This morning we are continuing our journey through the Holy Land. I want to invite you to join me as we travel to the Sea of Galilee. That’s the name that is most familiar to you and me, but if you were living in Israel then you would know this “sea” by other names as well. The Sea of Galilee is found in both the Old and New Testaments, but it’s known by various names. In Numbers 34, we find that when the Hebrew slaves were making their way into the Promised Land God spelled out the boundaries of the land He was giving to them. In Numbers 34:1-12 we read about the eastern and southern boundaries.
10“‘For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. 11 The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Kinnereth. 12 Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Salt Sea. “‘This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’” (Numbers 34:10-12 NIV)
The wod, “Kinnereth” is a Hebrew word that means “harp.” That is a very descriptive word for the Sea because it is shaped like a harp. In the Scripture that we will study today we find that Jesus was standing by the Sea, but in this section of Scripture it is not called the Sea of Galilee. Read along with me from Luke 5:1-2.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people 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. (Luke 5:1-2 NIV)
Luke calls the largest body of freshwater in Israel the “Lake of Gennesaret.” In John 21:1 John calls the sea the “Sea of Tiberias.” In John 6:1, John seems to understand that those of us who would read the Scriptures many years later might be confused about all of these names so he writes, 1 “Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias)…” (John 6:1 NIV)
For our study this morning we will just stick to the name the Sea of Galilee. As I mentioned to you earlier, the Sea of Galilee is the largest body of freshwater in Israel. It is 14 miles long and it varies from 4 to 9 miles wide. It is located 682 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea and it’s depth ranges from about 80-140 feet. The Jordan River is the main tributary to the Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee is full of fish. There are approximately 23 varieties of fish found in the Sea of Galilee, but the most famous of all the fish is the “Tilipia,” also called “St. Peter’s fish.” This unique fish protects its young by scooping them into her mouth when she feels her young are threatened.
From biblical times the abundance of fish caused the area around the Sea to prosper. There were nine cities that flourished around the Sea of Galilee in biblical times, and in each city, fishing was the major source of revenue for the majority of the citizens. Of the nine towns that existed during Jesus’ day only the city of Tiberias still exists today.
Though all of these facts make the Sea of Galilee interesting and even famous in Israel, the Sea is most known because it was the home base for Jesus’ ministry. So much of what we read in the Gospels happened either on the Sea of Galilee or around its shores in one of the towns.
On the Sea of Galilee a storm broke out and the disciples, who were out on the Sea in a boat, were terrified. Jesus saw the fear and felt the crashing waves against the hull of the boat and said, “Peace, be still,” as He calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-27). Jesus called four of the fisherman who called the Sea of Galilee “home” to be His disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. (Matthew 4:18-21; Luke 5:1-11). In Matthew 14:32, Jesus walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee and invited Peter to join Him. We read in Matthew 15:29 that Jesus healed many people and fed the 5,000 on the shores of the Sea. Capernaum, Jesus’ home base, was situated on the coast line of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 9:1). It was also at the Sea of Galilee where one of the strangest stories found in the New Testament took place. Let’s read the Scripture together found in Matthew 17:24-27.
24After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes– from their own sons or from others?” 26 “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27“But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matthew 17:24-27 NIV)
Peter found the fish and paid the tax, but I wouldn’t encourage any of you to head to Lake Hefner come April 15th to try and find the fish that holds your tax payment for the year.
Because we have a limited amount of time I want us to focus on one story that took place at the Sea of Galilee. Turn with me to Luke 5:1-16 and let’s read together.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3He 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. 4When 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, 10 and 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 catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11 NIV)
The focus of our Scripture this morning is Jesus. Some might argue and say that the call of Simon Peter is the focal point since the entire content of Jesus’ teaching is left out of our story, but I will promise you that Jesus is the focal point of our study this morning.
What we have in Luke 5:1-11 is the call of some of Jesus’ disciples. James and John are mentioned as business partners of Simon Peter and we read that all three of the men left their nets and followed Jesus. Some of you are probably familiar with the story. You might say that it was admirable of Peter, James, and John to be willing to leave everything they knew to follow Jesus. Other than that, for most of us, we have to really struggle to find a deeper connection with our life and their story.
I want us to consider for a moment what kind of guys Peter, James, and John were: they were fishermen. They weren’t graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary, Perkins School of Theology, or Phillips Seminary. We don’t read that these guys came from good Jewish homes, served on the synagogue Board, or were well steeped in Judaism. They were fishermen. The tools of their trade were nets, fillet knives, and hard work, not matters of theology. If you were going to build a world-wide religious movement would you go down to the coast and find “shrimpers” to be the pillars of your movement? Of course not. Why in the world would Jesus choose these guys? What did they bring to the table that Jesus couldn’t find in some of the more respectable and prominent residents in Galilee? Darrell Bock, in his commentary on Luke, writes about what these guys brought to the table.
Jesus does not call those who think they can help God do his work. God does not need or want servants who think they are doing God a favor. Jesus calls those who know they need to be humble before his power and presence. (Darrel Bock, Luke, pg. 100)
What credentials did Peter have that drew Jesus to him? Well, we learn from Acts 4:13 that it wasn’t his education or his religious training. Let me tell you the story behind Acts 4:13. After Pentecost, Peter became the chief spokesman for the cause of Christ. In the beginning of Acts 4, the religious leaders came up to Peter and John and heard them preaching. They didn’t like what they heard so they arrested Peter and John and threw them in jail. The next day they brought the two men out and all of the religious big dogs were there to question them. Annas, the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others of the high priest’s family were all seated as judge and jury. For these men, to have Peter and John speak to them about religious matters, matters of theology, was like Jesus trying to tell Peter how to fish. They asked Peter and John to tell their story. Acts 4:8 tells us that Peter, “full of the Holy Spirit,” began to speak. By the time he was finished speaking the religious leaders were astonished. Acts 4:13 says,
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NIV)
Peter wasn’t educated. He hadn’t attended a rabbinic school. Jesus wasn’t drawn to him because of his money, he didn’t have much–he was a fisherman. Jesus wasn’t drawn to Peter because of his contacts. Peter didn’t know any influential people in society. If Jesus wasn’t drawn to Peter because of his prominence or prestige in society then why in the world was Jesus drawn to Peter?
There are two characteristics that I see in this story about the call of Peter that I desperately need in my own life. I believe with all of my heart that these two attributes of Peter’s life convinced Jesus that Peter was the man for the job. I hope that after hearing about the character traits of Peter that you will recognize a need for them in your life as well.
First of all, Peter was obedient. Who knew more about fishing—Jesus or Peter? Jesus was God in the flesh so I’m sure we could argue that He knew more about fishing than Peter did. After all He made the fish so He ought to know how to catch them right? In Peter’s mind he certainly knew more about fishing than Jesus did, yet when Jesus told him to let down his nets, he let down his nets. Sure he explained to Jesus that they had been out all night and couldn’t catch a cold, but when Jesus said, “Let’s go fishing,” Peter did what Jesus’ asked. Take a look at Luke 5:4-5 with me once again.
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.” (Luke 5:4-5 NIV)
How many times have we had conversations with Jesus like the one Peter had? “Lord, I’ve tried to love him and stand by him, but he keeps sabotaging our relationship.” Jesus says, “Keep loving him.” “Lord, you know that I have worn my knees out in prayer for my daughter, but she still wants nothing to do with you.” Jesus says, “Keep praying for her.” “Lord, you know how many times I’ve forgiven her and given her another chance, but there comes a point…” Jesus interrupts and says, “Keep forgiving her.” There is nothing wrong with sharing our heart with Jesus. As a matter of fact, Jesus should be our first choice in sharing the frustrations of our heart with because if you share these kinds of things with others, most often, they will give you an answer that is far different than the one Jesus will give us. It’s good to express our frustrations to Jesus, but it’s even more important to wait on His reply and then respond accordingly. That is what Peter did. Peter said, “Lord, we’ve fished all night and didn’t catch a thing.” Jesus said, “Let’s go fishing.” What happened next? They went fishing. Peter was obedient.
The second characteristic of Peter that jumps out at me is that Peter knew himself. After he let down his nets in obedience, Peter reaped the reward of so many fish that it almost turned the boat over. Rather than jumping up and down with excitement, Peter fell at Jesus’ feet. Take a look at Luke 5:8.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8 NIV)
Peter knew that the big catch had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with his skill and ability. Peter knew that he was in the presence of someone special. Being in the presence of Jesus, the Holy One of God, caused Peter to recognize that he was not like the One that he was with. When you and I are in the presence of the Messiah we can only then recognize who we truly are. Peter said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” Now, today in our society we would say that Peter suffered from a low self-esteem. I would argue that Peter saw more clearly at this point in his life than he had ever seen before.
Peter wasn’t the first person who had ever had the experience of recognizing their sinfulness while in the presence of Almighty God. Turn with me to Isaiah 6:1 and let’s read together.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:1-5 NIV)
Isaiah said, “Woe is me! I am ruined!” I would say that it is at this point, the place where we recognize that we don’t have it all together, the place where we acknowledge that our heart is foul and hard, the place where we accept that He is God and we are not—it is at this place, and only at this place, where we can truly begin to live!
Peter was obedient to the Lord even when it didn’t make sense. Peter recognized that he was nothing more than a sinner. He didn’t say, “I know that I am a sinner, but…” He simply said, “I am a sinful man.” I need these two qualities in my life, how about you?
Now, with this information secured firmly in our hearts and minds, I want us to recognize something. Peter acknowledges to Jesus that he is a sinful man and Jesus says,
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10b-11 NIV)
The one who knows that he doesn’t have anything to offer, not one eye-catching reference on his resume, the one who openly admits that he is a mess, he is the very one that Jesus chooses to become one of His disciples, one of His closest friends. Isn’t that good news for you and me!
I’m a mess. My thinking gets so messed up, my heart gets so messed up, I don’t respond to people like I should respond to them, I can say, “Today I’m going to live my life for Jesus alone,” and before noon I’ve already blown it. I can identify with Peter so easily. Yet, because of this story I have hope. Jesus doesn’t call those who have something to offer, He calls those who have nothing to offer!
I have a feeling that somebody here this morning was drawn to come to church this morning so that you could hear this story about Jesus and Peter. I don’t need to tell you that you are a mess. You feel the weight of the mess pressing down every day. There is not a week go by that I don’t have the opportunity to sit down with friends who want to talk because they know their lives are a mess. We fall in love, take our vows, “till death do us part,” and we mean it. Yet something happens, life gets messy, crazy messy, and we find ourselves arguing and fighting, yelling and screaming, tossing and turning in the night, and finally signing papers acknowledging that the marriage that once brought us so much joy is now officially dead. What a mess.
A family sits down in my office with death written all over their faces. Mom and dad had believed their daughter when she told them how well she was doing in her first semester of college. Then the truth came out. A call in the night brought their world crashing down around them. Cindy had been walking on the wild side and perfecting the art of telling little white lies. She had never used drugs in high school, but at college she was told that everyone was doing it. She was a virgin when she moved into her dorm room, and had intended to stay that way until she was married, but you know what a few drinks or a few hits of Ecstasy will do to better judgment. Now, the honor student, cheerleader, and campus beauty is strung out and feeling used up by all of the guys she had let take advantage of her. What a mess.
Just this week a man came into my office that had just been released from prison three days earlier. He needed a job; he had slept in an abandoned apartment the night before, and when I asked him if he had any work clothes he held out his arms and said, “Just what I’ve got on.” He’s 43 years old and life has really gotten messy. What do you do if you are one of these folks that I’ve just told you about? Most give up hope, but if you are here this morning and you recognize that your life is a mess then I would invite you to confess—“Lord, I am a sinful man. I am a sinful woman.” If you will confess the truth of you life then you will hear from the Lord and His words to you will be, “Don’t be afraid. Follow Me.” I heard those words more than 27 years ago when I finally got honest and confessed, “I am a sinner. I am a mess. Lord please save me from my sin and let me follow You.” He has changed my life. Even now, all of these years later, when my life gets messy, He says, “Don’t be afraid. Follow Me.” Won’t you cry out to Him this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
July 2, 2006