Follow Me

Jesus Revealed: He’s After People

Luke 5:1-11

Recently, a fellow pastor, who I was getting to know, asked me how I came to know Jesus. So I shared a bit of my story and asked him to share his story with me.

How would you answer that question? How did you come to know Jesus? Some might say it began at their baptism as a child. Their parents brought them to the baptismal font, raised them in the faith, and they have always known Jesus. Others might say it was through a Bible camp experience as a kid or a retreat as an adult like Cursillo. I know of others who were awakened spiritually at an evangelistic crusade. My clergy friend told me it all began for him when he received a personal witness from someone who told him of what the Savior had done for him.

Someone might describe these awakening experiences as a personal epiphany. An epiphany is a sudden awakening. The light goes on to who Jesus is and who I am in my need for Him. It’s an “aha” moment of revelation about Jesus, and it changes the outlook and direction of one’s life.

Today’s passage tells us of Simon Peter’s epiphany and how he came to know and follow and serve Jesus Christ. We must keep in mind that this was not Simon Peter’s first encounter with Jesus. Earlier in the book of Luke, Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law in the town of Capernaum. Peter had heard Jesus teaching with authority in the synagogue about the kingdom of God and the Good News of God’s salvation being fulfilled.

According to the other Gospels, Peter had already received an invitation from Jesus to follow. However, it all came together for him at a particular moment on the Sea of Galilee in his fishing boat, of all places. Peter saw the light. Jesus was at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and the crowds were gathering around Him to listen to this exciting preacher and miracle worker. They were pressing in on Him, wanting to hear the Word of God. Jesus had developed quite a following early on, and so it seems there wasn’t enough room for Him to effectively speak to a crowd like this. He needed more space and some amplification in order to be heard by the large crowd gathered around Him.

Jesus saw fishermen – Simon Peter, James, and John – taking weeds out of their nets after fishing all night. He recruited the use of Peter’s boat. One could even say He commandeered it. He invited Himself into it, stepped into it, and then asked Peter to take Him out a little way so He could teach from the boat. Peter was agreeable and motioned a couple hired hands to join them. As they pushed the little 16 footer out from the shore into shallow water, it provided room for Jesus to sit, and it gave Him natural amplification as He spoke to His audience. Peter and his mates actually got front-row seats to hear Jesus preach.

One has to wonder if something stirred in Simon Peter as he listened. Perhaps. We do know that, when Jesus was done teaching, instead of asking Peter to take Him to shore, He told him – He didn’t ask, but told Peter – to go out a little deeper in the sea and let down his nets for a catch of fish. I am sure those experienced and tired fishermen, who had been up all night, weren’t very excited to go to all the trouble. We hear Peter respond, “Master, we toiled all night and did not catch a thing. Still, he obeyed. “At your word, I will let down the nets.”

Perhaps this deference on the part of Peter came from having witnessed Jesus’ authority earlier when Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Maybe it was a message from the day or days before. Who knows? In any case, they followed orders, went farther out, and let down the nets to see if this Amateur knew something they didn’t know. (Everyone knows it’s best to fish at nighttime when the fish are near the surface. The fish would be too deep during the heat of the day to net.)

Suddenly a huge school of fish swam into those nets – so many fish that the nets began to break. Peter signaled the other boat to help them, and they filled up both boats to the point of almost sinking. Water was coming over the edge of the boats. Can you just picture the scene? It must have been just wild out there! Simon was now up to his knees in flopping fish. But instead of dancing around and celebrating the greatest catch of his life, Simon sank to his knees and cried out, “Depart from me. I am a sinful man, Lord.” Why did Simon say that?

When we turn to the Old Testament and examine stories such as Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple, we find that, as he became aware of God’s presence in holiness, he also became aware of his own sinfulness. Isaiah was afraid of being destroyed by God’s holiness. The same sort of thing happened in the calling of Moses, Gideon, and Ezekiel. When confronted by the holiness of God, they were afraid.

It is also true for Peter. He was totally astonished at how this Amateur could have known where the fish were. It was almost like He had control over those fish, over nature. Only God has that ability. Peter was suddenly awakened to the fact that he, an unclean, imperfect, sinful, ordinary man, was standing on holy ground, in the very presence of God the Almighty.

Notice, Jesus didn’t go away. Instead, He said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be catching people.” That, my friend, is forgiveness. An unspoken, wordless absolution on the part of Jesus. Instead of condemnation, Peter received an unexpected, undeserved invitation to have a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God, and participate in His kingdom enterprise. Peter brought absolutely nothing to the table as he humbly admits his sinfulness before Jesus. But Jesus says, You are in. The past is behind you. From now on, you’re mine. I am going to use you to catch people. It is what we call amazing grace.

When they came ashore, Peter and the others were so overcome by what they experienced that they dropped their nets, left their boats – their very livelihood – and followed Jesus. One commentator writes, “The miracle of faith (the astonishing catch of fish) was so overwhelming that the practical matters of boats, business, family, and fish were left behind by Peter and his friends.”

So begins the adventure for Simon Peter. Just think of all that lay ahead for him. He witnessed great healings and a deeper knowledge of God. Christ’s power was displayed in miracles over nature, death, and the devil himself. Peter walked on water with Jesus, witnessed Him on the cross, and after the resurrection. He experienced forgiveness after failing Jesus, and a renewed call to feed Christ’s people by the Sea of Galilee.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said that first day in the boat. Peter saw Jesus’ vision fulfilled on Pentecost with a catch of 3,000 converts and thousands of others in the days following, which we read the book of Acts. His missionary duties went way beyond that in the months and years to follow as he wrote letters, which have brought others closer to Jesus.

This story is classified by biblical scholars as a combination epiphany/call story, like the calling of Moses and Gideon, prophets of the Old Testament. It is not just an amazing fishing story, for it holds an important truth for us. It answers the question, Who is Jesus? This story identifies Him as the presence of God. He is God in the flesh, Immanuel – God with us.

Attached to this epiphany is a gracious, promising call to an ordinary, sinful fisherman.

Hey Pete, how did you get to know Jesus?

Well, it all began when we went fishing together, and we never stopped. We moved from fishing for fish to something more important – fishing for people to save them. What a great life it has been with Jesus!

This story was saved, passed on, recorded by Luke, and inspired by the Holy Spirit for a deep purpose. It is more than a fishing story, which causes us to marvel and scratch our heads. It is actually meant to move us toward Jesus.

First of all, it is an announcement from heaven above. It reveals to us that Jesus is the Son of God and has power and authority over this world. He calls sinful persons like you and me to place our lives in His hands and fall in behind Him in faith. He can do amazing things in our lives. Millions – even billions – of people testify that knowing and trusting Christ means living life to the full.

Yesterday, I was listening to a story about a man whose life had fallen apart. He had become involved with crime and drugs. He was busted and went to prison. During his time in prison, someone introduced him to Jesus Christ. His life has never been the same since! He smiles and often reflects on the new direction Jesus has given him.

This is Jesus, the holy One of God, the One we see in the story, given for the unholy. He was the perfect sacrifice for humanity’s sin, for He went on to give His life as a payment to cover your sin. And He rose from the grave, triumphant over the power of sin, death, and the devil to rescue you forever. He is the first fruits of the resurrection. Those who trust in Him will follow. As Paul says, “He who knew no sin became sin (at the cross), that we might become the righteousness of God” II Cor. 5:21. He promises to always be present with those who call upon His name and go fishing for others with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We in the Church of Jesus need to be constantly reminded of this calling upon our lives. We live in a broken world filled with broken people who need what Christ came to give – new life, healing for the sinful soul. The Church has the mandate to fish. It is our number one mandate.

A few years ago, James Kennedy said, “One of the saddest statistics of our day is 95% of all church members have never led anyone to Christ.” This was years ago. I have to believe the statistic is probably even higher today. And the sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be complicated and as scary as some people have made it.

I read a little story awhile back that touched my heart. Greg tells of a stop at a McDonald’s drive-through for lunch. He said, “After placing my order, I came to the drive-up window to pay. I noticed an attractive, hand-carved cross hanging from the woman’s neck. So I commented, “I like your cross.” Her reply was a lesson to me in how simple it is to share one’s testimony. “Thank you. I like the Person who died on it for my sins, and I love the Person who rose from the grave after having died on the cross.” She could’ve easily left it at thank you, but her faithful witness touched another life and drew him even closer to the Lord that day.

Sharing your faith doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember, you are powered by the Holy Spirit Himself. We are not meant to be aquarium keepers, but fishermen and women for Jesus Christ who are committed to bringing others to Him so they might receive the same grace that enriches our lives.

One last story.

The Mercedes-Benz company had a television commercial, which showed one of their automobiles colliding with a cement wall. The commercial demonstrated the energy-absorbing car body all Mercedes-Benz automobiles have. In the commercial, a company spokesman was asked why they didn’t patent the car body design to prevent it from being copied by other automobile companies. The company spokesman said, “Because some things in life are too important not to share.”

Some things in life are too important not to share – like the Good News of Jesus Christ. Church, it’s time to fish. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

Jesus Revealed: The Truth

Luke 4:21-30

I would like to do a little sanctified imagining with you today as we begin this message.

Picture two men walking down a dirt road in the city of Nazareth. They’ve just been to a worship service at the synagogue. Their brows are furrowed and one of them is very animated, waving his arms around, anger in his eyes saying, “That preacher made me so mad!” His friend responds, “Yeah, me too.” “He started off fine. He seemed like a nice young guy, but by the end of his message, I could have killed him!” “Yeah,” his friend said, “He’s lucky he got out of town alive! I wonder, by the way, how he avoided getting thrown off the cliff. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever witnessed. Kind of a miracle.”

If this preacher was a friend of yours, would you advise him to move on and start looking for a new call? The preacher those two men were talking about was Jesus. He had just preached in His hometown of Nazareth. He’d read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue service and then expounded on the text announcing He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The new day God had long ago promised through Isaiah had finally arrived. The release is here. Help has arrived. The year of the Lord’s favor has come. Good news! Good things ahead.

Look at their response. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at His gracious words . . .” You can almost hear it:
Oh, He read that well.
• I like that passage. It’s my favorite.
• It is really good news, all right – a King, a Redeemer from God coming to help us. Wouldn’t it be something?

At the same time, though, they were asking themselves: But Him? Jesus? Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the carpenter? We watched him grow up in this town. They were skeptical and hesitant to buy into this news.

Maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on them, though. Other so-called “messiahs” had come and gone. They had promised uprisings against the power of Rome, only to fail disastrously and bring their whole community down with them. It is the reason they questioned if they should risk following Jesus. Perhaps they would wind up destroyed just like their neighbors down the road in Sepphoris.

True, they had heard through the grapevine about His preaching and miracles in other towns like Capernaum, but He had not shown any of those signs in His own hometown of Nazareth.

This is not the reaction Jesus was looking for in response to His Good News. His own hometown didn’t respond in faith. They listened to His nice words, then questioned His pedigree. So Jesus didn’t stop there. He kept on preaching to overcome their unbelief.

The second part of His message was actually quite courageous when you think about it. He knew their thoughts and went on to quote two familiar proverbs – “I know what you’re thinking, ‘Physician, heal thyself’. You are waiting for miracles from me like I did at Capernaum.”

Then He continued with another proverb: “Truly I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” He seemed to be referring to Himself as a prophet. A prophet, remember, is one chosen by God to speak God’s truth to His people.

Jesus then used two illustrations from a very dark time in Israel’s history of unbelief and spiritual apostasy against God as the people worshiped idols. “(Speaking of prophets) remember Elijah.” The people were suffering a famine as punishment for their disobedience to God. He chose to feed a non-Jewish woman when everyone else was starving.

Then Jesus told the story of Elisha, which we find in Second Kings. “There were a lot of lepers in Israel, but God chose to only heal the non-Jewish soldier, Naaman, who acted in faith and did as Elisha told them.”

Suddenly the crowd was stirred up! They were angry, up in arms! Hostility filled the room with rage against Jesus. He got a response but not what He was hoping for. Although He was attempting to awaken them to truth, to repentance, and belief, instead He got rage!

Why all this rage? Well, first of all, they hated gentiles, non-Jews. Prejudice ran deep against their enemies. They believed God would destroy the gentiles and elevate Israel to a position of power in the world. They had come to believe God only cared about the people of Israel. So when Jesus talked about God caring for non-Jews, in their minds Jesus is talking crazy, giving false prophecy, and they won’t hear of it. They were right and He was wrong. Let’s get rid of Him. Shut this false prophet up, as scripture says.

They were insulted as well. Jesus seemed to be comparing them to the evil ones, the dark ones who had turned away from God back in history. How dare He say something like that! We are good people, God-fearing people. Not a very happy ending to the story.

They rejected Him so greatly that the congregation became an angry mob and drove Him out of town. They even tried to throw Him off a cliff. Fortunately they didn’t succeed. Why? Because the only miracle they saw that day was Jesus passing through the mob unharmed. How it happened, I don’t know. Did He become invisible? Did everybody just freeze while He walked through? I don’t know. But we do know this: God protected Him, for it was not His time yet.

This episode is actually a witness from God to His people affirming the identity of Jesus. What He said was true. Jesus left them behind in their unbelief and anger, never to return. I would classify this as a tough day in the pulpit, wouldn’t you? And yet this episode is only a preview of what’s to come for Jesus, and eventually His Church. God’s Good News announced, then rejected with hostility and violence. As John, the Gospel writer, says, “He came to His own and His own received Him not.”

So, as we think about our sermon theme, Jesus Revealed, what is being revealed to us about Jesus today?
• Jesus is the appointed Messiah from God, the fulfiller of Old Testament promises.
• He wants us to receive His truth from God; He has come like the prophets of old. In fact, Jesus is the Messiah and says of Himself, “I am the Truth.”

What are we to do with this truth? Receive it! Sometimes the truth can upset and disturb us. Jesus’ words in today’s story challenged people’s prideful and prejudicial assumptions in Nazareth, His own hometown! They had come to believe God didn’t care about anybody except them. They were sure He hated everybody but Jews, even though God had told them in the Old Testament to be a light to the nations, a blessing to the nations of the earth. Somehow, in all their hurt and disappointment over time, this truth had gotten set aside in favor of the idea that God hated those who oppressed them. He hated them as much as they did, and it became the truth they lived by. When Jesus came along and said otherwise, their response was Kill the preacher!

Sometimes the truth can be very upsetting. Jesus’ truth can still upset many even today. Let’s look at some of the assumptions people carry around, which Jesus might shake up a little bit with this truth.

We love Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It is good, comforting news. We like the idea that Jesus is here to take care of us. Some might even believe life is going to be pain-free and happy with Jesus.

However, later Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me and be My disciple, let him deny himself and take up His cross and follow Me. It’s in losing your life for My sake that you find it” (Matthew 16:24). This passage is a little more upsetting and challenging to us. That’s not what I was looking for! Some people say, It sounds difficult, sacrificial, inconvenient. I want comfort, not the cross. God wants me to be healthy and wealthy. That is His plan for my life. These words are upsetting, and so I don’t buy it!

Jesus also told us “God so loved the world He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We like inserting our name in the statement: God so loved Steve, God so loved Mary. But then the same Jesus goes on to say, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” even if your neighbor is someone who’s not like you, someone you might even consider despicable.

And oh, by the way, pray for your enemies who hurt you. This upsets us because we want to believe there are some people even God can’t love. So we don’t have to love them either. Love that person? You’ve got to be kidding, Jesus! We are more comfortable with our prejudices and judgments.

We read these lovely words in John 14: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you?” We like this news. It’s comforting to us, especially in our funerals. But then Jesus goes on to say, “(Remember) I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. Nobody comes to the Father but by me.”

These words upset people. Wait a minute! I don’t like that! I’m tolerant, open-minded. I’ve always believed all roads lead to God. I just happen to be on the Jesus road. My non-Christian neighbor is on her road. Who am I to question her beliefs?

Someone else might respond, If Jesus died for everybody, then everybody is saved. He never intended to be so narrow and exclusive. Maybe He didn’t really say these words. It’s upsetting.

Sometimes people hurt us. We carry our grudges and our bitterness. We long for revenge and think someday they’ll get theirs if we have our way. But Jesus tells us to “Forgive as I have forgiven. If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you.” I’ve seen this kind of talk upset many people. They want their pound of flesh. They want to get even. They believe revenge is sweet.

Jesus can really be upsetting. But here is some good news from the truth-teller Himself:

“If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples.
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32.

His truths are given not to hurt, but to help. Listen to Him. Trust Him.

As the citizens of Nazareth tried to throw Him off a cliff that day, little did they know He truly was speaking the truth from God. It was early in His ministry.

You and I, however, live on the other side of the resurrection. God affirmed every word Jesus said as truth when He raised Him on Easter. Jesus is the One who has the words of eternal life.

He has come to save us from ourselves, to expose us to our pride, our false assumptions, our sinfulness, and put us on a new path of freedom with His Gospel, leading us to the way of life God intended for us – eternal life. You see, Jesus didn’t come to soothe you in your sin; He came to save you from your sin. He didn’t enter this world to tell you what you want to hear, but what you really need to hear and believe. Out of love for you, He went to the cross to pay for your debt of sin and rescue you. He rose from the grave proving once and for all He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Him. His way, His truth is life.

Some reject Him in His truth, while others receive Him. To reject Him is to reject life with God. To receive Him is to receive life. Millions upon millions have discovered He is the One who sets us free from our sin and its consequences of death. He is the One who lights up a life with His love, grace, and constant presence. He is the One who has the words of life, which we need to listen to and follow.

I thank God for this disturbing, truth-telling preacher Jesus, for this Savior has spoken into my life and changed it for the better. I don’t even want to think of where I’d be without Jesus in my life. I hope He is in yours, too.

One last word for those who have received Him, who serve Him in His Church and in the world. Remember that, according to chapter 1 of Luke, this story was written for a believer named Theophilus. The story is not only meant to reveal Jesus’ identity to us, it’s also meant to reassure and encourage followers to stand strong on the truth of Jesus Christ.

Don’t be surprised if you face some rejection and take a hit of some sort for the truth of the Gospel of Christ. According to this story, you stand in good company if it happens: Jesus Himself. He promises, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer