Jesus and the Live Catch
Luke 5:1–11 (CSB)
5 As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, he was standing by Lake Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then he sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”
6 When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.” 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.
Dear fellow redeemed: I am going to take you through this text in a way that I hardly ever do. We are going to look at it as a simple, literal, historical account, then at that account as a picture of a spiritual truth that we cannot see, and then as a description of the kingdom that has now come in Christ.
What we have here is a multi-faceted picture of an invasion. It is an invasion in which the invaders seek not to destroy their enemies, but to win them. This is especially important when we remember our text last week, which came from the previous chapter, in which we saw that the invasion of goodness into this evil world is met with evil hatred and hostility. In spite of the hostility, though, this is …
A LIVE-CAPTURE INVASION
- An Invasion with the Word
- Pictured as Fishing
- This Fishing Captures Alive
- An Invasion with the Word
First, we see evidence of the invasion of the Christ into this broken world. Though Jesus was run out of Nazareth (as we heard last week) here in Capernaum He demonstrates power over human infirmity and sickness (by healing), shows dominion over demons (by driving them out) and proclaims the good news that the kingdom of God has come.
Now we have Jesus teaching. Think of how strange this appears. Here is God in the flesh preaching to people. The cliché, “fish out of water,” comes to mind. Jesus is God, humbling Himself to proclaim the gospel, the good news, of the kingdom of God. Down He came, into this dark world to take us alive. He is teaching from the boat to avoid the jostling crowd and to be heard better. But here in the boat is the word of life.
Did you know that this room we are in is called the “nave” of the church? It is in the church that we find the word of God, God reaching out into the world to draw all people to him.
Peter is a central figure in this, and he shows the pattern of Christ’s conquest. Christ’s power and holiness show him his fallen situation: “…he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken,”
The power and holiness of God is frightening to sinful people. As professional fishermen, they knew this catch of fish was not natural, but supernatural, not an exceptional event, but a unique and unparalleled event. Imagine that someone went down to the bank of the Rogue River and called all the fish from a mile up or down the river to gather at his feet – that is the scale of Jesus’ power. What would you think of such a person? Scary. Frightening, Awesome. Dangerous. So, the first step in the conquest of peter is that Peter remembered His sinfulness.
But Jesus did not punish him or cast him away. He did not kill Peter, but He claimed Peter as His own. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.” Here he has caught Peter like fish in a net. The Greek word means “captured alive,” not just caught and possibly “killed.” Peter, and you and I also, have been captured alive, turned around, and become allies of our conquerors – children of our new Lord. This happens through the gospel, which gives forgiveness, life, and salvation, as Paul explained, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” (Romans 10:17, CSB)
The law and the gospel form the pattern of Christ’s conquest, and the power by which He captures us.
2. Pictured as Fishing
Luke lets the similarities play out between God’s invasion of our world, and the fishermen’s invasion of the world of the fish. The glaring difference is that Jesus captures us alive.
Jesus has finished teaching the crowds from the boat. The boat had become the place where God has come to earth. Luke had earlier recorded Zechariah’s song, “Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78–79, CSB) Here we see that God has come down into the depths to reach for us.
We see that picture as Jesus says, 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” That isn’t how you catch fish, as these fishermen know. 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”
This gives a picture of how the kingdom of God comes in unexpected ways to unexpected people, and according to His efforts, His volition, and His doing. Then with people all over the world we are brought into the boat, the church.
3. This Fishing Captures Alive
When I heard this account years ago, I thought, “Is being ‘fishers of men’ (as the KJV puts it) a good thing? It doesn’t look very good for the fish.” But as I mentioned a moment ago, when Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will be catching people,” He uses a specific Greek term meaning “captured alive.”
And so you have been captured alive, in fact, we were dead in our transgressions and sins, but Jesus has brought us to spiritual life. We were dead to God, didn’t know Him, knew nothing of His love, much less love Him and trust in Him. We are now the ones who bring life to others, catch them alive for the kingdom of God.
This is what the disciples did. 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.
Now understand, this is not a morality tale that is all about what you must do in order to win God’s approval. The focus of this account is the way that Christ has entered this world, invaded this world, with saving power and grace. And He has given this power and grace to others. You have the words of Christ when you forgive one another. You have the power of Christ to live in the depths of this world and draw others up to the light.
In the case of these fishermen, they even changed their vocations. Their calling in life changed so that they were no longer fishermen. They didn’t have boats. They didn’t have a trade in fish. They didn’t spend their days with nets and with fishing, but with Christ.
We may not change vocations, but our priorities change. We have gone from one world to another. We have gone from where it is all about me, and we are the measure of all things, weighing everything in the balance of our wants, our feelings, we have come to know that way is the way of death. That is the world in which we live.
Now we are counter-cultural, with a different scale of what is good and great, and a different estimation of what is right and beautiful. We know the mercy of God and treasure it.
Listen up, folks! As great a change as a fish rising out of the sea to live on dry land is the change that has come about in your life, because you now know Christ. I know we all struggle with the troubles of this life. We work to make ends meet. We are anxious about the future. We deal with illness and with loss. We suffer from the sins and outrages of other people. We grow older, and we die. But we have been saved from this world and brought into another.
I always treasure Paul’s comments in Philippians, Paul who was plucked from the depths and captured alive to become a precious child of God He said, “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:7–11, CSB)
Hurrah, we have been caught alive!