Grace - Till the Boat Sinks
Luke 5: 1-11 Grace – till the boat sinks!
You can’t earn it or acquire it; it is priceless, and totally free.
It is a Gift that gives without measure, not just once but continuously and if it gets hold of you, your life will never be the same!
It can be seen from Genesis to Revelation and it is the central theme of God’s Word and it can be stated in its powerful simplicity with just 5 little words:
“God so loved… He gave…”
It is so powerful and profound that great scholars and theologians have studied and written about it for thousands of years and still have not grasped “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (Eph 3:18)” yet it is so simple that a little child can understand it.
Unless we come as little children we will never see.
This will be my lesson today and for my text we will be reading Luke 5:1-11.
As we travel back in time let me give you some background which will bring greater clarity to the story:
At this point in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is beginning his earthy ministry and though there are people gathering around to hear him, as of yet he has not chosen the 12 men who we will come to know as the Apostles.
This story takes place in an area around Lake Gennesaret, also referred to in the scriptures as the Sea of Galilee. It is the largest freshwater lake in Israel approximately 13 miles long and 8 miles wide and at this time in history it supports a thriving commercial fishing industry.
Although the lesson will mention other people, the central characters in the story are Jesus of Nazareth, a young itinerate preacher in his early 30’s and a fisherman by the name of Simon, meaning “Reed”, whom Jesus would later change his name to Peter, meaning “Rock”.
Peter and his brother Andrew were successful fishermen and they were in partnership with James and John. Peter, James and John would become the 3 members of Jesus’ inner circle and they would be shown and taught things not shown or taught to the others disciples.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry he has started to draw the attention of people in the area. Some followed him out of curiosity, others to be close to his celebrity and some others because of a genuine interest in his teachings. On this day, by the lake, a large crowd has gathered again to listen to what he has to say. Gracious words spoken as never before heard in Israel.
People wondered, who was this man?
This area where the story takes place has some gentle hills descending down into the water almost in the shape of an amphitheatre. Being aware that his voice will carry further if he were a little ways from the shore, Jesus approaches the area where the boats have been beached and this is where we start our lesson:
So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, (2) and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. (3) Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
It is no coincidence that Jesus “just happened” to come across Peter’s boat.
In God’s Word you will never find the word coincidence when describing God’s plans.
Think on this. In the Book of Romans Paul tells us that the Grace of God will one day restore the Universe to the glory God originally intended.
Before God created the Earth and all its inhabitants, before he created the galaxies and all the stars, before there was anything, when there was “nothing” (which the Book of Job tells us was also created by God so he would have somewhere to hang the stars), God’s glory existed in its awesome majesty. Within the mind and heart of God you and I were conceived. You and I are eternal thoughts in the mind and heart of God and we are deeply loved by him. Love is the power behind this Grace I preach.
It is Love that empowers Jesus and ordained his steps as he walked towards Simon Peter.
The Book of Acts tells us that we are all here today because it was ordained by God for this time and purpose. When you consider that all of us were born in different places, different times, different cultures, when you look around and see those here, it is an awesome God that brought this about, and it isn’t a coincidence but a deliberate plan of God to pour out his favor on us through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Jesus came to save, not to condemn. His reference to God as “Abba, Father” was a radical gospel He was preaching in that no one had ever referred to God as Father in all of Israel.
As Jesus approached and sees Simon, what did He see?
He didn’t come to condemn Peter but to save him.
He didn’t come to bring Peter shame or guilt or bring God’s wrath on Peter, no that Jesus would take all that upon himself for not only Peter but all who would receive Christ.
So what did Jesus see?
He saw the transforming power that God’s Grace would have on this man, he saw all the possibilities where Grace would turn this ordinary, blue color fisherman into a mighty saint who would preach 1 sermon, and 5,000 would be saved.
He saw a man with a tender heart, so transformed by Grace that simply walking by, Peter’s shadow would heal those on whom it fell.
Jesus came to Peter not because Jesus needed a wooden boat as much as Peter needed a wooden cross and a Savior. As the Grace of God looked at Peter He saw what Peter could become no differently that this same Grace looks at all of us individually and sees what we can be as well.
It is this same Grace that see not what we were but who we can be in Christ Jesus; that is the favor of God! For God so loved…He gave!
As God looks on each of us, He sees the transforming, restorative power of Grace and the finished work of Jesus Christ on those who’ll believe and how it will transform supernaturally the dead to be born again, transform sinners into saints, transform you and me, and transform the ordinary into the extraordinary!
That is what Jesus sees.
Go back and look again beginning in verse 3:
(3) Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
Notice that they were not far from shore; also you will notice that we have no idea what Jesus taught.
Whether he spoke for 5 minutes or 5 hours, nowhere in scriptures is there a record of what was said.
So what was the teaching?
The teaching is that Grace is a personal thing. God’s favor comes to all of us and we each have to decide how to respond.
I have noticed on more than one occasion in my life and of others that God has to take us out and place us in a place where we are not distracted but can give him our fullest attention.
I have noticed this is one of the facets of the jewel that is this Grace and being alone with God one of His favors.
Being alone with Grace is never, ever lonely!
It is wise to pay attention because I have noticed that it is in these alone times that God’s favor prepares us for the future and that comes only by being alone with his Grace.
Had Jesus revealed to Peter all that would happen in the future, Peter could not have handled it. God’s Grace is kind and gentle, he knows we are made of dust so he handles us with care; then again there are some of us who need a little harder prodding along the way or a real hard poke!
Think on this, Grace hides the future till we can handle the present both as a Gift and in God’s timing.
I assure you that regardless of how long Jesus spoke, Simon Peter heard every word of it as he used the oars of his boat to keep the boat in place as Jesus taught, but the greater lesson here is about to come to Peter.
Looking back in my own life I can see where on what seemed like an ordinary day God’s Grace came and changed my life forever. It came unexpectantly, no prior notice and my life has never been the same.
This is about to happen to Simon so let’s continues…
(4) When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch
After teaching, Jesus tells Peter to go into the deep waters.
Real faith is not developed where your feet can touch bottom, it is developed in deep waters where only the Rock of Ages will be your support!
How typical of God’s favor and the blessings that follow, I assure you that you won’t find them in shallow waters but out in the deep where the water is way over your head. That is the nature of faith, great rewards are not found except in the deep. I assure you that had God told me I would be preaching his gospel one day I would probably have laughed. Just so you understand how great God’s grace is, it can save anyone!!!
Jesus is asking Simon to do something seemingly reasonable to which Simon’s response is quite unusual as we will see.
(4) When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch (5) But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net .”
In Verse 5 there are two separate thoughts expressed separated by a semicolon let me explain this to you.
This is a fresh water lake that is very clear. Fishing was typically done at night so the fish wouldn’t see the nets when they are in the water.
Simon knew this which he tries to inform Jesus and implies that Jesus didn’t know these things!
Notice something else; Simon uses the word “toiled” which implies labor involving sweat, exhausting physical labor!
So effectively he is telling Jesus, look, I am a professional, been doing this for a long time I have worked hard at this, sweated all night and have nothing to show for it! You don’t understand this!
Grace, God’s favor, doesn’t involve work or sweat since it doesn’t require us to do anything in order to receive other than believe, we do not have to perform, or work for the favors of God, or obey to earn favor, just believe. Grace is a FREE gift, not an acquired one that is why it is referred to as unmerited.
Although the bible typically doesn’t record some responses, as in what was Jesus’ here, I am sure that when Simon looked into Jesus’ eyes something about this man, this stranger, compelled him. Maybe it was a smile I am positive it wasn’t a rebuke.
God’s Grace always requires a response and He waits lovingly and patiently for Simon as he does for us.
So notice the latter part of verse 5 where Simon says… “nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”
We are about to see some of the humor found in the bible.
Simon toiled all night long for no reward and he very emphatically tells Jesus this.
If I had been Jesus I think my response would have been in my best Jewish accent, “O VEY, and this is how YOU earn a living, not catching anything???” Maybe that is the message Jesus’ face conveyed.
Although it doesn’t record a witty retort I wonder if the look, the expression on the face of Jesus didn’t prompted Simon’s response, “nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” (OK Jesus, let me just do this to humor you!)
Simon is effectively telling Jesus, ok, I know what I am doing but nevertheless, because you say so, I will let down the net but you are responsible when this doesn’t work!
(6) And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. (7) So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
I think this is very funny!
Also notice above Jesus asked Peter to throw out the nets, plural in verse 4, but here in verse 6 it said the net, singular, so it seemed Peter not only did it reluctantly he did the least required and though he got a great blessing, the blessing could have been greater if he had thrown out all the nets instead!
When God created me he gave me an extraordinary sense of curiosity as well as a great sense of humor that is never far from the surface!
It has been this curiosity, in part, that has compelled me to study and seek the things of God with great intensity and that is how He taught me His Word by His Holy Spirit.
God’s Word has literally kept me alive when there was nothing else, my humor kept my sanity, when circumstances almost caused me to lose the little I had.
It is the Joy of the Lord that is my strength and joyous people express that joy through laughter!
Several years ago I started researching how large these boats were at the time. I wanted to know the approximate sizes to get a reference. I don’t like fishing, matter of fact, I would rather go hungry than eat fish, but it seems to me that if you catch so many that the boat sinks it kind of defeats the purpose of fishing since they will escape when you go underwater with the boat!
Based on archeological studies I have read, the typical boats that Simon and his partners sailed in those days were between 27’ to 30’ and had a beam of approximately 7’ to 9’. These were equipped with both sail and oars and they had a relatively flat bottom that made them easier to bring up on shore. These were not small little rowboats, seems to me that a boat 27’ to 30’ is rather large; it is going to take a lot of fish to sink it.
But it gets better, not only is Simon’s boat sinking, he now calls, probably yelling might have been a better word, to James and John’s who come over to help and the catch begins to sink that boat as well!
I can see these events unfolding something like this...
Simon throws out the net. It is obvious to me that the same efficiency God used to gather all of us here today from all over the earth was the same efficiency he used to gather the fish. I mean, how hard can this be anyway! If he can bring in the sheep, can’t be that hard to bring in the fish! Holy Mackerel!
(on a side note: I wonder what kind of fishing story Simon told his wife like some of the ones I have heard from my friends!) (Honey, I caught a boat load of fish…wife responses by rolling her eyes!)
I can see Simon begin to feel the tug of the net and the task becoming increasing more difficult as he begins to pull it in. I can see a very surprised look on his face especially when he begins to notice who he is in the presence of! That was the revelation; it is that, that was the lesson . Worship is beginning to arise in his heart when he begins to notice who Jesus really is! I can see Jesus helping Simon, after all this is why Our Father had sent Him. He came as a servant and as they begin to pull the net up, the boat starts going down!
I am sure Peter was worried though Jesus wasn’t seeing how he can at least walk on water, a major advantage when the boat was sinking!
Unlike Simon’s surprised and fearful look, I can see Jesus smiling, a glint in his eye...
I can see Jesus laughing, rejoicing in the blessings!
How do I know this? Because only those who weep deeply can laugh outrageously and I know that Jesus wept as he expressed compassion, he would have laughed freely as he expressed great joy!
Contrary to the picture presented by many, Jesus is a joyful, loving person who came to save, not condemn, when I remember Hebrews 10:17 which says: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” He took ALL our sins; ALL the wrath God meant for you and me, ALL the shame and ALL the guilt upon Himself, God is NOT angry with us now nor ever again and “therefore there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”(Rom 8:1).
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit and the fruits thereof is loving Simon, doing him a favor, for that is the nature of Grace, and Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit after love and joyful people laugh!
Even though Isaiah tells us that Jesus is acquainted with sorrow and grief, he is not sorrowful, being acquainted with something doesn’t make you that which you are acquainted with.
Laughter in no way minimizes the seriousness of his mission but it does highlight his loving humanity and divine provisions.
Divine favor expressed with human loving intimacy that is the picture of Grace!
He is acquainted with our needs and deep longings and graciously provides for us!
Was Simon thinking that one day he would write 2 epistles or preach so powerfully that thousands would be saved or that his shadow would heal others?
Absolutely not, Simon just wanted to catch some fish to provide for his family.
God’s Grace is not simply a deep theological exercise it is a real, intimate loving relationship with the Living God who wants to fellowship with us on a spiritual, soulish and physical level and be involved in every facet of our life if we would just let him.
I have always thought that the greatness of God isn’t in the big things but rather how low he would go to lift us up, that is real greatness! He came for the least of us; that is true greatness in Grace!
When I think of who I really was and that God would save me, though I am nothing, I understand this Amazing Grace, and I cannot be silent!
So let’s continue…
(8) When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” ( In the presence of Jesus Peter’s revelation of being in the presence of holiness prompts his worship and adoration. When Peter saw the Lord now in light of the events that had transpired he also saw himself! He immediately understood his sinfulness in the presence of God’s Holiness . That was the lesson Jesus came to teach! ) (9) For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; …(10) and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (11) So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
In verse 8 it tells us that Simon fell at Jesus’ knees and worshipped. Why? Because it is in the presence of Righteousness that Simon understood who he really was and what he needed wasn’t fish, it was a Savior.
Also verse 9 says it was because of the great catch which represented a great financial blessing especially for a man who made his living as a fisherman. Jesus not only provided for Simon’s family and the others that day but for many days to come, this is the nature of God’s Grace, it gives in abundance, more than all we ever thought possible or imagined… for God so loved…he gave .
God’s supply ALWAYS exceeds the need, ALWAYS!
But our response limits our catch, so this leads me to ask you, would you have thrown out 1 net or all of them?
I also believe that having heard the words that Jesus had spoken earlier and now the gracious evidence of what was said coming to light, Simon might have noticed that Jesus was not an ordinary man. If truth be told, Simon was afraid. Somewhere he probably realized that the gift he just received was from God, though it would be a while yet before he realized that the gift was not the catch of fish, the Gift was Jesus Christ, and Simon and the others eternally hooked.
Neither Simon, Andrew, neither James nor John had any clue of the adventure they were about to embark on, no clue whatsoever. Going into deep waters!
Read it again,
(10) and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (11) So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
An encounter with God’s Grace always requires a response; we see this throughout the Bible and that the agent of Grace often reassures the person with the phrase, “Do not be afraid”.
We will either respond in fear or in faith, there are no other choices.
Notice that nowhere does Jesus mention, come be an Apostle or Saint; come be a Preacher or Martyr, they would not have understood any of that instead, he meets Simon and the others at their level,
“Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”
That lesson they understood!
Verse (11) So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him…
Together in Christ, they changed the World, and this isn’t a fish story!
The rest is His Story,
It was Grace that took
Joseph, a son of Rachel, from the prison,… to the palace;
It was Grace that made Moses, a stutterer, the voice of God, …a prince of Egypt, God’s deliverer;
It was Grace that took David, a shepherd boy, made him King.
It is Grace that made…
A young girl,… the mother of Jesus, she birthed Our Savior… He would give her life and all who would receive him.
It is Grace that made fishermen, apostles;
A murderer, the great teacher, Paul the great author, Paul the great evangelist;
It was by Grace that you and I… are born again
Grace,… it is a personal thing… very intimate,
Freely given, it is a Gift of God,
It will restore the Universe; it can make us whole, it is sufficient,
This is Grace…
God so loved… He gave… Grace and his name is…
July 7, 2015