Today, let us think together about discipleship. Do you follow Jesus? How do you follow Jesus? We say we are Christians, but what does that mean, to be followers of Jesus the Christ? When Simon-Peter and his fellow fisherman were called by Jesus to become fishermen of men, “they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11). How did they get to this point? How did they come to a place where they were ready to leave everything behind and follow Jesus? Are we called to do the same? If we are, what would that look like for us?
First thing to notice is that the crowds were eager to hear Jesus speak and the fishermen were nearby and willing to listen. The crowds were “pressing in on him to hear the word of God” (Luke 5:1). The crowds were eager to hear Jesus speak because they believed Jesus would speak the word of God.
When we are following Jesus, we are thirsty for God’s word, eager to hear the word of God. We can read the bible, we can pray, and we can gather (in spirit if not in person) to hear the word of God proclaimed. How many of us wake up thirsting and eager to hear the word of God? Every morning, when I wake up, my first thoughts are about coffee and trying to wake up. Then only as I am waking up, then I realize, I want to listen to my daily Bible reading. Some of us might read the Bible daily as a spiritual discipline. And then when we are done reading or listening to the word, are we done for the day? There are days when I read in the morning, that I think and feel, Oh good, I have done my daily Bible reading. But other times I want to read again what I read in the morning. There are times when I want to slow down to ponder and meditate on the word. Do you eat every day? Of course, you do. We feed our physical bodies because we need energy to move, to think, and to act. But what about our “spiritual-body”? We need also to take in God’s word every day. We need to hear/read the Bible, and to pray with the attitude not only to communicate our needs, but to hear what and how God is leading us. But also, do you ever notice that sometimes God speaks to us through people in our lives? Whether it is encouragement, admonishment, or advice, we can feel God working through people. We can feel validated or affirmed in our sense of where and how God is leading us from our interactions with others. As it is written in the Bible, we are all one body, the body of Christ:
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5)
We are one body as children of God, as believers, and as followers of Jesus the Christ. We are not meant to be isolated and living a life by ourselves as Christians. As we live as one body, we live together. We interact with each other. We might also “bump” into each other. All that to say, as one body, we can build each other up in love: “11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Second thing to notice from Luke 5:1-11 text is that the fishermen were tired but they still obeyed. When Jesus approached them, the fishermen were washing their nets. They were coming in after a long night of not catching fish. They were probably tired. We know they hadn’t caught any fish because later when Jesus tells them to put down their nets, “5Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing’” (Luke 5:5). But still they were willing to go out on the lake and listen while Jesus was teaching and when Jesus said to put down their nets, Simon answered we have worked all night catching nothing, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Despite being tired, despite their unsuccessful night of fishing, when Jesus said put down their nets, they obeyed. We can learn from this that sometimes when you are pursuing what you believe to be your calling, even when you are doing what God puts on your heart to pursue, and even when you are doing everything right, like the fishermen, you may not be experiencing success. But they obeyed, they persevered, and they stayed on course.
There will be times when we feel we are not living our lives “right.” If we are living our lives as God commanded us, and if we are pursuing what God wants us to pursue, why do we experience that we are not doing things right? As the fishermen experienced, sometimes you will spend all night, or a season of your life, putting down the net catching nothing. But we have to keep at it, even when we don’t see the fruits of our labor because some of us might be sowing the seeds and it is not yet time for the harvest. And sometimes we may be harvesting fruits of the labor of others. We don’t get to decide which part of God’s work we get to participate in. We have faith and trust in God that our work is not in vain. God is good. God is good, indeed. God promises us, “28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Whatever it may be, we can trust that God will bring our effort for God’s purpose.
When the fishermen put down the net despite their night long effort of fishing without catching anything, when they obeyed Jesus, “6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break” (Luke 5:6). They were surprised I’m sure! They weren’t casting their nets because they believed they would now, during the day, catch fish when they weren’t able to catch fish all night long. They were casting their net against all odds, against their better judgment, and against their experience of usually catching fish at night, and not during the day time. They were casting their nets because of Jesus. They listened to Jesus. They trusted Jesus. They obeyed Jesus. Likewise, there will be a time of catching fish for us too, so many that our nets might break! Let us be encouraged by this text that our effort in our lives, our effort in different vocations, and each to our calling, that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Let us not lose faith, let us not lose hope, and let us not lose love.
The fishermen saw with their own eyes that when they had faith in God that even though their effort fell short, that they were able to yield success. God shows us who God is through the word of God written, preached, and revealed through history. Sometimes the revelation will be evidence we can see in nature and in people’s lives, like seeing the overflowing fish in the nets. In my own life, I have experienced God’s steadfast love revealed to me through the faithfulness of God’s presence and love in my life. Through the good times, the hard times, and the times of grief and also in times of joy, God was with me. God is with us all. As we welcome the lunar new year, let us look back on the year on our own lives. Let our own lives be testimony to ourselves and to others of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Let us share with one another the gifts God has bestowed on each of our lives so that we can bear witness and testify to the goodness and the love of God.
The fishermen were near Jesus, and they too were willing and eager to hear the word of God, and they obeyed Jesus despite being tired and disappointment of not catching fish all night.
When they were called by Jesus to be fishermen not of fish, but of men, they were able to leave everything and follow Jesus. We are not expected to give up anything blindly. As Paul writes, when compared to the value of the good news of being saved through our faith in Jesus, whatever we give up is rubbish:
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)
Indeed, as Paul writes, everything is already a loss when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord. If/when we give up anything to follow Jesus, it is nothing, it is rubbish, in order that we may gain Christ, our Lord and Savior. We are saved not through the righteousness of our own actions, but we are justified before God: “through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:9-11). So, where do you stand today? Have you already given up everything to follow Jesus? Are you willing to give up everything and follow Jesus? Life by ourselves is long and difficult. But if we take up our lives with Jesus, Jesus who calls those who are weary and burdened, we can find rest in him:
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
In this Corona pandemic, in this economic turmoil, in these uncertain times, only one thing remains constant: “8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). We can bank our money on God. We can trust in God. Let us come to God to find rest for our weary and heavy burdened souls, for the yoke and burden God offers us is easy and light.
For God who loved us first, would you be willing to leave everything to follow God?
May we find our rest, comfort, and love in God who loved us first.