Test and Prove
Well, good morning, I hope you had a sweet Christmas. I know we had a great time celebrating at my house. In fact, I'm actually kind of sad Advent is over, but we as a church are now going to transition from our Advent series into our new series going through the Gospel of Luke.
We're not going to go verse by verse through Luke. We're going to take sections and try to cover the whole breadth of Luke. We're going at a faster pace because we want to have a well rounded diet this year. We want to get into the Old Testament. We want to go to other parts of the Bible, so we can expose ourselves to the whole counsel of the word of God.
Test and Prove
Today, we're looking at two miracles, miracles that show a pattern we see throughout the Gospel of Luke—
Jesus constantly declares who he is in two ways:
what he says
what he does—the miracles he does.
And that revelation demands a response.
Every time we see one of these miracles, it's very clear that Jesus is not doing them for entertainment value, as if the people in Jerusalem were bored on a Friday afternoon and Jesus decided he'd spice things up.
They're not to show off. They're not even to make someone's life more convenient. Rather, all of these miracles are saying something very specific about Jesus. They all force this question on us: Who is Jesus? Who is this Jesus?
When we answer that question, it is going to have implications. If Jesus is who he says he is, the very Son of God, then he deserves the response that Simon gave him: “I’m leaving everything and following Jesus.”
But we aren’t able to follow Jesus around on foot, like Simon and the other disciples did. So what does it mean today for us to leave everything and follow Jesus. Do we need to quit our jobs, move, sell everything? What does it mean for us today?
Well let’s look at the text.
Finding a Pulpit
Well, for our first miracle, Luke takes us to the lake of Gennesaret where we meet Simon and the other disciples, but the story focused quickly on Simon. We will see that this miracle is tailor made to address Simon.
Now, this is not the first time that Simon has met Jesus. At this point, he's seen him teach. He's actually seen him expel a demon from a person. He's even seen Jesus come and heal his own mother-in-law in his house. But Simon is still wrestling with this call on his life in relation to Jesus.
So we're at this lake, and the crowd is pressing around Jesus wanting to hear the word of God. Jesus looked and saw Simon's boat, and he asked Simon if he would paddle him out.
Simon does so, and now Jesus converts this fishing boat into his pulpit and begins to “fish for men.” He teaches the word of God to this crowd, and when he is done, he turns this pulpit back into a fishing boat by asking Simon, “Would you let down your net into that deep water?”
Here's Simon's response.
“Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5).
The first part of Simon's response is one of caution. Simon has been fishing all night, and he knows this spot is all fished out. It's kind of this moment of trying to save face for Jesus.
Simon’s saying, “There's this crowd that you just taught. They're all looking at you. They're going to be looking at us. It will be embarrassing to drop the nets in and not bring any fish up.” In short, he's warning Jesus that he thinks it's not going to work.
Not to mention, it's daytime. Simon and his buddies did not fish at night because they liked the stars. They did it because that's when the fish bite. He's reiterating for Jesus that this really is a kind of fool's errand.
But he's been around Jesus enough to not doubt completely. He's just heard this teaching and he says, “I may not understand it, I don't know how it's going to work, but if you say it, I will do it because something might happen.”
What a sweet example of faith. This kind of response is so relevant for us as we start the new year. As we come into the new year, many of us may have made the resolution, “We're going to read the Bible in a year, two years, etc.”
Well, we all know there's that time that comes when you've been reading the word, and it has been dry. So you wake up the next day, feeling like it's going to be the same. “Why would it be any different? Is it even worth it. I've been doing this for a week now, and I’m getting nothing out of it.”
You're kind of like Simon, “I fished that. It’s all fished out. Nothing there.” But like Simon, we can respond by saying, “You, Jesus, have promised that this word will feed me. You promised that there is life here.”
You say to your own soul, “I know it doesn't make a lot of sense. I don't know why today would be different, but you have said to do this, and I'll do it. I will even expect something to happen because you said it will. I don’t know how it is going to happen. It seems improbable.”
So if you are going to read the Bible this year, let me say, “You can make it.” But you are going to need tools like this to help you stay the course by refueling your motivation when it wanes.
Okay, let’s get back to what happens when Simon agrees to drop the net.
He lets down the net, and sure enough, it is full of fish, so much so that he has to call his partners. They all load the fish into the boats, and the boats are so full of fish that they're sinking.
Now we must pause for a minute lest we swim right past this miracle. We become so familiar with these miracles that we can forget how stunning it really is.
Don’t let familiarity kill the sense of wonder; we are supposed to join in here with Peter. Sometimes it helps just to be reminded to wake up to wonder. The Lunds once recommended a show to my wife and I called “The Carbonaro Effect”. A street magician gets companies to let him pretend he is working there and then he plays tricks on people. In one, he is working at a sports store and a lady walks in to get her custom bowling ball. He pulls out this bowling-ball size box, but when he opens it he pulls out a basketball. Needless to say, she is disappointed, but then he reaches into the same box and pulls out her bowling ball. She is stunned. She is sitting there dumbfounded at how both a basketball and a bowling ball could come out of the same box. The greatest part of the show is watching people’s wonder, amazement, even fear when this “miracle” happens.
But for Jesus, this is not a sleight of hand. There is no smoke and mirrors. This is the real deal. I mean Jesus can have someone just put the net in the water and demand fish to get into the net.
Jesus fills a net full of fish, and we've got to understand what this means for Simon. He's seen Jesus expelled demons. Something Simon probably knows nothing about. He’s seen him teach the word. Simon's not professionally trained in the Bible. None of these are his areas of expertise. But there's one area that Simon knows, and he knows well: fishing.
This miracle has this moment where the carpenter’s son, Jesus, says to this fisherman, “drop your nets”, and Simon responds, “I know my trade. I know this. This is my turf.” But Jesus wants Simon and others to see something about Jesus.
What Jesus does is puts his finger on the one thing Simon thought he had control over. But this time, the night before didn't go well. Jesus looks at this one area where Simon thought he reigned and says, “I'm sovereign even over that.”
At that moment, it clicks for Simon: “If he's sovereign over that, he's sovereign over everything. This is no ordinary man.” Simon drops to his knees, and here's his response. In light of all that, it does not seem super radical.
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).
Simon knows he's in the presence of the divine, of the holy. In that presence, he feels the weight of his own sin, and the judgment that should follow. It's just going to come barreling down on him, and Jesus looks at him and says,
“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10)
At that moment, Jesus takes this miracle and changes it simply from a miracle about gathering fish into a parable about how Jesus and Simon and all of the disciples are going to make more disciples. It won't be by Simon’s strength. It won't be from his intuition. It will be through Christ and his word and what he says, and from that, many will come into the net.
Finally, we see Simon's response in verse 11:
“And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11)
This miracle was not done so that Simon could feed his family for the next year. It wasn't done to wow a crowd. It wasn't even done as a moral lesson. Jesus performed this miracle to say something about himself: “I am Lord over all.”
When a miracle and Jesus's teaching come together to declare that, it demands a response. The right response was, “ I’m leaving everything, and I'm following you.”
I’m not sure if you have ever been in the presence of someone who was really persuasive, or a great public speaker, or a great leader. There just seems to be this natural impulse to want to be around them, to follow them. This would be something like that, but on a divine scale. It would be far greater.
Who Is this Jesus?
So just like the disciples, we are forced to answer this question, “Who is this Jesus?” At this point, Simon had seen Jesus and interacted with him, but this was the moment.
This morning, if there's some of you here who have seen Jesus, you’ve heard about him, but the verdict for you is still out about who this Jesus is, I'm praying this morning, I've been praying, the other leaders this morning prayed that this morning you might see Jesus for who he is, the son of God, and respond like Simon: “I’m leaving everything and I'm following you.”
I’m praying that just like Simon, you would see this miracle and see that Jesus is Lord of all. Then, your next response would be that in the light of that, I am not worthy to be in his presence for I’m a sinner. Then, you would hear those comforting words, “Do not be afraid.” Why? Because Jesus has taken away your sin, and I pray that that might happen for the first time to some of you today.
Now, for most of us, we've answered the question of who this Jesus is, and now we're left challenged by Simon's response. He left everything and followed him, but what does that mean? What does that mean for us to leave everything and follow Jesus?
I don’t think for most of us it means to quit our jobs and move to some foreign land. Though as always, I’ll mention that I hope that is true of some of us. So what does it mean then?
Well in light of Simon’s response, I think the main question that we have to ask ourselves is, “Is there anything in our lives that we value too much to leave for his sake.” That’s how we can apply this simple truth to our daily lives. Am I loving anything more than the gospel?
Think of the rich man who comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life in Luke 18. Jesus tells him “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” “But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” (Luke 18:22–23)
Is there one thing in our lives that Jesus could look at and say, “This one thing you lack in your full devotion to me”?
We might think it's fine to move to a smaller house, only eat rice and beans, etc. Whatever it is, we might be okay with these things, but is there something in your life that you would be tempted to say, “No, I don’t think I can give that up.”?
Responding like Simon doesn’t mean you need to quit your job tomorrow, but it does mean you need to be willing to leave all things for his sake. If Jesus is who he says he is, the answer to that should be, “It's all yours.” Whatever you need, whatever it calls for, I will do.” Here's how it's talked about in Luke 14; Jesus says:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26–27).
In the least, that verse means that we'd be willing to leave anything for his sake, anything at all to follow him.
All for God’s Glory
This call to follow Jesus will be costly. That’s the short of it. It will mean denying your flesh, in whatever scenario you are in, and joyfully following Jesus. It will mean following Simon’s example when we see what Jesus is asking, and we don’t know how it is going to turn out, but we follow his word and do it.
The main question for those who have accepted Christ is not, “are you willing to leave your job, but are you willing to give whatever it costs for you to follow Christ whole-heartily in your daily life?”
It doesn’t have to be material objects. For many of us, it will mean living following Jesus in our day-in, day-out job. Most of you spend 40 hours a week, probably more, there. Leaving everything and following Jesus in those moments may mean finding a way to have a conversation with a co-worker about Christ, even though it may be embarrassing and you can think of a hundred reasons, like Simon, as to why the fish aren’t going to fill the net. Plus you have to see them every day, so if it doesn’t go well, it will be awkward. But you know that it says in his word to be bold with the gospel, so you go for it, not knowing what is going to come of it.
Or it might mean that you're working on a project, and there's a shortcut that you can take. And you think to yourself, “Probably nobody will notice, yet you're reminded of the call to work with excellence so that you might have a light that shines through the darkness.” So you do the hard work, not knowing what's going to come of. It seems like nothing's going to come of it, but Jesus said it in his word, and therefore you do it.
For most of us, it will mean getting up early, before the kids wake up, before we have to get ready for work, so that we can fill ourselves up on the word, lest we chase whatever else we can to fulfill us during the day.
Okay, we’ll stop our examples there.
Finding the Pattern
Let’s look at the second miracle where we will see this same pattern of teaching and Jesus proving who he is by the miracle.
Here Jesus heals a leper. Look at verse 12:
“While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”” (Luke 5:12)
Now, everyone in that day knew lepers were unclean. The society, in fact, had all these rules and regulations about how lepers were to act. They were to stay away from everyone. If the wind was in front of them and blowing down on people behind them, they had to stay 600 feet away, but if the wind was blowing at them and all the people were out in front of them, they could then be 300 feet away. They could never too get close to anyone.
They were the wretched, the ugly, the downcast, the despised of the world. If anyone touched them, they became unclean themselves. So here's Jesus again, performing a miracle, not for entertainment, not even to make this guy's life more convenient, but to say something great about himself.
Look at verse 13:
“And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:13)
So for everyone else in the world, when they touched the leper, they became unclean, but there is one, the holy one, who when he touches something unclean, he doesn't become unclean, it becomes clean.
This man who knew his sin, who knew his wickedness, who knew his dirtiness, finds himself healed, all his uncleanliness washed away because of who this person is.
Both of them show that this is no ordinary man, and we are called to ask and answer the same question they all did, “Who is Jesus?” And ultimately the response is the same as Simon’s—that we would leave everything and follow him.
And this is great news. Don’t get into this wallow; this sorrow over leaving all of these things: “Oh, woe is me.” Because when you leave it, Oh, it's not for loss, but for great gain.
When Simon left all those fish on the shore, he had enough money there to last a long time. But he left it all and followed Jesus and it is for great gain.
Here’s how Luke says it later in chapter 18, verses 29-30:
“And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”” (Luke 18:29–30)
It is a great gain to leave these things so don't be downcast that this is costing your whole life. Would you join me in rejoicing that you can give your whole life to this cause?!