Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
March 12, 2017
1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 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. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
— Luke 5:1-11, ESV
C.S. Lewis famously made the argument that Jesus Christ can be only one of four persons. Either He is a legend, a lunatic, a liar, or He is Lord. Over the years people have used the Bible, history, and science to weigh in and support each view.
Many believe the Bible and most of its characters, including Jesus, to be merely mythological. As a matter of fact, most religion is mostly fiction to most people. Karl Marx infamously called religion an opiate, a delusional drug used to provide an escape from reality.
Some say Jesus was a mad man with a messianic complex. There is even a short story in Scripture that tells of the time Jesus’ very own mother and siblings came to take charge of Him because they thought He was out of His mind. Moderns often think of Christ and His followers as persons who are not mentally stable.
Other passages in the Bible, which record accusations leveled by the religious authorities of His day, paint Jesus as a charlatan set out to deceive people for political or monetary gain. Such charges eventually caught up with Him, got Him convicted of capital crimes, and took Him to the cross.
Only Christians have a higher view of Jesus. We do not consider Him to be a legend, lunatic, or liar. We call Him, like Simon Peter in this text, “Lord.”
Jesus Christ is Lord
Luke penned his Gospel based on meticulous research, verifiable facts, and eyewitness accounts. The other Gospel and biblical authors did essentially the same thing. There is even extra-biblical evidence from secular historians, such as Josephus, to corroborate belief in the historical Jesus. To the writers of Scripture and the followers of Jesus, the man from Nazareth was no legend.
Neither was Jesus out of His mind, although He was somewhat daring and adventurous. Christ was no liar, either, but rather the Truth speaking the truth, the Word of God preaching the word of God. As Luke moves into this early section of his Gospel where Jesus begins to collect disciples, he wants to point out that they are not following a legend, a lunatic, nor a liar. They are following God, the Lord, in the person of His unique Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus proved to be the Lord by the way He preached, with the spoken authority of God. Luke records nothing of Jesus’ sermon in the passage, but transcripts of Jesus’ preaching fill the Gospels. Those who heard them at the time marveled at their weight, power, authority. It is one thing to hear a prophet or a pastor preach with great skill, like an Elijah or Isaiah or Paul or Luther or Spurgeon. It would have been quite another to hear Jesus speak in person. You, too, would have to categorize Him as either crazy, crafty, or certainly Christ the Lord.
Jesus proved to be the Lord by the way He performed miracles, with the sovereign hand of God. This great catch of fish was made not by men who trolled the sea for a living, but by the living God who controls the land and sea, earth and heavens, twenty-four-seven. Jesus was not a charlatan who performed miracles for money and fame, but rather God Almighty and incarnate who demonstrated His sovereign control over all things in the spiritual and natural realms. Mad men cannot make fish follow them. Fish don’t listen to liars. Only the Lord, only God, can command fish and men in ways that glorify God and bring good to others.
This text is not terrific proof, but conjoined with the remainder of Scripture it is compelling evidence that Jesus was, is, and always will be God. This is what it means to say that Jesus Christ is Lord. His very name means “the God who saves.” Has He saved you? How can you know?
You cannot know you are a true Christian and a believer in the Lordship of Christ by being religious, nor by taking part in any religious ritual, be it baptism or exorcism or walking an aisle and praying a prayer. You cannot know because you pray, for all people pray at some point to some god. You cannot know because you are a good person, for in some sense everyone does good things which reflect the image of God and in every sense there is no one good but God.
So, how can you know? You can know that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord if, and only if, you are actually and actively following Him.
Christians Follow Christ
As a Christian and a pastor I have always shunned modern means of making disciples, like altar calls, revival meetings, pressure-packed youth camps, and decision cards at a vacation Bible school. I prefer the simple method and few words of Jesus Christ Himself whose simple invitation is always, “Follow Me.” Those two exact words do not appear in this text (although you can find the exact quotation twenty times in the four Gospels), but they are stated in other words.
In other words, one does not have to manipulate another person to convert them to Christianity. Neither do you have to beg true Christians to be baptized, come to public communion and worship, nor read their Bibles and really pray. True Christians are true followers of Christ, and they strongly resemble the imperfect but faithful character of Simon Peter in this early Gospel story.
Simon Peter was obedient to Christ, even when it was decidedly inconvenient. His working day (or night) was done, his nets were clean, and after the sermon he no doubt wished to retire to his home. Jesus commanded the nets to be thrown in again, which means they would have to be cleaned again, folded again, put up again. Though he expressed honest doubts, Simon Peter obeyed the Lord. How can one not obey someone they call “Lord?”
Simon Peter received the blessings of Christ with great humility. He did not jump up and down, wave his hands in the air, nor in any other way draw attention to himself. Instead, he practically hid, confessed his sinfulness, worshiped and followed the Lord. It has been pointed out, particularly by our charismatic or otherwise excitable branches of Christendom, that the word “praise” means to lift up the hands. This is a true and acceptable meaning. But the word “worship” means to bow down or lower oneself to the ground. I see much of the former in public worship today, and I find no fault in it, but I often wonder why I never see the latter.
Simon Peter accepted a commission from the Lord with total commitment. Catching and killing fish for food was his livelihood. Jesus challenged Peter to put Christ and Christian service above all else, and Peter, Andrew, James, and John followed Jesus without hesitation. Jesus’ word translated “catch” means to be taken alive, freed from the devil’s bonds and free to do God’s will. Not all Christians are career catchers, but all Christians are caught by the grace of God and compelled to share their faith in Christ.
General Robert E. Lee, whose name has been besmirched by modernity, was one of the greatest men and genuine Christians who ever lived. Like Simon Peter, he was not perfect, but faithful. Though he was an army General and college President, he had a humble and peculiar way of signing his letters, “Your obedient servant.”
If Simon Peter had penned a letter after this incident, surely he would have signed it the same way, “Christ’s obedient servant.” This is the definition of a Christian. A Christian is a person captivated by amazing grace. A Christian is a person who forsakes all to follow Jesus. A Christian is not a person who works for grace, but in whom grace works to make them a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you been to the lake with Jesus? Do you recognized His voice, His word, His gospel? Do you believe in miracles, most of all the miracle of grace that changes sinners into saints? Both testaments invite us to call upon the name of the Lord and we will be saved. But don’t just call on Jesus, be sure to follow Him.
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