You are more deeply flawed than you realized, and you are more deeply loved than you ever dreamed.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Luke: The Gospel for Everyone
This is our Summer Bible Series—we are working our way through Luke, the gospel for everyone. Today we come to one of my favorite stories, the calling of the first disciples in Luke 5. I’m going to read the story with some explanatory comments, and then we’ll see what we can learn about our own calling. Here’s the story.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. This takes place at the Lake of Gennesaret—also known as the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias—different names for the same place.
Even today, it’s not unusual for places to have more than one name. For example, a creek flows into the Spokane River just a mile south of here. It’s called…Latah Creek. It’s also called Hangman Creek. This lake—Galilee or Gennesaret—was 13 miles long, 7 miles wide and almost 700 feet below sea level. During Jesus’ time, there were nine towns around it’s shores, all of them 15,000 people or more. Jesus spent a lot of time in this area.
On this day, Jesus was teaching on the lakeshore, but the people were crowding him, so he asked Simon if he could borrow his boat. Simon was a fisherman, who after a fruitless night of fishing, was cleaning his nets and getting ready to go home and get some sleep. Anybody here ever worked the graveyard shift? You know how Simon is feeling. He’d met Jesus before. In fact, we read last week that Jesus had been to Simon’s home and healed his mother in law. So this isn’t Jesus and Simon’s first encounter. Jesus climbs aboard and Simon pushes out a little from shore, and Jesus sat down and continued to teach. The lakeshore setting would have been a natural amphitheater, making it easy for the crowd to hear Jesus. We don’t know for sure where this was, but there is a bay near Capernaum (Simon’s hometown) where Israeli scientists have verified that the bay can transmit a human voice effortlessly to several thousand people on shore. This is why Jesus asked to borrow Simon’s boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 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.”
The sermon’s over, everyone is headed for home, and Simon thinks he can head home too. Then Jesus tells him to put the boat back out into deep water and let the nets down for a catch. You can hear the dismay in Simon’s voice:
“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. Really?” Simon is a professional fisherman—he’s fished all night (the best time to fish) and caught nothing. Jesus is a carpenter turned traveling rabbi. So here we have an expert who caught nothing at the best time to fish being told by a non-expert to try again at the worst time to fish. “Really?”
Yet Simon gives in. “Because you say so, I will do it.” Sometimes, “because you say so” has to be enough. It may not make sense. You may not understand. But because Jesus said so, you obey. You do it.
ILL: I had been a Christian for a couple months when my friend Nat Stock said I should be baptized.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“We dunk you in that tank up there,” and pointed to the baptistery which was set into the front wall. I could see the water through the plexiglass. I had never seen a baptism. I thought it was an aquarium and the fish had died.
“Why would you do that?” I asked.
“Because Jesus said to,” he answered.
And that was enough. I got baptized simply because Jesus said to.
So Simon shoved off and let down the nets—not because it made sense, but because Jesus said to. Here’s what happened
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 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.
What a catch! This was a net-breaking, boat-sinking catch! Simon and his partners had never seen anything like it. Here’s his response:
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Simon Peter realized that this was a miracle, and that the man in his boat was more than just a man. He’d called him “Master” earlier—a way of saying, “You’re the boss.” Now Simon falls at Jesus’ knees and calls him “Lord”—a way of saying, “You’re God.” Luke has used the word “Lord” (Gk: kurios) 30 times so far in this gospel, and every time it has referred to the Lord God. That’s how he intends us to understand it here. Simon realizes he is in the presence of God. And in his presence, he not only realizes who Jesus is—he also realizes that he’s a sinner and begs Jesus to go away. Coming face to face with God is not a comfortable experience! “Go away!” But Jesus isn’t about to go away.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Jesus calls Simon and his partners to follow him and fish for people. That’s the story—how does it apply to our own calling? I want to look at four characteristics of Simon’s calling that are true of Jesus’ calling you and me: go, leave, follow, and fish.
1. Go away!
When Simon Peter (I’m just going to call him Peter the rest of this talk) saw the miracle and realized who was in his boat, he dropped to his knees and begged Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinner.” All through the Bible, when people encountered God, they fell on their faces and thought they were going to die. They suddenly realized how holy, how perfect God is and how broken and sinful they are. For example, we read on Monday in our Bible reading plan the call of the prophet, Isaiah. He saw the Lord, and what was his response?
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah saw the Lord and in a flash realized how holy, how perfect God is, and at the same time, how unholy, broken and sinful he was. Job had the same experience.
5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job sees the Lord, and at the same time sees himself as he really is. This seems to be the universal experience when people come face to face with God. “Woe to me!”
This is Peter’s response. “Go away! I’m a sinner.” I’ve seen God, and I’m nothing like him!
ILL: Anybody here ever wanted to be a musician? I play guitar—not well, but I play, and for years I led worship with my guitar. Sometimes I dreamed of being a great guitarist. I can still remember when Phil Keaggy (two pics) came to our church in Eugene. I had two conflicting emotions when I listened to him play. First, awe and wonder: wow! He was beyond amazing! Second emotion: I wanted to quit playing guitar. I knew I could never be that good. On the one hand, attraction—I love that. On the other hand, despair. I’m nothing like that. Go away!
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been in the presence of someone so much better than you that you felt attracted and repelled at the same time? You wanted to be like them and knew you couldn’t. “Go away from me!” You’ve felt that if you’ve ever been in the presence of God. In fact, when you meet Jesus, you’ll know two things at the same time. You’ll know that you are more deeply flawed than you realized, and you are more deeply loved than you ever dreamed.
Come face to face with Jesus, and you’ll see how awesome he is and how broken you are. Come face to face with Jesus and you’ll fall on your knees and say, “Go away from me,” all while hoping he won’t! This is the gospel: you are more sinful than you know and more deeply loved than you can imagine. When you come face to face with Jesus, you’ll understand both of those.
If you’re thinking, “I’m no sinner,” I don’t think you’ve met Jesus yet. That would be like me thinking I’m a great guitar player, but I’ve never heard Phil Keaggy! See Jesus and you’ll see yourself as you really are: deeply flawed, and deeply loved. Our calling starts here: with the spiritual awakening that comes from meeting Jesus. “You are God, and I’m not. I bow before you.”
2. Leave everything.
Did you notice that it says they left everything and followed Jesus? What did they leave? Everything. They left their boats and nets. They also left the catch—that net-tearing, boat-sinking catch—they left it on the beach. It was the greatest catch of their professional lives. It represented more money than they had ever seen. And they just walked away. Can you imagine? This is a salesman making the biggest sale of his life and walking away and leaving the money on the table. This is David Ortiz, Big Papi, retiring last year after hitting .315 with 38 homers and leading the league in half a dozen major offensive stats. He won the Hank Aaron award as the best offensive player in the American League. And he walked away. His salary was $16 million, and after a year like that, he might have asked for more—and he walked away!
That’s what Peter and Andrew and James and John did—they left the money on the beach and walked away to follow Jesus. You only do that—you only leave everything—if there’s something much better being offered. Jesus is that good! Jesus is that good! He’s worth leaving everything. Jesus is worth it!
They left everything. And I believe that this is part of our calling too. We are all called to leave everything to follow Jesus. Look at the would-be followers of Jesus in
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” We’ll take a closer look at this another time, but for now, what do you notice from this? Following Jesus is going to cost you something. It may be your comfort. It may be your home. It may be your family. It may be your job. It may be your life. But whatever it is, it will be everything, because Jesus becomes your everything.
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Do you want to follow Jesus? You have to love him more than those you love the most: your family and yourself. Jesus is using “hate” here comparatively. He doesn’t mean that we literally hate our families or ourselves, but that we love him more. Here’s the cool thing: when I love Jesus most, I love others better. When I love Jesus first, I love my wife more, I love my kids more, I even love myself better. When Jesus becomes my everything, I love everyone always. But there’s a leaving involved. I leave my family as my everything. I leave myself as my everything. Jesus becomes my everything—and gives myself and my family back to me, no longer an idol. I find the life I’m looking for on the other side of leaving it. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Do you want to follow Jesus? You have to carry your cross. You have to die: die to your selfishness, die to your pride. There’s a leaving involved. Jesus said that whoever keeps his life loses it, and whoever loses it for his sake finds it. We leave our old life behind, and we find the life we’re looking for on the other side of leaving it.
Luke 14:33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Do you want to follow Jesus? You have to give up everything Leave it all behind. Jesus becomes your everything. What does that actually look like? For a few of us, it literally means leaving it all behind. I think of our friends Chris and Jeannette Sheeran, who left careers in geology and teaching and moved to Guatemala to help translate the Bible into new languages. I think of Tim Johnson who left a thriving business to work as a pastor here at Life Center for a fraction of the pay. I think of Alex and Larisa Skachkov who had made a comfortable life for themselves in the US, but felt called to leave it all and return to Russia and plant a church. By the way, you may have seen Alex and Larisa lately—they are back home. After two years, they were forced by the Russian government to leave. It’s a long story—but the good news is that they left a church behind. Life Center Kaliningrad is alive and well, and we’re praying that this new church thrives and multiplies! Pray.
Our world needs more people who are willing to leave everything to follow Jesus. If that’s you, please know that Jesus is worth it. You will gain more than you lose. You will find the life you’re looking for on the other side of leaving.
For most of us, leaving everything won’t mean actually leaving our job, our home, our family, or our country. But it means that we leave our idolatry—Jesus is our everything—nothing else will do. It means that we leave our sin—we leave behind the old life and the junk we used to do.
ILL: When I started following Jesus, I knew immediately that I was done with some things I’d been doing. I knew they were wrong and I had to leave them behind. What I didn’t know was that in the months and years to come, Jesus would often point to something else and say, “Time to leave that behind.” For example, I stopped stealing immediately. It was about six months later when Jesus said I had to leave behind my sexual promiscuity. Over the years, there have been other things: “Time to leave that behind.”
What do you need to leave? Imagine these first disciples trying to follow Jesus while dragging behind them their boats, or their nets, or that huge catch of stinking fish! What are you dragging around that you need to leave? Here’s one thing we all need to leave.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Paul left his “gains” behind and considered them all a loss. What was he talking about? He was talking about his religious accomplishments—his own goodness. He left his own righteousness based on his good works so that he could gain Jesus and the righteousness that comes from God through faith. One of the things we all have to leave is our religion—that is, the idea that we can be good enough on our own. If we just try harder, we’ll be good enough. We won’t. Ever. We have to leave our self-effort and embrace Jesus.
Religion is spelled DO—it’s about what we do to please God. Christianity is spelled DONE—it’s about what God has done for us in Jesus. We have to leave DO to embrace DONE. That’s what Paul is saying. And that’s what Peter did when he followed Jesus.