you are a widow or a divorcee or still remain single. Perhaps God is calling you to have honorable, undistracted devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:35).
Perhaps God knows that you can handle it.
We don’t always know or understand what God’s plans are for us. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future in his hands. The Lord reminds us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways” (Isaiah 55:8).
Being homebound, you have the opportunity to pray for your family, your neighbors, your pastor, church and church body.
Being a father and husband, you have the opportunity to be a faithful employee at work, and then to leave work at work, so you can love your wife and raise your children in the Word at home.
Being a mother and wife, you have the opportunity whether in the workplace or at home to encourage your husband and train your children in all the little things in life.
These jobs may not seem very “special” or “sanctified.” Yet, because they were given to you to do by God. They are your vocations. God sees the potential in every neighbor’s driveway you shovel as you letting your light shine. He sees the potential in every heartbreaking moment of you reminding your mom what her name is that you are honoring and respecting your mother. He sees the potential in every frustrating moment that your child squirms through the church service as you are training your child in the way she will go in her faith. He sees the potential for every gift you place into the offering plate, every prayer you pray for the unchurched, every time you invite another coworker or family member to worship, as you casting the net of the gospel to catch more people for Christ’s Kingdom.
What does Jesus see in you? Someone he has called. Someone who serves him in your vocation. Someone with potential in his Kingdom. Amen.