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If someone offers advice in your area of expertise, it can be hard to accept, especially if the advisor is someone you expect to know nothing about the subject. We seem to have such a situation when Jesus the carpenter gives advice on fishing to Simon Peter the fisherman. How will Peter react? We turn now to consider Luke 5:1-11 An irresistible call.
As Jesus is ‘standing by the Lake of Gennesaret’ (v1, another name for the sea of Galilee) the crowds press so close that, in order to continue teaching, he must get into a fishing boat and teach from there (v3). Note the reference to ‘the word of God’ – a phrase closely linked to what we learned last time about Jesus’ authority in teaching:
It is a word about God – Jesus brings the final perfect revelation about the nature of God and the work of salvation that he will accomplish as Messiah.
It is a word from God – although his hearers do not understand this, it is God who speaks to them. John 1:14 states, ‘The Word became flesh’ and Jesus is that incarnate Word.
Simon (v4) and several others (v10) are present. Some had met Jesus before, including Simon (John 1:42), and had got to know him. Jesus gives Simon instructions (v4) that contradict what he knows as a fisherman – fishing in daylight in deep water, and after a futile night’s effort (v5). But on account of what he knows of the ‘Master’, Simon obeys, and the result is a miraculous catch. This is a sign of Jesus’ identity and of the presence in him of divine messianic power over the creation, showing that the King who can transform lives is present. The ‘kingdom of God’ (4:43) has come in him.
Peter’s reaction is surprising – ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man’ (v8). Peter understands (at least in part) that he is in the presence of divine power, having witnessed the work of a holy God (without yet grasping Jesus’ deity). This God is separate from all created and all sinful things. Peter has a profound sense of his own sinfulness and unworthiness. As sinners come closer to a holy God, they have a deeper sense of sin (Isaiah 6:5) which is necessary if we are to benefit from the work of Christ. Conviction of sin is a vital first step towards salvation. Why seek a Saviour if you have no sense of needing salvation?
Jesus does not dispute Peter’s self-evaluation but at once provides encouragement – ‘Don’t be afraid’ (v10, stop what he has begun to do). It is the voice of divine grace. The Lord deals gently and lovingly with Peter and, by implication, the others there. This is the turning point of Peter’s life; ‘from now on you will catch men’ (v10; literally ‘capture alive’, not like dead fish). Jesus speaks with absolute authority – it is a call (Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17) that requires immediate obedience (v11). He calls us to serve him in the same authoritative way.