GCI Sermon – 06February2022

Put Out into the Deep Water

Luke 5:1-11 ESV


You may have grown up with them in your town: The factory workers and trades people after a long shift, headed home with their lunch pails and hard hats.  They were blowing off steam, cracking their knuckles, stopping for a smoke.  As kids, we watched them with fascination and maybe a little bit of fear — someday maybe I’ll be big and tough like that.

We were hypnotized by their worn hands and strong language, wondering what our own future would be like.  They had a look of fatigue and focus, utterly at home in what they were doing and exhausted by a hard shift put in.

This is likely how Peter, James and John looked the day Jesus encountered them at the beach.  They’d been up all night dropping their nets, over and over and coming back with nothing.  So not only were they exhausted, but they were also frustrated, calculating how they would make up for this lost time in the subsistence living they made. “We can’t lose a whole night this month!”   

Jesus does exactly what you don’t want to do in that situation.  Here he is approaching highly-skilled laborers who are likely frustrated and in a bad mood, and he tells them what to do!  It is like you going up to the factory workers at the end of their shift saying, “Hey all, hard shift? You know what you should do….”  You can only imagine the reception.

Add to this the fact that some of these guys already knew Jesus, and they knew he wasn’t a fisherman.  And here he is telling them how to do their jobs.  Tradespersons are very careful not to cross such lines – car mechanics don’t tell journeyman plumbers how to fit pipe; truck drivers don’t tell farmers how to plow straight rows.

So, Jesus throws them off.  He walks up to them out of nowhere, jumps into their boat and then tells them how to do their jobs.  Let’s cast our nets into this story today and see what we bring up.  We’ll look at how:

  • Jesus disrupts
  • Jesus arrives with abundance
  • Jesus calls alongside

Jesus disrupts

Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. (Luke 5:3 ESV)

The scene is set with a crowd so large that Jesus had to retreat to the water just to address the crowd.  It’s amazing how quickly this becomes not a story of the crowds, not even a story of Jesus’ teaching, but a story of Jesus and Peter.

Many of the shores of Lake Gennesaret, which is actually the Sea of Galilee, are steep and cliff-like.  A boat on the water makes a natural amphitheater, even to this day.  This enabled Jesus to address the crowd.  But here’s an interesting anecdote: we have no clue what Jesus said in his teaching here; we know only what happened between he and Peter.  Have you ever felt that way?  As if God was suddenly talking to you one-on-one, almost out of nowhere.  You’re in a conversation, you’re in fellowship, you’re going about your day and suddenly you realize the moment is different.  Maybe a friend admits a need to you, and you are right there to address it.  Maybe you receive direction on something you’ve been praying about through circumstances or through what someone says.  Sometimes Jesus meets us in a one-on-one conversation that may even be disruptive and alarming.

And so it is with Peter here. Jesus disrupts his day.  Jesus disrupts him after a night with no luck – not an uncommon occurrence for a career fisherman, but definitely not one you want followed by conversation.  You want to go home and sleep the morning away.  And here’s Jesus wanting to chat!

Then Jesus gets in his boat.  The truck driver’s seat, the rancher’s saddle, the executive’s desk – these are not the places you sit!  Jesus has already disturbed his work and thrown off his day, and now he’s sitting in his chair!  Peter is the boss, the head guy when he’s out there on the water, and Jesus walks right into that situation to meet him.

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5 ESV)

How many times has Jesus done that to us?  We’re there entirely in our comfort zone, maybe right in that place where we draw our identity from, and he comes in there and throws things off.

One April day in Boston in the year 1855, a Sunday school teacher came to visit one of his students at the shoe store where the young man worked. He described the young man’s mind as “spiritually dark.”

The Sunday school teacher told the young man about Christ, and the young man became a Christian.  He became a pillar in the church community there.  A few years later, the young man went to Chicago trying to make his fortune in shoe retail.  But he finally ended up starting a church there and devoted himself to lifelong ministry.

The young man was Dwight Moody, one of the most influential evangelists in American history.  Millions of people can trace their spiritual lineage back to him.  All because Jesus disrupted him in the world he was comfortable in, right when Jesus was the last thing the young Moody was expecting.

Jesus arrives with abundance  

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 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. (Luke 5:6-7 ESV)

Their nets were breaking.  Around the time Jesus lived, a lot was being written by the Jewish community about God’s deliverance of Israel.  Although they had no prophets speaking at the time, they did their best to draw on their traditions and predict when God’s deliverance would come.

Think about the miracles of Jesus.  His first miracle — the wedding at Cana where he made many more gallons of wine than they needed.  The feeding of the five thousand — with 12 baskets of leftovers.  And here we have the fish so abundant that they were breaking the nets of expert fishermen.

Jesus arrives with a feast — not always, but often.  He does more than they could ask or imagine.  Look at how Peter addresses him:

Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! (v. 5)

And then after his muscles are aching and his boat creaks beneath the weight:

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  (v. 8)

Master” in verse 5 … “Lord” in verse 8.  These two titles are different in Greek.  The first is more like boss, the second is more a position of real power, and eventually became the title often used for Jesus.

Peter changes the title he gives Jesus right away.  He pivots and changes the conversation because he sees that Jesus is different — that Jesus changed the very laws of nature and physics and arrived with abundance.

We’ve seen this in our own lives as well, when we take that small step forward in faith and Jesus gives an amazing, abundant increase.  Think about when you finally turn toward that person you need to forgive, and a real friendship develops.  Think about the addict who finally gives God control and finds healing from unthinkable temptation.  Think about remaining faithful with tithing to find that the Lord gives you what you need and more.

Jesus calls alongside

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”   And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11 ESV)

Peter often takes a bad rap for being impulsive and unreflective in his actions.  Here’s a consummate Peter moment — him jumping out of the boat and making an immediate decision to leave his career and follow Jesus.

But let’s look at this for a moment.  Jesus knew how impulsive Peter was and he used that.  Jesus knew that Peter would cut ears off, speak denials before the cock crowed, and presume to rebuke him at one point.  He also knew that Peter would be the first to walk on water, the first to start to understand who Jesus was, and a vertebra in the backbone of the early church.

He knew that Peter’s impulsiveness would become boldness, that his hot temper would become fearlessness.  Jesus called him from right where he was into the work of the kingdom.

Jesus doesn’t want cost-efficient strategy or mobilized five-part plans;  he wants you!  He’s not looking for perfect people, he’s looking for you, people!

This conversation looks very public — who knows how many people were watching?  But in the end it was more private.  Jesus and Peter seemed like the only two people in the world for a moment, and Jesus greeted him with words that will sound familiar to Bible readers.  Anytime in the Old Testament that God or angels interacted with someone, which usually put that person into fits of terror, they said the same phrase: “Do not be afraid.”

Then he called these imperfect men into work with him.  He knew all the failures that were yet to come, but he called them to walk with him.   He didn’t just fix them and move on — he called them to walk with him and join him in this adventure.  They left everything behind that they had known – the nets, the sea, and for all we know, that huge, wriggling pile of fish they had just caught, and they followed him.

Do not be afraid …

Jesus disrupts: Is he disrupting you today somewhere that you’re comfortable?  Like he did with these professional fishermen who had just had a hard night?  Maybe there’s a habit or a mindset he’s working on in your life.  Maybe you’re in some place where you think, although you probably never put it into words, “I got this, Lord, you can move on to the next thing.”  Maybe he’s coming right there, showing you that you can be more present to your spouse, more patient with your kids, more loving toward the world and yourself in some way.

Do not be afraid …

Jesus comes with abundance:  And when he comes to you in that part of your life, calling you to the stronger, better life, will you “put out into the deep water”?  Will you listen to where he tells you to cast?  He may ask you to step out in faith, like he did with them.  Putting out into deep water was not usually a good move for fishermen, especially professionals, and yet they did.  And that’s where the miracle was, that’s where the abundance was.

He often calls us to stretch goals, trusting that he will guide us and take care of us.  We didn’t just “get saved,” and that’s it.  He calls us over and over to “put out into the deep water,” trusting him with our decisions and our way of being in the world, transforming our relationships, our decisions, our state of mind.

Do not be afraid …

Jesus calls alongside:  Where is he calling you today?  Make no mistake, he is calling you.  This isn’t the practiced handshake of the executive who wants to interact with you as little as possible.  This is Jesus picking you out of a crowd, calling specifically on you, with your gifts and abilities, even your shortcomings.  Let him redeem those things for his kingdom – turn your impulsiveness into innovation, your hotheadedness into passion, your passivity into patience.

Do not be afraid …

The deep water looks dark and empty and mysterious.  He’s the only one who knows what’s thereCast your net.  


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