Calling of the First Disciples

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

  Jesus, John 12:46

If we let him . . . he will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy, joy, wisdom, and love as we cannot now imagine; a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly, though of course on a smaller scale his own boundless power, light, and goodness.

 – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Encounter

 1One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 

 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 

 5Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 

 6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 

7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 

 8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. 

   Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. 

Luke 5:1-11

Some Observations

We left Jesus yesterday with him saying, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”  We today find him down at the Sea of Galilee (same as Gennesaret) doing just this.  Jesus’ message of “good news” taught with “power and authority,” and accompanied by healing action, continues to attract larger crowds as he moves from town to town.

He approaches Simon to use his boat to teach from there as the crowd presses around him.  Simon agrees, undoubtedly because he knows Jesus and has witnessed his healing power in his own house (yesterday’s encounter).  After Jesus finishes speaking, he tells Simon to go back out for fish; Simon replies that they have been fishing all night and have caught nothing.  Simon then says he will do so, however, “because you say so . . . “

Simon is being obedient and expressing faith, but in the back of his mind he must be thinking, wait a minute, I’m the fisherman here . . . we were out all night and not even a nibble.  After putting the nets, they experience such a catch that the nets begin to break and another boat is required to hold all the fish, but there are so many fish that both boats begin to sink!

Jesus’ miracle of course signifies his power, but also his abundant provision for us when we depend completely on him and have our wills united with his, with such provision directed to the calling of blessing others that Jesus lays out for us.  We will see this theme of multiplication and yields continually throughout Jesus’ teaching and actions.

The irony is quite startling here: Simon and his crew have been out and caught not one fish and now two boats are so full that they are sinking.  I see a smile forming on Jesus’ face as things unfold . . . a very large smile.  Simon and his crew are “astonished” at the catch – again, Jesus’ words and action are continually amazing and astonishing to those around him.

God is better to us than we deserve in all circumstances.  He desires to bless us in a way that astonishes us – in other words, we cannot attribute such blessing to our own effort or luck.

Simon’s response is immediate: he falls to his knees as soon as he sees that catch and exclaims, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  This humility draws an immediate response back from Jesus: “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men.”

Simon exhibited faith (believing that Jesus had the power to do something even when skepticism was warranted), obedience (agreeing to throw the nets back out, though logic dictated otherwise) and humility (acknowledging how unworthy he was to be in Christ’s presence or to experience his blessing).

Faith, obedience and humility are the attributes we will see over and over again as drawing Jesus close to people – these are the criteria he used to choose the first disciples, not knowledge, talent or skill.  Conversely, we will see over and over in the Gospels that pride and self-righteousness (exhibited continually by the knowledgeable, talented, skillful Pharisees) are the things that cause Jesus to respond most harshly.

Jesus’ response to Simon is to “re-purpose” him.  He does not let him wallow in his fear or unworthiness, but rather gives him a new calling and direction.  Jesus desires to do this with any of us that will follow him, regardless of our lack of virtue or outwardly visible qualifications.  He is calling Simon to join him in his stated mission of preaching the good news and the healing and liberation of those they will encounter.

Jesus is acknowledging his own power here – his ability to give us a new calling and asking us to follow him – but says that we should not receive him in fear.

When they reach shore, Simon and his crew (James and John) immediately “left everything and followed him.”  What did they leave behind?  Their assets (the boats, nets, etc.), their former identities, their livelihoods, their home (about to hit the road with Jesus) and presumably even all the fish that filled the boats!

Jesus’ blessing of the huge catch of fish “passes through” Simon, James and John to the next round of equally astonished fishermen that presumably take over the abandoned boats.  We are blessed so that we can bless others.

If we desire Christ’s blessing and to be filled with his purpose, we must similarly be willing to forsake the things we cling to – most of which relate to what we depend on for our identities (e.g., success, reputation, status, assets, income, stuff, self-righteousness, etc.) – to follow Jesus.

Luke will give us a deep understanding of what this type of life looks like.


“Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.  Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her and she will honor you.  She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”

  Proverbs 4:7-9

A Prayer

“How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

  Psalm 13:1, 2, 5, 6