January 13, 2012 Devotion Sharing (Luke 5)

Submitted by Sieun C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Luke 5:4-5 

  • What does Jesus tell Simon Peter to do? 

After using Peter’s boat to go out to the waters so that he could face a wider crowd to teach, Jesus tells Simon Peter to put out the nets into the waters to fish.

  • Was this a difficult or easy thing to obey? 

It must have been bizarre and startling to Peter that this rabbi was telling him when and where to fish, to say the least. Peter shows initial resistance or skepticism when he says, “We worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything!” Fishing was his profession, not Jesus’, and he knows what they just experienced after a night’s worth of hard work–no fish. So it must have been hard to obey this strange command even from such a wise rabbi. I wonder what thoughts ran through Simon Peter’s head–this guy should just stick to teaching, why is he giving me such strange advice about fishing which he knows nothing about, and why is he doing it in front of everyone! I’m going to look like a fool. I KNOW there’s no fish out there. But amazingly, even though he says this remark that conveys his doubt and maybe even irritation, Simon Peter does what Jesus asks of him and lets down the nets.

  • On what basis did Simon let down the nets?

Simon Peter says, “Because you say so, I will do it.”  He had just told Jesus that he doesn’t think there’s fish out there! BUT… because you said so, I’ll do it. It’s amazing to me that this man who is a professional fisherman lets Jesus’ words trump his own rationale and experience. Maybe part of it was that he had just heard some amazing teachings from Jesus and he’s riding off his response to Jesus, maybe it’s the crowd that’s watching to see what he’ll do, maybe it was just a feeling of “I’ll just try it, guess it won’t hurt.” But whatever it is, even though there’s doubt, his decision to obey and follow Jesus changes his life completely around.

Luke 5:6-7

  • What was the result of letting down the nets? 

The result of Simon’s decision to obey, even though it preceded with doubt and skepticism, was that he catches such a large number of fish that their nets began to break! He needs to call his other fishing buddies to come and help draw in all the fish.

  • What did Simon Peter discover as a result of his obedience to Jesus’ words?

As a result of his obedience, it’s not just that Simon Peter catches all this fish and goes home a richer man. But what Simon Peter discovers is that this rabbi isn’t just a good teacher with wise sounding words that is just good to hear, but that his words can be followed and trusted, that can actually affect and change his life, that even what he thought he knew about fishing was proved wrong by Jesus. Simon Peter experiences obeying Jesus’ words even in an area he thought he was an expert in and finds that Jesus knows better and is trustworthy.

Luke 5:8,10 

  • To what extent do I identify with Peter’s confession? 

Peter’s confession based on his realization changes his life forever. Peter doesn’t say, “Wow, you’re a fortune teller; you’d make a great fisherman.”  This event leads Peter to recognize something about himself and about Jesus that is the beginning of an amazing journey. He recognizes his own inability and foolishness, maybe his pride and that he really doesn’t know much. He sees himself compared to Jesus’ greatness and confesses that he falls short and that he is a sinner.

How much do I identify with this? This was my confession when I became Christian almost 10 years ago, but it is actually something that I have been identifying more with as I grow older and see more of my foolishness and sins, as I experience in more ways how God’s ways are really better and good, how God’s assessment of my sinful heart is so true and He alone can make the crooked paths straight and make level the hills and valleys in me. What started off as a journey with God based on the conviction of my sins in one or two things have turned into more experiences of how only God’s ways are good and my natural desires and tendencies would either lead to a sad, destructive life, or a mundane, selfish life. Even just in the last year as I experienced more of my weaknesses and inabilities as I struggled to grow as a mom, a wife, and a spiritual leader, and as I encountered more of my stubbornness and pride, I have grown deeper in this confession—that I truly am sinful. But the paradox has also been that as I grow deeper in seeing this about myself, it amazes me greatly that Jesus’ response is just follow me, you will be a fisher of men, and it also causes me to trust God’s words and commands more.

  • Compare what Peter was fishing for, and what Jesus is inviting him to.  What is my response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him to become a fisher of men?

Peter was fishing for fish, literally for daily sustenance at the beginning of the day, and it sounds like he wasn’t even making all that much (they caught nothing after fishing all night). What a stark contrast it is at the end of day, where Jesus invites him to become a fisher of men. Peter probably didn’t fully understand what Jesus meant by this, that if he were to follow Him, he would become someone who doesn’t work hard and fish for just his own daily provisions, but someone who will win people’s souls for eternity, for God’s kingdom. Peter’s response is to leave everything behind and follow Jesus, become a disciple of Jesus, and amazing things Peter does experience, later becoming the rock upon which God starts His church on earth. What strikes me is that this one incident strikes up his passion and zeal, and he leaves everything behind to follow Jesus. This is the kind of response I need to have, need to continue to have in order to continue following Jesus’ invitation to become a fisher of men. Think about how in the Gospels, there are many who get excited and follow Jesus, but they are not able to leave things behind and passionately follow, so they don’t end up becoming fishers of men and go back to fishing with their old nets. So at each stage of life, this is something I need to do, consider what I need to leave behind to be a fisher of men and not settle back into daily life that’s just about me. As we enter another year, one way I want to leave behind and fully respond to Jesus’ invitation is by leaving behind what this world tells me is the wise way to live my life at this stage–focusing on nurturing my nuclear family and maximizing all our resources and time for my life, for my needs and comfort. I can become a fisherman for just my little family, and most likely on many days come up with “empty nets,” or I can trust God and the way He’s been leading and providing for my life and continue to trust and follow His plans and become a fisher of men for eternity. And I want to choose and commit to doing the latter.

Prayer:  

Father, I thank you that somehow I have received this amazing invitation of yours to become a fisher of men, and not just settle for the mundane and stressful fishing for survival and my own puny life. I think about where my life was headed, and the reality is that I was all for just working hard to survive for just my own life, that all my values and my desires pointed towards my one life, and at most some family members included. But I look at my life now and the amazing reality is that my life has become interwoven with so many who either through my direct or indirect ways are now souls secured for eternity, fellow brothers and sisters who will be with me for eternity in my Father’s home. And there are many who are also either on the path or very close to crossing that line of faith as well, and it has been the most exciting journey, one that makes me tear up with joy and gratitude, shout with excitement and able see each day as yet another opportunity to reach more, secure more. Who else can promise such an exciting life?

I pray that time and time again, especially as I get older and life tries to throw more chains and temptations to slow me down, that I will continue to walk closely with you, experience feeling weak and seeing my sinfulness so that I can always remain a humble and reliant person on You. I thank you that you show again and again that You are a God whose words can be trusted, and that when I obey, I will experience greater things than what my fearful and sinful heart expects and desires. I pray this will be a year where I will learn to walk ever more closely to You, will grow in deeper trust of your words.

Submitted by Susanna L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

SELF-STUDY

Luke 5:1-11

How did Peter experience this miracle of a catch?  It was through his direct obedience of carrying out what Jesus said.  All logic and his personal experience told him that this was not going to work, as he prefaced his response with, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  Peter tried all night with other fishermen to catch fish but was not able to catch a single one.  Despite his disappointment, doubt, and fatigue, he was willing to let down the nets once more because Jesus said so.

What keeps me from obeying?  What can I learn from Peter’s obedience?  I have disobeyed God at times because it didn’t make sense to me.  I need to step back and analyze this.  What do I know that everything should make sense?  When I make an insistence on obedience based on my own judgment of making sense or being logical, I am giving myself a whole lot of credit that I do not deserve.  I get this from my children at times.  Our (my husband and my) collective knowledge base is richer, deeper, and wiser than what my children have or have experienced. At times I had to persuade my children that their decision making process was faulty because they did not consider several key factors.  At times they were very thankful because they didn’t think about them, but there were times when their desires were so strong that they conveniently did not want to consider these other factors.

In order for Peter to let down the nets, he had humble himself despite his own experience of laboring all night.  It would have been easier if he hadn’t worked so hard all night to catch fish.  But perhaps because he had labored so hard, he had nothing to lose.  Perhaps Peter’s obedience was spurred by his sense of fatigue and failure.

This was the case for me.  I tried living the Christian life based on my will power in my 20s, until I became so weary of trying so hard yet facing failure after failure.  I got so tired of being defeated by my sins that I sometimes didn’t want to continue.  I remember being sick and tired of who I am that I went on a prayer retreat to spend some time thinking, reading the Bible, and praying.  Yet nothing happened at that prayer retreat.  I was so disappointed, I came home and went into a closet and literally cried my eyes out pouring out my heart of disappointment and a sense of failure that I felt as a Christian.  To my shock, I experienced such a sense of God’s presence embracing me and comforting me with His words of forgiveness and encouragement to give it one more try.  Even as I write this, I tear up remembering such a sense of release from my heart of conflict and anguish even though this happened more than 17 years ago.

“Because you say so…”  I want to hold on to these words when obedience is hard because I am tired of my failures or cynical due to disappointments.  Again and again I will face situations in life and in ministry where I have “worked hard…and haven’t caught anything.” What do I need to do?  Despite how I feel, I need to “let down the nets because you say so.”  What are the “nets” that I need to let down as I trust in God’s words? They come in many shapes and forms:  adhering to spiritual disciplines of word and prayer, confessing my specific sins, apologizing when I am in the wrong without resistance or defensiveness, taking steps of faith even though I am afraid, widening my sphere of care and stretching my heart to embrace others and making their problems my own, engaging in difficult talks with those who are straying from God, humbling myself before God and others by asking for help, entrusting the future into God’s hands as worries and anxieties fill my heart, etc.

Another lesson to learn from Peter is his response after the catch. 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).  Based on this confession, it’s very probable that he had some “sinful” thoughts or “sinful” attitude towards Jesus even as he was letting down the nets. I can totally relate to this.  Even in the midst of obedience, I have experienced doubt, fear, and even grumbling in my heart against God.  As God worked this miracle despite Peter’s lack of faith and what was going on his heart, God graciously did the same for me despite the sinful attitude of my heart.  How does Jesus respond to Peter’s humble confession?  Jesus relieves Peter of his fear  and calls him to be fishers of men. And in return Peter leaves everything and follows Jesus. Here is a clear picture of discipleship as “everything encompasses” one’s totality. There is no such thing as straddling the fence or leaving options open in discipleship.  Imagine the wonder and amazement of experiencing this miraculous catch for the fishermen who had labored all night and had caught nothing.  Perhaps Jesus displayed such wonder for these first disciplines for them to get a foretaste of the most amazing journey they will be on as they will be “fishers of men” to catch others to have eternity with God in Heaven.  I am so thankful that I have been called to be one of the “fishers of men” and to partake in this journey with Jesus.

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