In my last years of high school, I applied for a nomination.
To enter a US service academy, you need a political nomination,
from your congressman, a senator, the Vice President or President.
I didn’t apply to the President, but I think I tried all the others.
I expected that the VP was just too busy with the whole country.
My senators were Ted Kennedy and John F. Kerry. They ignored me.
But my congressman, a notorious man named Gerry Studds,
he surprisingly gave me the nomination I needed.
Well, that experience taught me that some people are hard to reach.
The halls of power in Washington, and maybe even Salem or Olympia,
tend to pull those who work there away from their constituents.
Wisely, many citizens don’t want to be noticed by the powerful.
But does it all apply to God, too?
When the Son of God came to Earth,
did His lofty status make Him hard to reach? You’d think it would.
Not only am I too ordinary for someone so special,
like a generic Lego character with a yellow face;
more importantly, I’m from the race of fallen Mankind.
I was born into rebellion against God. Would His Son care about me?
The fisherman Simon in our text was much like us.
He listened to this new rabbi preach, and even helped him.
But Jesus was trying to reach Simon!
The eternal Lord gathers sinners to follow Him.
He approaches them with His Word.
He calls them by His grace.
So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”
And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled 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.
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 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.
The Lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee.
It was the center of the region where Jesus did a lot of teaching.
But it’s not a small body of water.
You can see across, but not much, because it’s far.
Luke tells us that the multitude was pressing around Jesus.
They wanted to hear the Word of God, and expected it from Him.
Simon, it seems, was not part of the pressing crowd.
He was washing nets at his boat.
He didn’t know Jesus yet, but Jesus knew him.
He chose Simon’s boat as a place to sit,
so that the gathered people on the shore could hear Him preach.
This is typical of every time God makes contact with us.
At the center of that contact is His Word, His message.
Jesus sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
How many of them knew that were hearing the speech of God?
How many knew that the same Word created all things?
If you answered “not many,” I think you’re right.
The Man teaching from Simon’s boat was more than He appeared,
just as the Word He preached was much more than it seemed.
“It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Cor. 1:21.
To the world, God’s Word is foolish, and it’s also weak,
and Jesus Himself appeared to be no stronger than any other man.
It has pleased God to do things this way,
so that we may know Him by faith, rather than by our minds.
It’s easy for sinful man to reject God and His Word.
In fact, it comes naturally and reflexively.
But there was something special about Jesus and His teaching.
Though some did reject it, others believed,
and Simon saw first-hand the proof of who He was.
“Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Up until now, Jesus was like any other rabbi to Simon.
Maybe Simon listened closely to what Jesus was teaching, or not.
Certainly, Simon respected him enough for the use of his boat.
But foolish teaching that was easily ignored became personal.
Now Jesus wanted Peter to follow His instructions.
It’s more comfortable to be a Christian without demands.
When God’s Word requires you to do something, you don’t like it.
Jesus was asking Simon to do what no fisherman was doing.
Up and down the shore were fishermen like Simon,
who were washing their nets, or selling their catch.
Have you ever felt that being a Christian must look foolish?
That maybe your colleagues or fellows are amused at you?
That embarrassment you feel is another kind of sin,
because it’s like disowning God Himself.
But Simon was pious and respectful enough.
He knew it would be wasted effort, but he’d amuse the Rabbi.
And the fish kept coming. There was no end to them.
His parter boat was brought to help, and there was no end.
Those clean nets were breaking, and the boats weighed down.
Where did they come from? How could it be?
How did a rabbi know more about fishing than Simon?
Simon had never seen so many fish, and the water had been empty!
This must be the work of the rabbi.
No, this was the work of God.
That preaching, that simple, beautiful Word taught by Jesus:
It brought Simon into the story,
and now its power revealed the hidden identity of Jesus.
And like that ordinary, weak-seeming Word,
Jesus came to Simon for a purpose much greater and more noble.
Jesus is the eternal Lord God.
And He was still sitting in Simon’s boat, with fish teeming beneath.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying,
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
Earlier, Simon had been surprisingly polite,
but now he wanted Jesus to go away.
Does that seem strange to you?
Do you think you would respond differently?
This was the power of the Creator,
who on the fifth day of Creation said,
“Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures…”
And when they appeared, He said,
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas…”
The only conclusion: Jesus has the power of God.
That may not be the only conclusion for you.
You haven’t seen anything like that, as far as I know.
You’ve only heard the Word of God,
which tells us what Simon did, and what he saw.
Will your conclusion agree with Simon’s?
We live in an age of powerful unbelief.
Oh, that was in Simon’s time also,
but today the spirit of unbelieving naturalism is must stronger.
In the last 200-300 years, godless philosophies arose,
and they have swept through the world.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, the French Revolution, Darwin and Marx.
Later, those influences brought the Soviet Union,
and the national socialists of Germany and elsewhere.
But the same ideas drove men like Horace Mann and John Dewey,
the architects of American public education.
Today, we don’t realize how much we are also under its spell,
because unbelieving naturalism is in the very air we breathe.
So do you kneel prostrate with Simon, in fear and awe?
Or not seeing the miracle yourself, does it seem like a fiction?
Simon knew who made the sea, the fish, the sun, moon and stars.
But today, we’re constantly told that they weren’t made.
Rather, unbelieving naturalism denies God from the start.
So when we read of a miracle like this,
the naturalist in us searches for some other explanation.
But take a cue from Simon. Jesus wasn’t just any teaching rabbi.
The ordinary-seeming man in his boat was the Lord God.
And likewise, the ordinary word we hear from Holy Scripture
is really the holy and all-powerful Word of God.
Simon’s reaction comes from his true knowledge of himself,
next to his true knowledge about God.
Simon felt the guilt of his sin, and knew it was real.
He also knew that God is holy, and a righteous judge.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:18,
the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…
Simon was very small beside the awesome power of Jesus
Like Nadab and Abihu, who went before the Lord with profane fire,
and were killed by His holiness,
like Uzzah, who tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant,
and God struck him for his error, so that he died.
You may sometimes notice the majesty and wisdom of God,
when you see the power of a storm, the beauty of a sunset,
or hear carefully-crafted music or words.
But the glory of the Creator is so much greater,
with the truth, goodness, and beauty of His Word.
You stand under the same condemnation as Simon, the sinful man.
But when you fall to your knees in repentance, Jesus has mercy.
To Simon, He said, “Do not be afraid.
From now on you will catch men.”
He directly and immediately called Simon and his companions
to be His disciples, doing the work He would give them.
And see the effect this call had upon their lives!
So when they had brought their boats to land,
they forsook all and followed Him.
You have also been called in grace by the Word of Jesus:
to repent of your sins,
to receive God’s forgiveness,
and forsaking all, to live out your vocation as a Christian.
So you didn’t have to approach God in heaven after all,
because He gathers sinners Himself, to follow Him.
Do not be afraid,
because He has called you in grace to live as His own,
forgiven your sins, and guaranteed to you everlasting life.
Soli Deo Gloria