Gospel Quest #9 Christ’s Challenge
A forest ranger was sure that LeRoy was not fishing according to the rules and regulations of the state of Texas and he decided to try and find out. Yet no matter how much he spied and pried he could never figure out what ol’ LeRoy was doing. He would just see him at the end of the day with a boatload of the biggest fish in the lake and couldn’t say nothing.
Finally he just decide to ask LeRoy how he was catching all those fish when no one else was. LeRoy said, “Well if ya wants I can just shows ya hows I do it.”
The ranger agreed, and LeRoy and the ranger went fishing. They took out Leroy’s tiny little John boat. The ranger said, “LeRoy you can’t catch any fish in that little boat.” LeRoy didn’t say anything. They trolled out to the middle of the lake in the heat of the day. The ranger said, “LeRoy you can’t be catchin no fish here, in this boat at this time of day.” LeRoy didn’t say nothing. LeRoy then reached into his tackle box pulled out a stick of dynamite and lit it. The ranger shouted. “LeRoy, it is illegal to fish with dynamite and if you throw that stick into this lake I’m going to arrest you.” LeRoy smiled handed the lit stick of dynamite to the ranger and said, “You gonna keep talkin or ya gonna start fishin?”
Lets look at another fish story this morning and this one in Luke 5:1-11 doesn’t involve dynamite. Christ challenges his disciples to launch out into the deep.”
Let’s look at a little bit of background. Luke 5 is an account of the calling the apostles and if all we had was Luke’s account it seems a bit abrupt. Luke 4 the fourth chapter is the first time that any of the disciples are mention and there we read about Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law. The next thing Luke then records is the challenge of Luke 5:11 “they forsook all and followed him.” That seems a big jump after just one home visit and one sermon. Actually, this was not the disciple’s first encounter with Jesus nor was it their first call. The first call is recorded in John 1:35-42; 35 Again the next day
after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! 37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? 39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two which heard John [speak], and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
And it may surprise you to know that this isn’t their second calling, that was in Matt 4:18-22 18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left [their] nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James [the son] of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
Luke 5 is actually their third call, but it is after this call, this encounter with Jesus that they left everything behind and fully follow Him. What made this call different? What made this call, the final call? I think it was in the challenge of Christ to launch out into the deep. I believe it was a test of faith that showed the power of Jesus Christ. This event took these men who had been believers and made them into disciples and later into apostles. This event started them on the process of truly being “sent ones” with the gospel of Christ as their message and the hope of eternity as their burden.
Challenge and Command - Luke 5:1-4
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
Jesus’ challenge to Peter
Jesus told Peter, “Launch Out Into the Deep and Let Down Your Nets for a Draught.”
Jesus came to the Lake of Gennesart, also called the sea of Galilee. He was already well known for people were pressing upon him. The word “pressing” means to put pressure on like a stone laid atop a tomb. The crowd literally was crowding Jesus so much that he could not do anything because they were so packed around him.
I believe he came looking that day, for the fishermen partners he had already spent time with and had already formed a relationship with Him. This team of fishermen, brothers and friends, he was going to turn into a team of apostles, that would ultimately change the world.
Jesus sees their ships but they aren’t in them and He finds them cleaning their nets, which is last task they would do after fishing through the night. He then asks Peter, the leader of their enterprise, to let Him use his boat for a pulpit. So they put out a little way from the shore and Jesus sits down and speaks with the people. This was the way they heard the Gospel, no shouting, no theatrics, but teaching and quite learning.
When he finishes, Jesus tells Peter, “launch out into the deep water and drop your nets for a catch of fish.”
Jesus is doing three things by telling this to Peter.
First he is testing his obedience
Second he is offering him a reward for the use of his time and ship to let him preach.
Third he is going to teach a lesson that can’t be taught in words alone. It is a lesson of faith in action, a lesson of promise with risk, a lesson of a gift under the guidance of God.
Jesus Challenge to Us
Jesus today is still challenging us as believers to launch out into the deep and let down your nets.
Jesus is still in the business of turning normal, nominal Christians into disciples and then turning disciples into apostles. He wants to change us from those who just believe, into those who are committed to Him and finally to those who are truly and personally commissioned and commanded by Him to do the work of carrying the Gospel.
Jesus’ plan for reaching this sinful world has changed at all, He is still using the same method of making believers into disciples, into apostles and fishers of men.
The only question we need to answer today is, am I willing for Him to do this to me? Am I willing for Him to do this in my church? Am I willing to listen as Jesus says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets?”
Jesus also still trying to accomplish in us the same three things that he did in Peter.
First, he is testing our obedience.
Second, he is offering us a reward and a blessing for obeying and serving Him. He has always worked this way.
Deuteronomy 6:3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do [it]; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.
De 11:27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
Jeremiah 7:23 Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.
Third he is trying to teach us a lesson that can’t be learned by words alone.
Psalms 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
Sometimes the only school we can understand is the school of life and hard knocks. True for the apostles and still true for us.
Illustration: Personal example
I am absolutely sure that Jesus still tells us, Launch out into the deep.
I heard him first as a 14-year-old boy walking the aisle with tear in my eyes and a calling in my heart to tell people about the love of God.
I heard it again when I was 21, after years of running from that call I heard as a teenager. Now I had a wife and a newborn baby boy and my own little business. But this time I answered, “Yes, Lord. I will launch out into the deep.”
I’ve heard Jesus after each heartbreak, after each defeat, after each desertion or betrayal still saying, “Launch out into the deep.” He has sent me to places where I felt afraid and felt a failure but still when I feel its time to pull up the nets and go home for good, he points away off across the sea of doubt and uncertainty and says, “Launch out into that deep, there is still work to be done there.”
His voice has always been strong, and His assurance unmistakable. I want to see God’s hand at work in my life and in my church in ways that leave no doubt that he is challenges us, “Launch out into the deep. You are not finished doing what I sent you to do.”
Transition: Notice the response of Peter to the Lord’s challenge in vs. 5
Doubtful but Doing - Luke 5:5
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
“We have toiled all night and taken nothing nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
This kind of response is one of the reasons why the Lord chose Peter to be an Apostle and later the pastor of the church at Jerusalem. He is so much more like you and I than Paul or even John. Peter more than any other New Testament Bible character thinks like us, and says the things we are thinking.
Peter is polite but blunt. “Lord, we fished all night.”
For real fishermen, men who made their living catching and selling fish, nighttime was the best time to work. One of the techniques was for the fishermen to take torches and hold them close to the surface of the water. The fish would by attracted to the light, would swim near the boat and the men would cast a net and catch their fish.
Peter knew this, he was a lifetime fisherman. He was the expert, Jesus was just carpenter and now a Rabbi or teacher. Nothing in Jesus background qualified him to tell Peter how to fish.
Also, Peter was tired when he says we have fished all night he wasn’t exaggerating. They had started at sunset and fished until sunup, now they sat on the shore cleaning and drying their nets.
Finally, Peter knew something the Lord didn’t know, it just wasn’t a good day for fishing. They hadn’t caught a thing all night. There just weren’t any fish in that lake. (I can understand this because of my own futile attempts at fishing. Somedays you can’t catch a fish with a stick of dynamite.)
But Peter didn’t stop with “We’ve toiled all night and taken nothing. No, he continued and said, “Nevertheless at thy word I will let down my net.”
To Peter, it didn’t make sense. It was contrary to his experience. It was downright unfair to ask of men who were at the end of the strength but because Jesus was the one asking. Peter responded, I’m going to do it anyway. “At your word, Lord.”
Do you see why Peter was the leader of this group both as fishers of fish and later as fishers of mem? He saw the world of reality and had his doubts, even expressed those doubts but he still believed in Jesus.
Even if Peter didn’t believe it could work, didn’t understand how it should work, and even had doubts that it would work, nevertheless he was going to try, because Jesus had said it.
What is our response to the command of Christ to launch out and let down our nets?
We can identify with Peter in many situations, but you know what the difference between us and Peter often is? We have the same doubts about what God is telling us to do but instead of stating those doubts and talking to the Lord and then doing it anyway, like Peter, we instead don’t say anything and then we don’t do anything.
God’s word challenges us with a command, “Launch out into the deep with your finances.” “Launch out into the deep with your family.” “Launch out into the deep with your life.” Launch out into the deep with your church.” Most challenging of all God says, “Launch out into the deep with your eternal soul.”
Too often we know what the Lord is challenging us to do but we say nothing and then we do nothing. It would be better if we stood up in the middle of church shouted that God doesn’t make any sense, this can’t possibly work and then said, “To prove it I’m going to try it anyway just to show you.”
But instead we sit there in our cocoons of silence and our coffins of inactivity and refuse to do anything at all. Refuse to even try or to test God and His promises.
You know what God, himself says about testing him? He says, I am bigger than your doubts and greater than your tests, “Just try me!”
Scripture: Malachi 3:10
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
God is greater than your doubts. He is greater than your tests. Gideon tested God. Zechariah the father of John the Baptist tested God. Hannah the mother of Samuel tested God. They and many, many others stepped out in spite of their doubts, in spite of their fears and said, “Lord I can’t see how this is going to work but I’m going to do it anyway.”
We need to have even enough faith to own up to your doubts and then because God’s word said it, do it anyway.
Illustration: Send the Communion Set we will surely need it.
An incident from the lives of Robert and Mary Moffat underscores this truth in an interesting way. For 10 years these two missionaries faithfully pursued their endeavors in Bechuanaland without one ray of encouragement brightening their way. Not a single person was converted to Christ. Finally, the directors of their mission board began to question the wisdom of continuing the work. The very thought of leaving their post, however, brought grief to the devoted couple who felt sure that eventually they would see the fruits of their labors. They stayed on, and for two more years the forces of darkness reigned. Then a friend in England wrote to Mrs. Moffat that she wanted to send her a gift, and asked for a suggestion. In her reply she requested nothing for herself, although she could have used many things. Rather she pleaded, "Send us a communion set; I'm sure we will need one soon." God honored her faith, for the Holy Spirit began to work in hearts, and a short time later six people accepted the Savior. Soon a small group had united to form a church for fellowship and to study the Bible. The communion set from England was delayed en route; but on the very day before the Lord's Supper was to be observed, the gift arrived.
I love stories like that. The world may call it a coincidence but God’s people know that God though His providence had it all taken care of. Let’s return to the Lord’s challenge in Luke 5 vs 6.
Reward and Repentance Luke 5:6-9
And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
Peter’s obedience, even with his doubts, is rewarded and he repents of his lack of faith.
Peter does what the Lord says. He had Jesus with him in the boat, probably to show him this wasn’t go to work, Peter then launches out into the deep and lets down his net.
I believe that no sooner than the net had submerged that it must have felt like the boat had dropped anchor. Peter and probably Andrew his brother, begin to try and draw the net in and so great is the catch that the net begins to break.
The Bible says he beckoned to his partners, John and James, in the other ship. They must have been some distance, perhaps just offshore, seeing if anything was going to happen, because He beckons to them. So, he is trying to hold the net with one hand and waving with the other hand trying to get them to launch out into the deep with him and help him draw in this crazy catch of fish.
John and James arrive and the probably put another net under Peter’s net and then they all lift the nets and the poundage of that catch was so great that both boats begin to sink. As they draw the nets the ships tip toward the water line under the greater weight and start taking on water!
Now maybe its just me, but don’t you imagine that the Lord was sitting on the other end of the ship, with a big smile on his face. He may have even been laughing a little himself watching all this commotion? He knew what was going to happen all along.
When Peter sees the catch, when he realizes that his boat is so heavy it is in danger of sinking, he falls down at the feet of Jesus and repents of his doubts, his fear and his pride. “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, Oh Lord.” Oh what a confession. What a heartfelt, open to the soul confession!
In a way that he had never seen Jesus before, he sees him now as truly Lord in all things. and in comparison, Peter can only see himself as a sinner, unworthy to be in the same place as Jesus the Christ, God the son, creator, ruler and sustainer of all.
The Bible says, “For he was astonished.” Literally that word means, “a wonder held him round.” The wonder, the miracle, of what they had seen, surrounded and held Peter fast.
Isn’t it just like Jesus to work like this? Peter had cast a net that caught fish, but Jesus had cast a miracle that caught Peter.
Where is our obedience, our risk and especially our repentance?
Peter would never have come to this place, at the feet of Jesus, never seen Jesus as much more than just a Rabbi had he not obeyed the Lord and launched out into the deep.
He risked much in doing so.
He risked embarrassment from all those people and other fishermen on shore. “Look at Peter he’s going back out to fish at the wrong time and in the wrong place. What’s wrong with him?”
He risked all that he owned. His nets began to break and his ship begins to sink. If he lost these things he would lose everything he had in this world.
He even risked his life. We know from the story of Peter walking on the water that he probably can’t swim. If the boat goes down Peter goes down.
Yet because he risked it all in obedience to Christ, he was able to see Christ as he had ever seen Him before.
You know what we must ask ourselves today. Where is my obedience? Where is my risk and especially where is my repentance?
When have you obeyed the Lord in spite of your doubts and fears? When have you risked everything you have and everything you are, in obedience to him? When was the last time you fell at the feet of Jesus as you realized, “I shouldn’t be loved by Him? I shouldn’t have be forgiven by Him. I shouldn’t spend eternity with the One who is the Creator, Ruler and Sustain of All. I shouldn’t be here, but by His love and grace I am and all I can do is fall at His feet and call out My Lord, My God, My Savior,… My Jesus!
Have you heard Jesus’ invitation to trust Him, are you willing to risk it, willing to test Him and see if this promise of salvation is real? Oh you’ll never know the amazement, the wonder holding you round about, until you launch out in the deep of your doubts and fears and trust Jesus.
Eight times in the NT Jesus says, “Come unto Me.” The most memorable invitation is in Mathew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
You have heard His call, that is it right there, just as real and vital today as it was then. Have you obeyed by coming to Him?
Transition: The story doesn’t end here in fact this is the only the end of the beginning of the story for Peter and the apostles. But don’t worry it is the end of my sermon.
Forsaking and Following - Luke 5:10-11
And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
Peter Forsakes All
Peter, Andrew, James and John forsake all and follow Christ. After this third time Jesus called his disciples, the Bible says, “They forsook all and followed Him.”
Why this time? I believe it was because they saw Him as they had never seen him before. Because they had obeyed Him as they had never obeyed him before. Because the risked everything as they had never risked before. Now they were ready to be Apostles, sent ones, ready to take the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth and ready to carry the burden of eternity on their shoulders.
Are you ready this morning? I can’t think of anything worse, than one day looking back to a time and a place where I could have made a choice to obey God, and trust Jesus, but instead said nothing and did nothing. I can’t imagine realizing that because of my refusal to obey, I missed seeing Jesus Christ as I had never seen him before. I missed the opportunity of serving him. Or worst of all, I missed eternity because I did nothing.