Monday, July 13, 2015

Out Into The Deep: Getting Caught up in Jesus, Leaving it all and Gone Fishing (Luke 5:1-11)... Following His Footsteps: The Ministry of Jesus in Luke's Gospel (Part 5)

I’m not a great fisherman…But I’ve got some good fishing stories… Like… The first thing I ever caught was the biggest thing I’ve ever caught…I was ten and had got a fishing rod for Christmas. So after lunch I was practising casting in the backyard of our house and managed to hook the cat…like…The best feed I ever caught while fishing was when I was a teenager, over at Little Oneroa on Waiheke Island. We took a net out along the beach and amidst all the seaweed and crabs we dragged up there was ten dollars, which meant we had a good feed of fish n chips on the way home…like catching 400 flounder on  a single day up north on the Whangaroa harbour… mind you I was helping a friend on a commercial fishing boat, we did have over a quarter of a mile of net out… it wasn’t that exciting because we spent about an hour hauling net up by hand and the whole of the trip back gutting and bagging the flounder for him to sell the next day at the market. And I hate the smell of fish and couldn’t get rid of it for days afterwards.

If you were going to sum up my fishing expertise then you could use the words Simon/Peter says to Jesus “we’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a thing…” If I’m honest sometimes life in general feels like that and Church and ministry can feel like that as well.

… Perhaps fishing stories easily come to mind when we read the passage of the call of Simon/Peter and his friends from Luke’s gospel this morning. Where Jesus on the lake side uses the fishing boats like a first century PA system, against all the conventions of fishing he miraculously repays the fishermen with a wonderful catch and the pun Jesus uses to speak of the ministry he was calling Simon/Peter to  ‘from now on you will fish for men’. But amidst the fish it is also a narrative about responding to Jesus, the kind of response which enables us to be part of his revolution of grace, to follow him and be gone fishing.

We are working our way through Jesus ministry in the gospel of Luke… Following his Footsteps…We seen that his ministry revolved round proclaiming the kingdom of God, by teaching people and through signs such as healing and deliverance. In the passage we had read to us today Jesus also starts to call a group of people around him to be part of that ministry. A call that is extended to you and I as well: A call if we are going to use the metaphor Jesus does about fishing, to get caught up in Jesus, follow him and become fishers of men.

Last week we looked at Jesus preforming two miracles and as the people of Capernaum came looking for him he told them that he must move on and preach the Kingdom of God in other towns and villages. While in the beginning of his ministry Jesus teaching is reserved for the synagogues it seems that now people flock to hear him, it has spilled out of the synagogue and into the open air, away from just the Sabbath to every day and everywhere. Gennesaret is an area of the Sea of Galilee just to the west of Capernaum. The Geography of the place sets the scene for the narrative. The shore is a series of inlets which are natural amphitheatres. Jesus couldn’t be heard on the shore and the people were crowding round him, absorbing any sound he was making. But by going out a little ways onto the water he could be heard by everyone. NT Wright says “even to this day, if you get in a boat and push out a little from the shore, you can talk in a quite natural voice and anyone on the slopes of the inlet will hear you clearly-more clearly, in fact if you were right there on the shore with them.”

Simon and his fishing partners are on the shore cleaning their nets after a night’s futile fishing. When asked they are willing to let Jesus use their boats. They push out on to the lake, take the time to make sure the boast don’t drift off, who knows they probably had to give Jesus a health and safety briefing as well before he came on board. We know that Simon has already met Jesus; in fact Jesus had healed his mother-in-law of a fever.  But in showing his willingness to help Jesus we see that Simon at least is open to Jesus ministry, he is willing to help and serve. When I was running a large youth ministry in Rotorua we were always on the lookout for young people who we could train up to be leaders. We would watch and see which young people were willing to do the simple things that we would asked them to do, like sweep up after youth group or help put chairs up or away, or dishes in the kitchen… the ones that did it well without grumbling were the ones we approached about leadership. I had some young people come up and ask about leadership, they told me about their skills and abilities, but when you asked them to do a simple menial task they would either say no, or only do a half-hearted job.  The Christian understanding of leadership is service.

After Jesus finishes speaking, and Simon and his friends would have been rather captive listeners, Jesus tells Simon to go out into the deep and put down his nets. This is an interesting thing for Jesus to say as it goes against the prevailing wisdom when it comes to fishing in galilee. The fish will come close to the surface and in towards shore in the evening which is why Simon and the others had been fishing at night… You don’t catch fish in the lake during the day. Jesus wasn’t a fisherman he was a carpenter turned itinerant preacher. Simon and his partners had already had a frustrating night of fishing where they had not caught anything. Simon’s response is to tell Jesus that, but it is also one of trust…”because you say so, we will do it”. Simon steps out of his comfort zones and follow Jesus into the deep.  The focus of Luke’s gospel is how people respond to Jesus and here we see Simon’s response is one of trust and a willingness to obey. A couple of weeks ago the kids took the service and shared on the parable of the wise man and foolish man building their houses. Jesus said the wise man building his house on the rock was like someone who heard Jesus teaching, his word, and put it in to action in his life, who obeyed. In this little thing Simon shows himself willing to do that. Simon is part of the group that Jesus gives his teaching on being a citizen of the Kingdom of God, in the sermon on the plain in chapter 6, Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, he is part of that group that Jesus tells about the wise builder. In this little thing of being willing to go out into the deep, against his better judgement probably he shows a willingness to trust Jesus to be willing to be faithful in small things that will lead to bigger things.

The result is that as they let down the nets they are amazed by the size of the catch they get. We are supposed to see this as going beyond just a good fishing story to a miracle catch. They need both boats and all hands on deck to bring all the fish in. Like all the miracles it is a sign pointing us to who Jesus is, here we see that Jesus has authority over the natural realm and it is a sign of what he is call Simon/peter to in the future.

The focus of the narrative is again on Simon’s response to Jesus. Up until now we see that people are amazed at what Jesus did and said But Simon responds with humility. He goes and bows down before Jesus, he is aware that Jesus is the agent of God. He is not fully aware of who Jesus is just yet, he will be the one who when asked and who do you say I am later in the gospel will say you are the messiah the son of God. He is the one who will deny knowing Jesus three times and he is the one who on that very same shore Jesus will be reconciled with and call him to feed his sheep, he is the one who will proclaim and declare Jesus at Pentecost. But now he is simply aware that there is something special about Jesus. He is aware that there is something holy about Jesus and he is not worthy of being in his presence. He asks Jesus to depart because he Simon is a sinful man. The people in Nazareth thought Jesus was one of them made good and wanted to keep him all to themselves, the people at Capernaum wanted Jesus to stay as well, they saw him as a prophet and a healer, but Simon sees something so much more in who Jesus is. His response is one of humility, in light of who Jesus has revealed himself to be in his reaching and his action Simon becomes aware of his need for God’s forgiveness. That humility and willingness to know our own spiritual condition and poverty is the response that Jesus was looking for.  Simon has been out fishing but finds himself being the one being caught. Some people think that they are quite a catch but Simon is the one who is caught up in the person of Jesus.

Jesus does not respond by walking away rather we see the reality of his revolution of grace. The kingdom of God is for those who know their spiritual poverty and humbly come to Christ. Jesus response is to acknowledge that things have now changed, Do not be afraid, from now on You will be a fisher of men.’ There are not the familiar words ‘follow me” from Matthew and Mark’s gospel, but the intent is the same. This encounter between Simon and Jesus follows that of the call narratives in the Old Testament, there is an epiphany a revelation of the reality of God, a reaction from the person encountering God, like Isaiah’s I am a man of unclean lips of a people of unclean lips, or Moses being aware of his inability to speak well, Jeremiah’s no one will listen to me because I’m too young, then we have a   reassurance from God, don’t be afraid, it seems to be the thing that every angel has to say, it is what God says to those who encounter him,  then we have the commissioning... 'from now on you will fish for men."

Simon and James and John Luke tell’s us drew their boats up left everything and followed Jesus. We can get caught up in what it meant for them to leave everything. What it means for us to leave everything, but they are caught up in following Jesus. Suddenly the priority is not on their possessions or their identity and worth expressed by their occupation but its Jesus. The possessions and identity as fishermen are not important... Later in the gospel there was always a boat when they needed it. After the crucifixion and the resurrection Simon/Peter says lets go back fishing, and he has again to be encountered by Jesus and called to ministry. But these things suddenly become secondary when it comes to following Jesus and being about the ministry of Jesus to the world.

I want to briefly tie this down to us here today…

Firstly… I wonder if one of the reasons we find ourselves saying  “we’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a thing” is that we unlike Simon and his friends weren’t willing to leave it all behind to follow Jesus… We wanted to take it with us. Not only things like the boat, and our possession’s but also our identity being wrapped up in who we are and what we do rather than in being caught up in Jesus.  I picked up a women hitching one day on the way to wellington. She was dressed in a business suite and I wondered why she was on the side of the road hitching. It turns out she had had a series of transport issues ad was desperately trying to get to Wellington for a job interview. I asked her what field she was trying to work in and she said ‘public relations’ and she asked me what I did and being rather cheesy I said ‘Oh I’m into public relations to’ ‘Oh she said who do you works for?” ‘Jesus’ I replied… I know it was a bit cheesy, ok very cheesy but we started talking about faith and she said she thought Christianity was anti women and we discussed that issue. I ended up taking her all the way to wellington and dropping her off for her interview.

Secondly, God may not call us out from our occupation or job, but Jesus definitely calls us to have a different priority to realise that when we get caught up in Jesus that everything does change… We maybe a farmer but we are now into harvesting for Jesus, we maybe a student but God has called us to be about showing people Jesus, As we get caught up more and more in Jesus and experience his revolution of grace, We are called out into the deep beyond our ordinary and comfortable lives… Dietrich Bonhoeffer is very challenging when he says ‘when Christ calls a person he tells them to come and die’… we are called to lay down our lives and in what we do and what we say to be about Jesus …to be gone fishing.

In Jesus day Rabbi’s were able to pick their disciples from amongst the best of the best. All Jewish boys would learn the Torah and then the best of those would be picked to study more and then the best of the best would be picked to study with the top rabbi’s. It was kind of like the all blacks in New Zealand. Every child plays rugby, the best get picked for top school teams, the best from there might make the ITM cup, the best from there become super rugby players and the pinnacle is the all Blacks.

But Jesus had a different approach to choosing people to follow him. It was about service openness to do what Jesus said and humility. A good friend of mine once told me something I’ve never forgotten… He said God wasn’t looking for people who knew enough or who had ability rather he was looking for people who were FAT…It’s a acrostic not a weight…FAT is  Faithful, Available and Teachable… these are the prerequisites of being a disciple… of God being able to use us to Gone fishing for men.

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