A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

The Call of the Disciples

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Konrad Witz (1444)

The Call of the Disciples
Epiphany 5
Rev. Doug Floyd
Judges 6:11-24, Psalm 85, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11

In our Gospel reading last week, Jesus announced that the year of Jubilee has begun. Luke treats that event as the official beginning of His ministry, which sets a tone for the whole Gospel. As Jesus calls people to the kingdom of God, He is welcoming them into the Year of Jubilee. It is the year of the Favor of the Lord. Jesus proclaims good news to the poor, liberty to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, and liberty for the oppressed. When we hear His Word, we come to realize Jesus is speaking to us. We are the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. He has come to free us, heal us, and make a way for us to enter the fullness of the Kingdom of God. May we never fail to realize that our freedom, faith, and hope are given to us in Christ Jesus. As we follow Him, we become the Year of the Lord’s Favor to the world around us.

Today we meditate upon the call of Christ to become bears of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Our Gospel passage opens with the crowds pressing in to hear the Word of God. When Jesus speaks, He speaks the true and living Word. It is living water. The crowds press in to hear. We are pressing in to hear. The Word of God brings life.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar says, “The essential thing for us is to hear God’s Word and discover from it how to respond to him. His Word is truth opened up for us. For there is no ultimate, unquestionable truth in man; he knows this, as, full of questionings, he looks up to God and sets toward Him. God’s Word is His invitation to us to be with Him in the truth.”

What if the Word seems dry? Balthasar continues, “We fail to see that it is we ourselves who are used up and alienated, whereas the Words resounds with the same vitality and freshness as ever; it is as near to us as it always was.” The Word of God renews our ears, our eyes, our hearts. Like the crowds pressing in to hear Jesus speak, may we have the same longing, the same desire to hear the Word of God, and in hearing may we see God’s goodness, may we taste God’s sweetness, may we be filled with His life.

As the crowds pressed, Jesus climbed into Simon’s boat, asking Simon to push off from the shore. Jesus sat down and continued teaching. This image of Jesus teaching from the boat speaks to us today. For the place where we gather is called the Nave as in a boat. We are in the ark of salvation, listening to the Word of God, and the Word of our Risen Savior call us forth from death to life.

This is not about us generating some hype through antics. It is truth. We hear and respond each week to the Word of God. The Word calls into worship, calls us into the true and holy festival before our Creator. The Word calls us to turn, repent, and behold the Lord. The Word calls us to hear with ear touched and healed by Christ, the see with eyes touched and healed by Christ. The Word calls us to trust in the faithfulness of our God. The Word calls us to lay all our burdens upon the Lord. The Word calls us to come and eat of the goodness of the Lord. The Word calls us to go forth into this world bearing the image of Christ in our hands, our feet, our mouths.

Like the crowds near Jesus, we are pressing in listening to our Savior address us from Simon’s boat. As the people rest and reflect upon the wonder of His Words, Christ addresses Peter.

“Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”[1] Christ shifts from speaking into the life of the crowds and speaks into the work world of Simon. Let down your nets. Simon has been fishing all night. Now he is being instructed by Jesus how to fish. The Word of God is not bound to a service, a church. Christ continues to address His people in their workplace, their homes, and the places where we may least expect it.

When I first started in ministry, Kelly and I lived on a ranch in Walland. My role was to spend time with the men who came to us, praying for them, teaching them, and even working with them. I remember one morning as I started my day with prayer and meditation. I listened but had no sense of the Lord addressing me. Then I went outside to work. I climbed through a barbed wire as I headed out to the field. The moment I stepped through the wire, I sensed the Lord addressing me as clear as day. The years have blurred the address, yet I’ve never forgotten the sense that God addressed me while my foot was sticking through a barbed wire. He is free to address us anywhere, anytime, and He is free to be silent.

Years later, I was working at Philips Magnavox. I had a co-worker who was laid off. I never really interacted with him, but when I found out he was laid off, I sensed the Lord speaking to me on behalf of this co-worker. I was hesitant to address him directly, so I wrote him a short note. Essentially, I told him that he was a bitter man, but the Lord wanted to heal him of this bitterness and that the Lord could make a new way for him. I was very nervous about his response, but he ended up telling me this was a word of the Lord for him.

The Lord can speak to us amid our daily life and call us to bear witness to Him. In today’s text, He tells Simon to let down the net. When we read the book of Acts, we hear the Lord speak to Simon Peter again by calling him to take the Gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile. This results in a miraculous outpouring of the Spirit upon the entire household of Cornelius. In today’s story, Simon is told to let down the net.

Simon’s response sounds like Mary, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your Word I will let down the nets.”[2] Simon is uncertain about this command, but he will obey at the Word of Jesus. He obeys and immediately catches a large number of fish. The fish are breaking the nets. The fish are sinking the boats. And Simon Peter is falling on his knees crying out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Much like the response of Isaiah to the glory of the Lord, Simon responds to this miracle by acknowledging his desperate estate. The goodness of God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4b).

We want the conviction of God. For this is God drawing us near to Himself. The Gospel is not the Good News of guilt. It is the Good News of God Himself redeeming us and drawing near to the fullness of His life. Peter experiences the refreshing of this love and will later proclaim,

19 Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. [3]

Simon Peter, along with James and John, became fishers of men. Just as his obedience to let down the net resulted in a multitude of fish, Peter’s obedience on the day of Pentecost results in a multitude of humans as 3000 come to repent. Peter becomes a fisher of men. But unlike fish who are captured and later sold and eaten. The people Peter catches are freed from the captivity of the evil one and led into the freedom of God.

In light of this joyous promise of Jubilee in Jesus Christ, what is our response? Our Gospel reading ends with this Word, And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. [4]

We are also called into this gentle evangelism rooted in the power of the Spirit. He didn’t use manipulative techniques to draw people to Christ. He simply told his story, the Good News of Christ’s love. It is as simple as inviting people into the community. I was talking with Fr. Aaron this week at Old North. They were a handful of people for several years, and then they grew dramatically. He said that they never tried any outreach. All their growth was from people simply inviting their friends. We might consider inviting friends into our community and then trusting Jesus to draw those who He will.

Let us open our hands and hearts as we leave everything and follow Christ.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 5:4.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 5:5.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 3:19–21.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 5:11.


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