“Nevertheless, at Thy Word”
“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” (Luke 5:1-11)
In this portion of Holy Scripture the Holy Spirit gives us his record of the call of our Lord’s first three disciples. This is a more detailed account of their call to the work of the ministry than we have had before. May he by whom these words were inspired teach us the lessons they are intended to convey to us.
It is obvious that these eleven verses are intended to show us something of what is involved in believing and obeying the Lord Jesus Christ. We must both trust and obey the Son of God. Obedience does not save us or sanctify us; but where there is no obedience there is no salvation and no sanctification. Where faith comes, obedience follows.
Pressed to Hear
Luke tells us that “the people pressed upon” the Lord Jesus “to hear the Word of God.” When they did, the Lord Jesus gave them their desire. Learn then that those who seek to hear the Word of God shall be taught of God.
“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship” (vv. 1-3).
Here is a multitude of eternity bound men and women pressing upon the Savior “to hear the Word of God”. What a blessed press! Like Mary, these men and women chose that one thing needful. They sat at Christ’s feet to hear his word.
What Peter saw here, he later experienced in Caesarea, at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:33). Cornelius said to Peter, as he arrived to preach, — "Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."
Blessed are they who come to the house of God to hear the Word of God. They who come to be fed shall be fed. They who come to be taught shall be taught. They who come seeking comfort shall find comfort. They who come seeking grace shall find grace. They who come seeking Christ shall find Christ. Hear what God himself says about this. — “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right” (Isaiah 45:19).
In verse 4, we see how that our great and glorious Lord God condescends to use human instruments to perform his great and wondrous works. — “Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.”
The catching of this great draft of fish was miraculous; but the fishermen were just fishermen. The boats were just boats. The nets were just nets. — But they were fishermen, boats and nets, God was pleased to use.
There are many who object to this plain revelation of Scripture, fearing that it limits God and gives men a hand in God’s operations of grace. Moses did not part the Red Sea. God parted the sea using Moses’ rod. The disciples did not multiply the loaves and fish. The Lord Jesus did that; but he let those blessed men distribute food to the hungry. He who raised Lazarus from the dead could have easily moved the stone from the mouth of the tomb; but he chose to use men like you and me to roll away the stone from the mouth of the tomb. So, too, in the salvation of chosen, redeemed sinners, God condescends to work by means of human instruments. It is written, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
The instruments God uses are themselves utterly useless and insufficient for their work; and they acknowledge that fact. – “Master, we have toiled all night and have taken nothing.” Why was this the case? Was it because there were no fish in the sea? No. Were they unskilled in their work? Certainly not. These were master seamen. Were they lacking in diligence? No. They had toiled all night. Why, then, had they caught nothing? Because we must ever be reminded that the instruments themselves are worthless and useless. Our Savior said, “Without me, ye can do nothing.” But with him, we can do all things.
When the Son of God is at the helm of the boat, by some mysterious power, hordes of fish are drawn into the net.
The Lord usually performs his work in the most unlikely places. Our Master always chooses the most unlikely people as the objects of his grace, the most unlikely men to be his servants, and the most unlikely places to perform his works. He commanded the disciples to launch out into the deep. But, if you fish in lakes, you know that you are not likely to catch many fish in the deep waters.
Faith and Obedience
Faith is obedient to Christ. — "And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net" (v. 5). Let men say what they will, God says, “Faith without works is dead;” and it is. Men may attempt, if they dare, to justify disobedience, but faith is obedient to the will and Word of God. Believers are not rebels, but willing servants.
The Master said, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a great draught.” This was a command which was manifestly contrary to reason and contrary to experience. These men had been fishing all night. But it was Christ the Lord who gave the command. And obedience to the Word and will of God requires immediate, unquestioning, selfless, self-denying compliance. — “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
“Trust and obey, trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.”
Christ our God
“And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken” (vv. 6-9).
There may be some things involved in Peter’s prayer which are not commendable. But I know this. What Peter here expressed is exactly what sinners feel when they see the glory of God in Christ. When sinners are made to see the goodness, grace, power, and glory of God in Christ, they are overwhelmed with their unworthiness to stand before his presence.
This miracle performed by our Savior caused Peter to be overwhelmed with a sense of the Savior’s Godhead. This is evident from the fact that he fell down at the Master’s feet, crying out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” He seems to have remembered, suddenly, what the Lord had said to Moses in the Mount. — “Thou canst not see my face, for there shall no man see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Thinking, as holy men did in ancient times, he concluded that the sight of God meant immediate death. That is clearly what Manoah thought, when the angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ) appeared to him and his wife and did wondrously. He said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (Judges 13:22).
Suddenly remembering these things, Peter was overwhelmed with a conscious sense of sin and begged the Lord to depart from him. He was convinced that nothing short of omnipotent power could have produced such a miracle as he had seen. He was suddenly seized with a sense of the fact that he was in the immediate presence of God, the Almighty!
Honor for Honor
God honors those who honor him. In his word of judgment to Eli concerning his sons the Lord God said, — "Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).
Nothing honors God like obedient faith. – “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). When Peter launched out and let down his nets, he caught the fish; and faithfulness in small things always leads to greater things. So, we read in verse 10 that “Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Peter, James, and John, who were faithful to Christ as fishermen, were made by Christ to be fishers (catchers) of men!
Read Matthew 4:19 and Luke 5:11 together and you will see that the call of Christ demands and produces three things. — “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) — “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (Luke 5:11).
When the Master calls sinners by his grace, and when he calls men saved by his grace into the work of the ministry, he requires three things from them, three things which only he can produce, but three things we must give.
This historic event, like all historic events recorded in Holy Scripture, has an allegorical meaning. The whole event is a remarkable picture and type of the history of God’s church and its work in this world. The ships carrying Christ and his people across the sea with the Word of God represent gospel churches. The fishermen are representatives of gospel preachers and their work. The net cast is the gospel of the grace of God, which we preach to all men. The sea represents the world. The shore represents eternity. The miraculous draft of fish caught and brought to shore represents the success of our labors in compliance with the Master’s Word, the salvation of God’s elect.
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