The Gospels are filled with some crazy stories.
In today’s skeptical world, many are too “sophisticated” to believe the fantastical events presented in the gospel story. The stories of Christ healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and raising the dead are relegated to the realm of fairy tale, made to sit in the corner with Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.
Yet, if we actually read these accounts of the man, Jesus, we see a different story. In fact, the reason these Gospels are filled with such amazing stories is so that we might believe.
Luke tells us the purpose of his Gospel. Writing to Theophilus, presumably a Christian himself, Luke says he wrote his gospel “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Lk 1:4). In his introduction, Luke also lets his reader know that eyewitnesses were consulted and this story carefully documented. Luke’s intent was no mere fairy tale. His hope was not to entertain, or even provide some moral fables to inspire us to live a better life. Instead, Luke tells a story of documented historical fact and utmost theological significance.
It is the story of a man like no other.
In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus is beside Lake Gennesaret (the Sea of Galilee) teaching a crowd of people. By this point in the story, Jesus had already said that preaching the good news of the kingdom was his purpose. That was his mission, so, in chapter 5, we find him doing just that.
When the crowd gets a little too big and begins to press in on him, Jesus asks a fisherman to row him out in a boat a little ways, so he could speak from there. The fisherman, who was busy cleaning his nets after an unsuccessful night fishing agrees and pushes out into the lake with Jesus in the boat. The fisherman’s name was Simon, but you probably know him as Peter.
As Jesus finished his teaching, he turned to Peter and told him to cast his nets. This may not seem like much to us today, but Jesus was not a fisherman, he was a carpenter turned teacher. Imagine a preacher walking into an auto mechanic’s shop and telling him how to rebuild an engine. Furthermore, Peter had fished all night and caught nothing. There were no fish to be caught. Peter knew this.
Yet, Peter obeyed.
As the boat was sinking from the weight of the fish, Peter cries out for help from his companions in another boat. The catch was bigger than one man could bear, and as these fishermen reeled in the biggest catch of their lives, fear filled their eyes. This was no mere man in the boat with them.
Just as the disciples said of Jesus at another point in the story, Luke 5:1-11 must cause us to ask the question, “What manner of man is this?” It is Luke’s intention to draw his readers to a clear understanding of the Christ and how Jesus, as the divine Son of God, has power over all creation. Jesus is no mere man. As is evidenced in the larger section where this passage resides, Jesus has power over sickness, the supernatural world, and even the natural order. Jesus, the Christ, has all authority.
Furthermore, Jesus is on a mission. He is to preach the good news of the kingdom (Lk 4:43), and it is his desire to call others to that task. In this passage, Jesus gives good guidance to Peter and the other fisherman concerning their vocation. However, he gives a life-changing call when he tells them to drop everything and follow him.
Jesus is the great guide. He is master, and he is Lord. This is the first and foundational implication of Luke’s message, that the reader recognizes the unique character of Jesus and sees his authority as certain and his guidance as perfect.
In light of this truth about the Christ, Luke tells a story of human response.
With this understanding of Jesus, how now shall one live? Serving as examples of obedience, Peter and the other disciples demonstrate the appropriate response to the good guidance of this great master. Peter’s immediate response is instructive. Falling to the knees of his master, and now lord, Peter realizes his position in the relationship. While Peter’s understanding of the true nature of Jesus may still be limited in this story, Luke is clear to portray this event as a meeting with God. Luke communicates to the reader that Peter rightly bows in humility, acknowledging his sin, before Jesus Christ, the very Son of God. Peter’s example calls all who read Luke’s words to respond in like manner to this Lord.
Finally, as the disciples cast away their nets, truly, their livelihood, so also must we cast away all that stands between us and service to Jesus. Jesus calls Peter and these men to a new life. Service to this master is not a part-time venture. Luke, by showcasing the right response of these men, calls us to complete obedience to Jesus as master and guide through a radical reordering of every facet of life. When you have bowed before the master, no other priority of life eclipses following Jesus in his mission of preaching the good news of the kingdom.
Luke’s words stand as true today as they did on the banks of Lake Gennesaret. While few today drop literal nets to follow this great guide, all must fall at the master’s knees and let nothing stand in the way of following his call to preach the good news of the kingdom.