Following Jesus: Luke 5.1-11

What’s your mission in life? Have one? Ever thought about it even? I don’t mean your job. I mean the biggest possible window through which you view your purpose in life.

In Luke 5 we meet a major theme in Luke’s gospel. Discipleship is about following Jesus and taking somebody else with us. This is the passage about the miraculous catch of fish. And while we might have heard the story taught with great emphasis on the fish, it’s not actually about the fish. In Luke 5.1-11 we get three words from Jesus and a response from Simon Peter.

A (general) word from Jesus (:1-3). Jesus is preaching next to the Sea of Galilee and gets pressed by the crowd. He’s probably preaching about the Kingdom of God that is present where he is. Now is the time to embrace the reign and rule of God!

A (particular) word from Jesus (:4). Jesus is up to something special here. Turning from his general preaching to everybody, Jesus focuses on one man. Jesus chooses the boat of Simon Peter and puts out a bit from the shore to preach, his voice carrying on the water, Simon apparently at the oars.

After finishing his teaching, Jesus and Simon (and those with him) have a moment together. Maybe, Simon wanders what to ask the rabbi. But then, Jesus surprises him: Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch (:4).

A (complex) response from Simon Peter (:5-10a). Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! … Verse 5, especially the second half, is the sleeper key verse to the passage. These guys are tired. “Toiled” means “faint from weariness, spent from labor”. More than that, they’ve brought in no fish. Their outing has been a failure. I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired and feeling like a failure I don’t feel like being instructed, do you? And it’s right then when Jesus decides to give Simon fishing advice: let down your nets. 

There’s technical tradesman stuff going on here. According to Darrell Bock, my old teacher and favorite commentator on Luke, there’s two kinds of nets fishermen used on the Sea of Galilee. There’s Diktua, deep-water trolling nets used for night fishing. And there’s Amphiballovtas, shallow-water casting nets used for casting and morning fishing. It’s morning, but Jesus says, Lower your diktua, Simon. Basically, Jesus is telling Simon to ice fish with a fly rod. Jesus’ lesson doesn’t have anything to do with fishing.

Simon’s response is wonderful:  … but at your word I will let down the nets. Notice the shift in pronouns. We toiled, but I will do what you say. Simon is responding to Jesus, putting himself in the place to be taught by Jesus. And boy does he catch fish! The other guys have to come and help, and the boats start to sink. And right there in the midst of all these fish, Simon falls down and, undistracted by all going on around him, exclaims Depart from me, for I am a sinful man …

See what’s going on here? Simon recognizes Jesus. Simon understands that he is in the presence of the holy God. And he understands that he is a sinner and can’t be in God’s presence.

A (simple) word from Jesus (:10b-11). Do not be afraid, Jesus says. I’m not going to judge you. I’ve got what you need. And here it is … your MISSION. From now on you will be catching men (:10b). While catching fish meant death to the fish, catching men means life for men and women. And then, everybody leaves the catch of a lifetime and follows Jesus (:11). This only goes to show that the wildest success in our old lives pales in comparison to following Jesus.

I don’t believe Simon Peter is necessarily saved here. Luke 9.20 records Peter’s profession of who Jesus is: You are the Christ of God. And I believe that somewhere in Luke 5-9 Peter trusts Jesus and is saved. I do believe that in this passage Simon Peter learns what he’s to be all about in this life.

And, as we await Jesus’ second coming, that is still what his followers are all about. Following Jesus involves a response to Jesus that includes bringing others along. 

Have you trusted in Jesus? If so, who are you bringing along to get to know Jesus?

We bring others along when we include them in our lives in order to tell them about Jesus. At first, this might look like picking a neighbor up for church … inviting a friend to small group … introducing a new lady to a mom’s group where she will learn about Christ … going fishing with some other believers, but then including a new guy … making a point of sitting down with our own sons or daughters to read the Bible together, memorize Scripture together, pray together.

Luke 5.1-11 doesn’t include the gospel. In a manner of speaking, the gospel hasn’t happened yet because Jesus hasn’t been to the cross. What we do see in this passage is the promise of the mission of every believer, starting with Simon Peter. We’re to follow Jesus, trusting in him for the forgiveness of sins …

… And, we’re to take somebody else along!


Talk about it:

  1. Who took you along when you were a young believer?
  2. Who are you taking along now?
  3. What ought this relationship to look like? What should we do when we are discipling one another?

Have a great week, in the Lord!


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