The great catch of fishes

This is a devotional based on Luke 5:1-11. 

Jesus’ growing reputation has resulted a crowd gathering to hear his teaching. His congregation is so big now that He has to get into a boat to preach if He doesn't want to be pushed into the water by them. The story takes place on “the lake of Gennesaret,” better known as “the Sea of Galilee.” This is a medium-size lake, eight miles wide and fourteen long.

“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But 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 and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:1–11).

Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God

This is the first occurrence in Luke of the phrase the “Word of God.” The “Word of God” is a synonym for the “the good news of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43).

While Jesus ministered to meet the needs of man—physical, mental, social and spiritual—preaching was His fundamental priority. Through preaching God meets the deepest needs of man. Through preaching the people in Jesus’ presence are convicted of their need for forgiveness. Forgiveness for the soul is man’s deepest need. Jesus had both grace and power to meet every need.

Jesus came preaching because the world is in the grip of Satan, of evil, and He came to set man free from that grip. The world is full of immorality and crime. The world is full of disease and death. The world is full of pain and suffering. All these things are caused by the grip of evil. Jesus preached to tackle that; preaching the Gospel, that means the Good News of freedom of those that have been bound by an enemy. He came to preach the Gospel of God; and what He was saying is, “God has come to set you free” (Romans 6:22). 

Anxious longing

For century after century, Israel had been waiting and longing for God to do something about evil. They recognised that the world is not good, that it is full of things that are evil and enemies of man. And they prayed and prayed and prayed, “O God when will you do something about this? God when will you come and set us free from all these things?”

And Jesus said, “I've come to tell you that God is doing something about it now, after all these centuries, the Good News is God wants to set you free.”

The kingdom of God

What is meant by “the kingdom of God?”

It doesn't mean a political or geographical area. Jesus said, “my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:38). Wherever God's power reaches out and controls, that's the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said, “If I by the spirit of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). Wherever a life has been touched by the power of God, there is the Kingdom.

When Jesus summoned people to repentance and offered forgiveness of sins, He was inaugurating the kingdom of God. God's kingdom was not made manifest through the ousting of Rome, but rather through the defeat of humanity’s real enemies: namely, sin, Satan and death.

Peter

The story starts with a focus on the crowd. But by verse 4 the story hones in on Peter. Peter’s partners are present only in the background. 

Jesus gives Peter instructions.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).

But to Peter, Jesus’ instructions seem absurd. Not only has a night's work by people who fish by profession produced nothing, but the nets used are for night fishing only. You see, the nets featured in this story are “trammel nets,” made of linen. During the day, the fish can see these nets. 

To use them, the boat drops one end of the net down in the water, and then the boat circles with the other end so that the fish are caught in a bag or bowl in the water. In the morning, the fishermen would bring their catch to shore and sort it.

So, Peter responded,

“Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the nets. And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink” (Luke 5:5–7).

The fact that they caught nothing of note during the night, and yet caught a huge catch during the day, points to the miraculous nature of the catch.

Motivation

I would like to share a short story with you.

At a high school graduation, one student was heard to make these remarks: “Yeah, I finally made it. It's a good thing, too. If I had blown it, my parents would have killed me!”

In contrast, another student, a foreign exchange student addressing the audience, declared through her tears, “I want to express my deepest appreciation to my parents for loving me and for giving me the opportunity to get an education in this great land. I want to do everything I can to show them how much I love them and to make them proud of me.”

What a difference in motivation between these students. The first obviously lived in fear of his parents, while the second understood and appreciated what her parents had done for her.

The inscription of Amaziah, a king of Judah, reads, “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2).

Obedience involves attitude, not merely outward actions. What is our motivation when we obey Christ? Do we serve Christ out of fear and self-serving ambition? Or from a loyal heart because we understand and appreciate God's love and what He has done for us?

Repentance

Back to verse 8.

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” (Luke 5:8).

This is real conviction and real repentance. Sometimes, people are sorrowed by getting caught, or they are sorrowed by experiencing the consequences of their actions. But this isn’t real repentance. Real repentance is different.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Repentance is more than just sorrow over what you have done; it is sorrow for what you are. Peter was truly sorry for what he was. 

When a sinner comes in contact with God, he immediately takes a completely negative attitude towards himself and loses all faith and confidence in himself. When Job finally comes face to face with God, he says, “I ABHOR MYSELF, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6); Isaiah says, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am A MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS” (Isa. 6:5).

The reason the world is in the shape it is in, is because the preachers have stopped telling the people they're sinners; they are being told that God loves them no matter what, so don't worry about judgment or hell. 

“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).

“Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:30–31).

Preachers are not telling people to repent! Many are boldly proclaiming that one does not have to repent of sins to be saved. You can't be saved until you are lost, and you'll never think you are lost as long as you are unaware of your problem of sin. As long as you believe you are all right the way you are, you are dead in your sins. You will never trust God's righteousness—the Lord Jesus Christ—as long as you trust your own righteousness.

Most Bible-believing preachers can tell you numerous stories about the so-called “Christians” they've met who were supposedly saved after repeating a brief prayer. There was no Holy Spirit conviction, no change of attitude about the world, the flesh, or their numerous sins, and there was no evidence of a new life after their conversion. 

Do you know why?

Because there was no repentance!

Yet, this person was “chalked up” as another new addition to the Kingdom of God.

Repentance in the Bible has three basic elements: a genuine sorrow towards God (2 Cor. 7:9-10), a genuine separation from sin (Heb. 6:1; Acts 26:20), and a genuine submission to God's will (Acts 9:6; I Thess. 1:9). In other words, repentance involves a totally changed life. 

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

According to the Bible, all things are new once a man is in Christ, and old things are passed away. 

Jesus began his ministry preaching, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Repentance is certainly required for salvation!

Catching men

When Jesus was preaching the Gospel—the good news of the kingdom of God—people’s hearts responded in faith. This miraculous response is known as “catching men.” Let’s see this in verses 9–11.

“For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’ So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:9–11).

This is a later calling than that found in Matthew 4:19-20. In Matthew 4, when Jesus called Peter, James, John, and Andrew to follow him, they merely left their nets; but here, with the exclusion of Andrew, they “forsook all.” They leave everything and follow Jesus, who has invited them to follow Him and to catch people rather than fish—or rather, has turned them from fishermen to fishers of people, for Jesus’ words are not just an invitation, but a declaration: “From now on you will catch men!”

It is common, and proper, to use this passage as an example of the demands of radical discipleship. These three fisherman leave everything—their boats, their nets, their catch, their families—in order to follow Jesus. In this sense, the passage is a call to renunciation.

Only this new existence, created through obedience, can make faith possible. Their trust and obedience have led them to an unimaginable catch. And yet, the miracle of the fish is not the great miracle in this passage. The great miracle in this passage is the conversion of Peter, James and John. 

God is still in the business of miracles.

The greatest miracle of all is that of converting a blind sinner to see their sin and to change the human heart; from one of serving the god of this world to seeing their own sin and the need of a Saviour in Jesus Christ. The greatest miracle of Jesus is that He changes lives. He takes hatred and makes peace and love.

He takes anger and selfishness and makes gentleness and self-sacrifice. The greatest miracle of Jesus is when He changes a life from the inside.

The miracle of human conversion is greater than any healing miracle, greater than casting out demons, greater than the catching of fish, greater than raising the dead, because this miracle brings eternal life in Christ.

When we lead a sinner to Christ, we contribute to this great miracle.

The question is, have we been leading sinners to Christ?

Our Lord has commissioned each of us to share the Good News and “seek the lost.” He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations;” and “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15).

“The fields are ripe unto harvest,” He said.

It is our greatest calling, to share the love and forgiveness He has given us with those who have never received Him as their Saviour and Lord.

Only those who believe are obedient, and only those who are obedient believes!

Have we been obedient?

Have we been sharing the Word of God faithfully?

Can we afford to be selfish with the gospel?

Have we been sharing the Word of God correctly? 

Have we been telling people to repent first, then to believe?

Maybe we have been throwing the net over the wrong side of the boat.

Or maybe the net is still in the boat. Has the boat even been launched into the water? Standing around the nets on land will not bring in the fish!

Jesus said, “Launch out for a catch!”

If Peter, James and John were paying attention, this miraculous catch was symbolic and prophetic of the apostles’ future. For that future oversaw the great wave of gentile believers who were to flood into Christ's church in the years to come.

We need to “launch out for a catch.” I believe the Lord is going to use this church in a mighty way, for the extension of his kingdom, but there is much, much work that needs to be done.

I hope you all share the same vision. I hope we can be in unity of mind and heart about the Lord's Great Commission. A church that is not seeking the lost souls of this world, is a dead church.

If we love the Lord, we should have a heart for the lost souls of this world. We should have a desire from a pure heart to seek the lost.

For the love of Christ compels us to share our faith. In Paul's words, “The love of Christ constrains us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). If you have experienced the love of the Lord Jesus, you will also want to introduce him to others.

Beloved, let's live for the Lord. Let's live life's of obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit, maintaining our first love for our Lord. Let's live life's worthy of the Lord's calling, to do His work.

Let’s begin to claim our loved ones, friends and neighbours for God as we pray. Just as Jesus prayed that the Holy Spirit would work in the lives of his disciples, so we can pray that the Holy Spirit will convict non-believers and give them a strong desire to know God.

Prayer is really the place where people are won to Christ; sharing the Good News is just gathering in the fruit.

This line of work needs prayer. We are on the front line, “in the line of fire,” we need to pray for ourselves and for each other.

In this modern world we are under constant satanic pressure and attack. We must bear one another's burdens through regular prayer. 

Beloved, let's pray for each other! 

Pray that we will be kept from sin, pray that we will not fulfil the lust of the flesh, pray against the deceitfulness of riches, the pride of life. Pray against satanic deception, pray for unity in our church, pray that we will endure, pray that we continue to love each other, the way The Lord loves us.

Let's just pray for each other!

Pastor Joseph shared something that convicted me greatly. He asked the question: “Do you love me?—Do you get down on your knees and pray for me?” What kind of love for each other do we have, if we don't pray for each other?

We are in the midst of a spiritual war, “a fight to the death.”

Praying for each other is vital for the growth of this church and vital for our own spiritual growth. If the Lord is going to use this church, if this church is going to proclaim God's Word boldly from the roof tops, if this church is going to be a beacon of light amidst a dark world, if The Lord is going to raise up fishermen of men from this church to go out and proclaim the Good News, we need to pray for it and pray for each other daily by name. 

You want to see miracles? You want to see miracles? You want to see nets full of people for The Lord? Let's pray for it! Let’s pray for it with singleness of mind and heart!

Praying for it and for each other once a month is not going to cut it. We need to get down on our knees daily and pray for it and for each other. EVERYDAY! EVERYDAY!

You want to see miracles, you want to see things not ascribable to human power? LET’S PRAY FOR IT! LET’S CLAIM THE POWER WE HAVE THROUGH PRAYER, IN THE LORD JESUS! 

Beloved, I tell you, through faith in the power of the Lord, if we pray about this, our eyes will behold and see things we never imagined.

“Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me …” (Romans 15:30)

… for you, for each one here.