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This summer I’ve been reading the gospel of Luke. Recently, I came upon this passage, in Luke Chapter 5. I thought I’d show you the actual text, first, and then, try to put it into more 21st century vernacular.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
The Big Bison, his Boy, and some Buddies, on a modern day fishing trip.
We know the story so well, but honestly, in a way, it’s so far removed from the reality that we know, that it’s a little bit hard to relate to. But here’s what came to me when I was thinking about it.
Jesus, the rock star of the day, has come down to the lake. A crowd has gathered, just to hear him teach. There’s no Twitter; no Facebook. Nevertheless, the word is out that the amazing teacher is in town, and people want to hear Him, because they’ve never heard anything like Him before.
Meanwhile, standing knee-deep in the lake and stinking of sweat and of fish, an uneducated fisherman named Simon bends, cleaning his fishing nets. He’s been up all night long, has caught nothing, and is doubtless discouraged, disappointed, and exhausted. Nevertheless, what’s happening here at the lake today is certainly a change from the day in/day out of his existence, and he’s intrigued. So, he listens as he works, and he notices the Teacher has a problem. The crowds are pressing in on Him, and He has no good place where He can sit down and teach.
The Teacher glances Simon’s way, and His eyes focus in on Simon. Simon senses something is expected, but thinks, “What. Me?”
The Teacher points to the boat, and suddenly, Simon understands. He hastens to make His boat available, invites the Teacher in, and for the next little while, Simon listens to the gracious words that fall from this Man’s lips, as He teaches the crowd that has gathered to hear Him: words that startle, words that bring light, and understanding, words that mystify, and confound, words that speak of a relationship with the God of Jacob, who might even be called “Abba”, words that announce a kingdom, and the forgiveness of sins.
Simon is so swept away that he forgets his fatigue, focusing in on the Teacher’s words. They are unlike anything he has ever heard before.
And then, it’s over. The afternoon is dwindling, and apparently, the Teacher wants to do something for the fisherman.
“Let’s go fishing,” He invites.
“Oh, Teacher, I don’t know…this fishing thing…it’s my business, you know. I am a professional. And I’ve been up all night out there on that lake.”
The Teacher continues to hold Simon’s gaze, a twinkle of amusement in His expression.
“But….” Simon hesitates, “if YOU say so…,”.
The Man is, after all, a rock star. Besides, it’ll be fun to tell his fishing buddies how this Rabbi fellow didn’t know squat about fishing.
Simon guides his boat out to deeper waters, with the help of the Teacher. The water is still. The atmosphere, expectant. They cast the nets, and suddenly, the water becomes alive all around them, and the nets are in danger of tearing, so full are they of wiggling, squirming, flopping fish.
Simon’s eyes bulge. “What the…” he trails off. “We’re gonna need HELP!” he hollers, waving frantically to his partners back on shore. “Help! HELP!!!” he calls, and happily, James and John and their companions set out quickly in their boat to help.
Two boats weren’t enough to drag it all in. The boats were so full of fish they were both in danger of sinking. Who could believe this??? This was certainly something none of them had ever seen before! This fish tale was going to be told and re-told for quite some time around these parts.
And Simon, suddenly, realized that this Man was not just an extraordinary teacher. This Man had looked into his eyes, taken his measure, and singled him out to invest in. This Man knew things that a normal man couldn’t know. This Man was not just a man.
Simon fell to his knees, grabbing the Teacher around the knees. “Go away from me, Lord! I’m a sinful man!” he cried.
But the Teacher, full of surprises, replied, “Don’t be afraid!”
For what else was Simon, if not afraid? He felt exposed, and rejection is what we fear from exposure. Simon knew he didn’t measure up to the rock star Rabbi. Knew he didn’t have what it took to hang with the likes of Jesus. What was he? An uneducated fisherman.
“From now on, you will fish for people,” said the Teacher.
And just like that, everything changed. Destiny turns on a dime. What he had been, what he possessed, his business? Dismissed. The Teacher had seen him, known him, accepted him, and called him to something greater.
At that moment, Simon didn’t really know what he was saying yes to. But saying yes, he was. And so were his friends! For this Man? This Man was like no one else they had ever encountered before.
If I had been on the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret that day, I think I would have missed it. I think I would have missed the most important thing that happened there that day. If asked, I probably would have said it was the teaching. After all, a big crowd had gathered. Everyone was talking about Him! Being famous, and reaching lots of people is important, right? And the teaching was great! With authority! Like no one else! But that was not the main deal.
Was it the miracle? Whoa! That miracle of so many fish that they almost sank two boats? That was pretty great, right? Very flashy! And, it was a sign that Jesus really did have the authority of the Father behind His words. But I don’t even think THAT was the main thing.
The main thing that happened that day was that the Teacher took time to invest in a man who looked to be of no account, but in whom Jesus saw a potential, that once realized, would literally change the course of civilization.
Do you remember when Bill Clinton had the banner hanging in his campaign office that read, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” to help himself remember to keep the main issue the main issue?
Jesus knew that investing in those 12 guys that He kept closest to Himself would have the biggest payoff of any way He could spend His time, with the exception of His relationship with His Abba Father in prayer.
So today, let me ask you: What relationships has God put in your life that He wants you to nurture? Who are the people who are looking to you (despite their sin and failings) to accept them, and love them, and see in them the great person that God has for them to be? Who is pushing you away, all the while they need nothing more than your unconditional love, and your vision of hope for their life?
Let me say this as lovingly as I can: It’s the Relationship, Stupid.