Posted by: gbake783 | March 23, 2011

Luke 5:1-11

Following Jesus costs nothing. But as Peter was to discover, following Jesus costs everything.

(Side note: I am certain the above phraseology “discipleship costs nothing/costs everything” is unoriginal with me. Dietrich Bonhoeffer used similar, but not the exact terminology in The Cost of Discipleship. Nevertheless, I was unable to find the source. If a reader knows where it came from, please feel free to let me know.)

In the previous paragraph Jesus moved beyond Capernaum because of His commission to preach the good news of the kingdom to the surrounding villages. We can read about one of those preaching opportunities in Luke 5:1-11. Jesus borrows Peter’s fishing boat and pushes away from the crowd to maximize the effectiveness of his message. Following His sermon, Jesus has some precise instructions for Peter – take the boat to deeper waters for a catch.

Peter thinks it’s a fool’s errand. Peter, afterall, was the professional – a man with extensive know-how and intimate knowledge (I’m assuming) of every honey-hole that lake had to offer. If Peter had labored all night (Peter uses a strong verb – he had worked tirelessly) and caught nothing, then there was nothing to be caught. But Peter cast his nets at the Lord’s command and nothing more. And when he did, he caught the single largest amount of fish he had ever seen or heard about. The text reads that the weight of the fish not only damaged the nets, but threatened to sink the boats. Some commentators hypothesize that Luke used hyperbole (exaggeration for emphasis) to describe the sheer quantity of fish – the nets weren’t really breaking and the boats weren’t really sinking. Luke employed exagerrated language akin to, “That’s mind blowing!”  

Peter’s response dispels this notion, in my opinion. While standing on the shore, amazed at the catch of thousands of fish, Peter falls down and, in the style of Isaiah 6, begs the Lord depart from him, a sinful man. Peter’s amazed worship betrays his conviction: he was standing before Yahweh. The sheer quantity of fish forced Peter to assume that he had witnessed an act of God. Hyberbole does not explain Peter’s response. 

Then the Lord assures Peter, “from now on you will catch men.” Peter’s response was simple yet profound – he left everything, including Galilee’s greatest ever catch of fish, to follow Jesus.

Why the miracle of thousands of fish? Of all the miracles that Peter witnessed to this point, why did the Lord reserve this miracle for Peter’s commissioning? I believe Christ wanted Peter to remember it as a metaphor throughout his preaching ministry. Consider Acts 2 – Peter stands to preach on Pentecost and three thousand souls are saved. It seems that the miracle in Luke 5 was not only a metaphor, but a foreshadowing.

In applying the text, it is good to consider that Peter left behind the family business to follow Christ. Imagine the hurt feelings that could have been generated in a son moving beyond his father’s trade. Likewise, Peter eschewed the financial stability the business provided. Althought Peter was probably not wealthy, we know he owned a home and that he maintained nets and owned boats. It appears that Peter had created financial security for his family, perhaps even a comfortable living.

That said, we must realize that it was no easier for Peter to follow Jesus than it is for us. Peter had financial obligations – just like we do. Peter was a family man – just like we are. Peter’s obligations, relationships, burdens, aspirations, and securities were just as acute as our’s are. Yet he left it all. Have we?

Jesus later says, “Any one of  you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Do we take Jesus at His word?

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