They Left Their Nets Behind
Pastor Tim Inman
St. Peter is a well loved character for many who study the gospels: the Bible’s books about Jesus and his followers. We love Peter because he is an imperfect hero. He’s a cowardly lion who once denied Jesus under pressure but later became fearless against all the power Rome could muster. He was known as impetuous: acting before thinking. Sometimes he put his foot in his mouth, on the other-hand, he had the right answers when everyone else was afraid to get it wrong and delivered one of the most famous sermons of all time.
When Jesus teachings were hard to understand and follow, many of his early disciples turned away. Jesus asked the twelve if they wanted to leave as well, and it was Peter who said:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Luke 6:68,69)
Peter was uneducated, a working class, country-bumpkin from up North. What qualified Him to be in Jesus’ inner circle?
The designation ‘Christian’ means follower of Jesus. As modern Christians, we have information and resources, we have access to the Holy Spirit, we have freedom to worship as we please, influence and respect, but do we have the raw material that made Peter an exemplary disciple? Let’s look at his life and see if there are some attitudes worth emulating.
1. Peter was a seeker before He ever met Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t the first revolutionary Peter and his brother Andrew would follow. Before Jesus came onto the public scene, they were disciples of another maverick, John the Baptist.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me… the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1)
John was known for living in the wilderness, wearing camel hair, eating locust, and shouting a message of repentance.
John’s lifestyle and message challenged popular culture, institutional religion and government. His message was repentance and his M.O. was to prepare the way for the Lord. The pharisees were teaching conformity to religious tradition. John challenged people to a baptism of repentance: an external symbol of an internal change.
Rather than be put off by his peculiarity, Peter and his brother Andrew were attracted to his courage and challenged by his call to repentance.
John the Baptist’s radical rejection of the status quo attracted Peter and multitudes more who knew there was more to God than the Pharisees were offering.
When Peter first encountered Jesus it was John the Baptist who pointed Him out. By seeking out truth, Peter had put himself in the right place at the right time.
There may be some here this morning who aren’t sure what to make of the Bible, Jesus, or His followers. Let me challenge you: seek the truth. Pursue truth, reject falsehood, and ask God to reveal Himself to you. You just might end up like Peter - in the right place at the right time.
2. Peter trusted Jesus with a need: His mother’s sickness
Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. (Luke 4:38,39)
I want to do an experiment. Would you raise your hand if it was a need which brought you to Jesus? Let’s look around. Sometimes we just realize that there is nothing more we can do to help ourselves and turn to God in our need. Maybe some of us here are in that position this morning.
Around this time, John the Baptist was imprisoned and Jesus began to preach the Good News of the Kingdom. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14, 15)
Like John, Jesus’ message was about repentance. Instead of preparing the way for the coming messiah, Jesus was declaring himself to be the anointed one who would inaugurate God’s Kingdom.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18.19)
These changes and this new message set the stage for a radical change in Peter’s life. He would soon leave something good for something better.
3. Peter was Available and Obedient
After a wrapping up a long shift of fishing but not catching, near the shore of Galilee, Peter was probably ready to pack up and head home, but when Jesus asked, he took him out in his boat.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He 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. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
(As a professional fisherman, he suspended his own better judgement to follow Jesus instructions.)
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So 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. (Luke 5:1-7) 4. He knew what He was missing. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. (Luke 5:8-10)
Unlike the Pharisees, Peter understood that he fell short of true righteousness. This awareness put him in position to receive exactly what he needed most: forgiveness and grace.
5. He divested to focus on something better.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.(Luke 5:10-11)
In his gospel, Matthew got more specific about what they left on the shore. He records it this way: “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:20 Peter’s partners James and John were there too. They saw the catch. They left their dad with their boat on the beach and left to follow Jesus as well. How irresponsible! They abandoned their boats and their nets. They didn’t tidy up. Why would Peter do something so irrational? He knew he had connected to something so great, so transcendent, that fishing paled in comparison. Honestly, his former livelihood was the last thing on his mind. Peter
“From now on I will call you Peter”
“From now on you will fish for people”
Have you been comparing you response to Jesus with Peter’s? Where is the Holy Spirit challenging you? To trust Him with a need? To make youself available, obedient? Maybe, like Peter you need to leave something good behind to make room for something better.