Stories with Luke Week 6:

"First Followers"

Pastor Terry Inman

02-12-17

 

Mary and I are just back from a Compassion Tour of Israel with Pastors and Executives involved in Convoy of Hope. We visited many sites that help the biblical places stories and characters come alive.

 

We also had the opportunity to see several outreaches both Jewish and Christian that are meeting critical needs in Israel. We spent some time at an amazing Jewish school for children at risk. Thousands of kids from the streets are getting a quality life-changing education.

 

We volunteered at a food distribution center for hundreds of homeless shelters, orphanages and community food closets all over Israel.

They base their work on the biblical imperative in (Lev. 23.22) to leave the corners of your fields for gleaning of, “the poor and the alien.”

 

We heard many stories of people who have suffered much in Israel’s struggle to re-establish their homeland. The tension of Arabs and Jews attempting to occupy the same space is felt everywhere you go. There are extremists on both sides that fan the flames in this territorial tug of war. There are both disheartening and encouraging stories of conflict but also cooperation throughout the land.

 

We visited a Jewish settlement in a disputed zone along the Arab Gaza strip. There is a security wall there to keep the peace. The day after we left rocket fire landed in the area we had visited. Hamas is trying to keep the peace but they can’t control the many splinter terrorist groups.

 

Open conflict seems to be relatively quite right now but a Major in the Northern Israel Defense Force told us that Hezbollah is rebuilding its missile arsenals. He says the next round could be devastating to Israel.

 

Even with these occasional flare-ups of violence Israel is still a safe place to travel. Based on comparative reports of violence and crime you are 20% safer walking the streets in Israel than in the USA.

 

Israel is as beautiful as anywhere in the world and the people both Jews and Arabs are some of the warmest and kindest you meet anywhere.

 

You can understand why the prophet Isaiah said, No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, (desirable) and your land Beulah; (habitable) for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.  (Is. 62.4 NIV)

 

We were visiting the garden tomb our last day there. After communion I was listening to what the Lord might want do say to me.

This is what I heard. “I am happy that you came to visit my homeland and my people. It’s a delight to host you here, and show you around. These are my people. When you love them and serve them you serve me.”

 

The history and archeology of Jerusalem, the Temple and the walls is fascinating. We were given a special tour that not everyone gets.

 

We were guided below the Temple walls through tunnels where excavations are confirming both the first and second Temple periods.

We came to location only yards from where the original Holy of Holies would have been. We began to sing, “We are standing on Holy Ground”. Our guide a Jewish History and archeology graduate was visibly moved.

 

My favorite part of Israel is where Jesus spent most of his time around the shores of Galilee. Eighty percent of his teaching and miracles where done within about a twenty mile stretch of this waterfront.

 

Luke’s story today captures Jesus recruiting his first followers, fishermen on these shores. After waking up in our hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee--the first thing I did was catch the sunrise.

 

Just over the tops of shoreline palm trees I could see a small fishing boat coming in from an early morning catch of St. Peters fish. (Tilapia) Luke’s episode begins on the beach just a short distance from where he later fed 5000 with two fish and a basket of bread.

 

It was here Jesus called his first followers Peter, James and John to leave their nets and catch people for His emerging Kingdom.

 

Today lets look at this first invitation to go fishing. Luke says Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the name of this body of water that looks like a sea in the region of Galilee.

 

The shore provided natural acoustics that would amplify Jesus’ voice to pressing crowds listening intently to His teaching. Luke says, he was teaching the “word of God”.

 

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 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.  (Luke 5.1-3 NIV)

 

There are rebuilt ruins of a small synagogue near Peter’s house where Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Pastor Tim talked about that first recorded healing last week.

 

Just down shore there is a new excavation of the village of Magdala where they have uncovered another synagogue and village where Jesus freed the wealthy woman Mary the Magdalene of seven demons. She and several other woman helped support Jesus and the disciples mission.

 

There is a beautiful visitors center on new chapel on this site. The stage is a boat with a built in pulpit. The priest directing the site and its development spent some time with us. He even came to our hotel.

 

After an unsuccessful nights work Simon was washing and repairing the nets. Jesus borrowed his empty boat and taught from it just offshore. When he finished teaching he told Simon to give fishing another try.

 

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 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.” (Luke 5.4-5 NIV)

 

Jesus told them to try another location in deeper water. Simon a veteran informed Jesus that they were done for the night and it was not so good.

They came up empty handed.

 

Simon who was just getting to know Jesus had heard some of his teaching and saw him heal his mother in law. So against his own experience he said, OK since you say so we will give it another go!

Simon had heard and seen enough to respect his word. He did the first thing that makes a disciple. He acted in faith and obedience. “because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

 

Jesus was calling these fishermen into deeper waters. The mundane was about to become the miraculous. Are we just making a living or living for the miraculous? God calls us into deeper waters!  

 

Luke makes three observations in this story. First he describes the net breaking catch. Then he highlights Simon Peter’s first confession and affirmation. Then Luke features the dramatic calling of Peter, James and his brother John to a new profession.

 

Here’s Luke detail of the miracle catch. “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 5.6 -7 NIV)

 

I love the contrasts. Luke begins this story with two empty boats. Jesus fills one with God’s word. Then he sends the fishermen out again. They obey his word and now there are two full boats. The nets were breaking and they had to call in more boats for help.

 

No matter how successful or unsuccessful we are—without Jesus we are running on empty. Life without Christ will take us to a crisis of self. When we put our trust in him he even makes us better at our life’s profession.

 

Luke now adds Peter (the rock) to Simon’s name. He says Peter was overwhelmed. He fell to his feet and confessed two things--his sinfulness and Jesus Lordship!

 

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5.8 NIV)

 

Peter was not just impressed by a miracle; he was convinced of his sinfulness. He felt unworthy to be in His presence. Isaiah who had a vision of God in his Holy Temple cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isa 6.5 NIV)

We begin our walk with Jesus when we make two confessions. We confess our sinfulness and his Lordship. Rom. 10.9 says, confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus is alive and we are saved!

 

Jesus responds to Peter’s initial confession by changing his job description. “Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5.11NIV)

 

Peter was a leader. His partners were his first catch. They all left the security of their profession and followed Jesus. On the day of Pentecost Peter’s first sermon netted 3000 men not counting women and children.

 

We stood on the steps of leading up to the Temple were Peter preached and baptized them in over 50 “mitvas” or sacred baths.

 

When we confess Jesus as our Lord our lives take on a whole new destiny. He doesn’t call us all to quit our day job and become preachers. He calls us to make him and his work our primary occupation.

 

Next, Luke mentions the healing of a leper in one of the Galilean villages. Leprosy was not just a deteriorating skin disease but also a social disease. Lepers were considered dirty and contagious.

 

Luke says this man was “covered” with Leprosy. That explains why “he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5.12 NIV)

 

He felt unclean and unworthy. This healing was physical and emotional!

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5.13 NIV)

 

Jesus touches the untouchables. He heals the unlovables! He told him to show himself to a priest so he could be made ceremonially clean and enter back in to social acceptance.

 

Luke says the news continued to spread, crowds grew and he healed their diseases. He often withdrew for prayer and solitude in these lakeside surroundings.