If you weren’t with us on Wednesday night for the beginning of our Lenten series, Terry did a great job reminding us that each and every person who followed Jesus was a sinner. In fact, the only people Jesus called to follow him where sinners and the people who really understood the depth of their sin where the ones who were quick to follow while those who thought themselves as being righteous and religious really struggled to understand what Jesus was all about. It was the prostitutes and tax collectors who grabbed hold of the grace that Jesus offered and his message of love and forgiveness changed their lives. So being a sinner doesn’t keep us from following Jesus, in fact it is a prerequisite. So many people think that their sin keeps them from following Jesus when in fact it was sinners that Jesus came to be with and it is sinners that Jesus calls to follow.
It wasn’t just sinners who followed Jesus, however, it was also non-believers. Again, think about it, everyone who first followed Jesus didn’t believe he was the son of God because they had no idea what it meant to call him the son of God. People followed Jesus because he was a good guy or they liked what he had to say. They followed because his stories were good ones or maybe he had healed someone in their family or given them a free lunch or some free wine. The first followers of Jesus didn’t follow because of great faith; they followed and then developed a great faith. So no matter what we believe about Jesus we can also follow him and then allow Jesus to lead us to deeper truth and understanding. So if you don’t believe Jesus is the messiah or the son of God today, that’s ok – you can still follow and simply see what you learn and where God takes you.
What makes the Christian faith different from many others is that while many religions say ~ change your life and follow – Jesus says ~ follow and I will change your life. If you are looking for a change in your life then today is the day to start and if you are looking for an invitation to follow Jesus – this is it and you can start this very moment because it doesn’t matter what’s on your feet or what is in your heard or in your heart – you don’t need to change anything, you just need to make the decision to follow.
To learn today how to take the first step or maybe the next step we are going to look at the story of Jesus calling his first followers who were all fishermen, which is why we have the fishing boots highlighted this morning. Each of these shoes will teach us something about following Jesus and the boots today not only remind us that the first 4 followers of Jesus were all fishermen, we are going to see that Peter had to be willing to go deeper and deeper into the water with Jesus before he followed. The story we are going to look at is recorded in two different gospels, Matthew and Luke, and each story was written to a different group of people. Matthew shared his stories with a primarily Jewish audience which meant he was writing to people who already had a foundation of faith and trust in God. These were people who knew God or knew something about God so were already pretty far along in their faith journey. Here’s what Matthew has to say – Matthew 4:18-22
Many people think this is what it looks like to follow Jesus. He calls us and we are supposed to drop everything and change everything in our lives to go with him. If we think that this is the norm then the temptation for us is to simply step back and say, no thanks Jesus, I don’t want to or I’m not ready to do that, but the reality is that there is more to this story but Matthew doesn’t include it because he is writing to people who should be ready to give God all that they have and all that they are to God.
If we turn to Luke’s story we find that Luke fills in the details which are very helpful for us to hear. Luke is writing to a gentile audience which means they are not Jewish so they do not have a foundation of faith or trust in God, they may not know anything about God and so the picture he gives us about following Jesus is very different. It’s the same story but it gives more detail. Luke 5:1-2.
Already we see a difference in the stories. Jesus doesn’t just randomly come up and ask these fishermen to follow – Jesus is teaching people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and probably has been for a while. As fishermen, the disciples have been on the shores and most likely heard Jesus teaching and preaching already and this particular day they were there again cleaning and mending their nets after working all night and so they are listening to Jesus and following always starts with listening. Following Jesus always starts with information and content and knowledge about God and Jesus. We don’t follow Jesus blindly into a great and vast unknown – we follow a God who has revealed himself and given us information about who he is and we follow Jesus after we have been able to listen to him and learn from him about who he is and who we are and what life is all about. So the first step in following Jesus is always to listen but then the story continues, Luke 5:3.
Jesus then asks Peter to push his boat out a little from the shore so Jesus can use it as a floating stage and continue preaching to the crowd. What Jesus is asking Peter is if he could inconvenience him just a little bit so that he could keep preaching. Would Peter be willing to give Jesus just a little – not much, not a big investment – just a little time and effort and energy. By saying yes, Peter also has the opportunity to keep listening and learning, which is important. The next step for Peter and for us is Loaning our boat to Jesus.
Loaning our boat means being willing to have our lives interrupted and inconvenienced by God. We give a little time, a little energy, a little of ourselves and our lives to God and in the process we are able to learn something new or listen to Jesus a little longer. Loaning our boat means giving up some time to read the Bible or maybe spending an hour cutting out some shoes for our Sole Hope project. Maybe it means joining a class or small group so we can learn a little bit more about God or what it means to follow, but it’s taking that small step forward – which is exactly what Peter did.
After these first two steps, Jesus then asks Peter to go a little further and out a little deeper – literally out into deeper water – Luke 5:4-5. Now what Jesus is asking Peter to do involves some risk and some faith because Jesus is saying, hey Peter, Let’s go fishing. Peter’s response to Jesus tells us a lot. He starts by saying, Master, not Messiah, not Lord, not Savior or Son of God, but Master which is simply a term of respect. Peter has heard enough of Jesus’ teaching to know that he is an honorable man – but he isn’t convinced that Jesus is anything more than a good religious teacher. And I’m sure Peter is thinking to himself – hey Jesus, you may be a good teacher and know something about God but you know nothing about fishing.
The reason Peter must think this is because Peter and the others have just finished for the day. They brought their boats to shore and were cleaning their nets because you didn’t fish during the day you fished at night. During the day when the sun is up the water on the surface gets warm and all the fish stay on the bottom away from the nets, but at night when the water is cool and the fish came to the surface you can gather them up in the nets. So Jesus is asking Peter to do something that he has done thousands of times before but he is asking Peter to do it in a different way and in a way that was risky. The risk for Peter was to look foolish. Remember there is still a large crowd on the shore and Peter is going to look silly if he puts his nets down and catches nothing.
So when Jesus says, let’s go fishing, he is asking Peter to trust him. A little more faith is needed here and while Jesus knows that the payoff will be huge, Peter doesn’t. Jesus not only knows that there will be huge catch of fish, but that in time the world will change through Peter if he will take this one step, but Peter doesn’t know any of this, he just has to take this one step. Peter has to be willing to do something he has done every day of his life but in a different way, a way that calls for some faith and trust. Peter has to be willing to do this one thing God’s way and while Peter still doesn’t have a lot of faith and trust in Jesus as the son of God or savior of the world, he has enough to take this next step. Look at Luke 5:5, because you say so. Peter isn’t doing this because he believes anything is going to happen, he does it because he has heard enough from Jesus to at least give it a try and take this next step of faith.
So Peter goes fishing and this is what happens, Luke 5:6-8. Notice that the next step has nothing to do with believing anything about Jesus or thinking that Jesus is anything more than who they think he is (which is a good teacher) this step is all about doing something. The disciples acted, they followed, and then things happened. There comes a point in our lives where we just need to do something, take a step forward, and then allow God to do whatever God wants to do. We may not believe Jesus is the son of God, we may not believe Jesus is God in the flesh or the Savior of the world but we have heard enough that we now feel compelled to do something. Here is where we see the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus.
Religion tells us to change and then follow
a Relationship with Jesus says, follow and I will change you.
Peter followed and now here comes the change – Luke 5:9-11.
The change is first heard in how Peter addresses Jesus, it’s no longer Master it is Lord. Something has changed in what Peter believes about Jesus and how he looks at himself and his life. Jesus is now the Lord and full of God’s holiness and power and Peter is now a sinner who is deeply aware of his own sin. With his eyes wide open to who Jesus is and who he is, a new relationship with Jesus can be formed. What’s great about this scene is that Jesus doesn’t look at Peter and agree that he is a sinful man and should be cast out of his presence, not at all – Jesus invites Peter to follow him.
So let me emphasis again what Terry shared with us on Ash Wednesday. Our sin does not keep us from following Jesus; in fact it is a prerequisite. We need to come face to face with who we are in light of who Jesus is if we are going to go deeper with God and deeper in our faith. What we also need to see in this story is that Jesus doesn’t tell Peter to clean up his life and then follow – there is just the invitation to follow with the understanding that Jesus will make Peter into something more than what and who he already is. We don’t change and then follow; we follow and then allow Jesus to change us with each step we take.
For Peter the next step was to Leave everything behind. Peter left his nets and boats and family to follow Jesus and in leaving it all he allowed Jesus to use him to help build God’s kingdom and share God’s message of salvation – to become a fisher of men and women.
So this story shows us the 4 steps we all take when we follow Jesus:
• Listen to Jesus
• Loan our boats
• Let’s go fishing
• Leave everything behind
Today, each one of us is somewhere in this story. Some of us need to Listen to Jesus. We just need to come back next week to hear more and learn what the next shoe has to tell us about following Jesus. Some of us are gathering information and knowledge and we just need to sit and listen some more.
Some of us need to Loan our boat – we need to allow ourselves to be inconvenienced and maybe read more of our Bibles during the week or maybe join a small group, Bible study or Sunday School class where we can learn more about God or ourselves. I know what you might say to that, but I don’t have the time – right, that’s what it means to be inconvenienced, it means giving up a little time to learn a little more. We aren’t talking a lifetime of missions we are talking an hour on Sunday to listen and learn some more.
Some of us need to say Yes when Jesus says, let’s go fishing. We need to do something that we have done a thousand times before but do it God’s way. This step usually means that we need to do something different in our relationships, in our profession or in our finances. I say this because these 3 things form the basic foundation of our lives. These are the things that make up most of the little and big things we do every day and today God is asking us to do these same things but maybe in a different way. God is asking us treat our families differently or reach out to a friend or neighbor differently. God wants us to look at our jobs differently or take a risk we might not take otherwise at work. God is asking us to spend our money – something we do everyday – but to do it according to his purpose and plan, not ours. Just like Peter, we don’t know what hangs in the balance if we do something differently but I guarantee you that if we will go fishing – things will change.
And what’s so great is that I don’t have to tell you what that one thing is today because if you are at this step – you know what it is. You know what God is saying to you because you are thinking about it right now and it is something God has been laying on your heart for some time. You know what it means to go fishing and if you will do it – if you will hike up the boots and follow – God will lead you and change you.
Some of us might be hearing God say leave everything behind. Today you want to give God the fullness of your heart and life and vocation and you realize that if you say yes there is no turning back but you are ready for that. It’s a difficult place to be for many of us because this is where, like Peter, we become fully aware of our limitations and sin – but our sin doesn’t hold us back – in many ways it is what moves us forward because we want to move beyond our sin and experience the fullness of life that only Jesus can offer.
Each one of us is in here someplace and God is calling us to take this next step. We might need to listen or loan or boat or go fishing or leave everything behind, but we are all in here someplace and God is asking us to simply take this next step. Can we put on our boots and go deeper? No matter where we are we can take the next step. Even after we have left everything to follow Jesus we still need to take the next step and that next step is to go back to that first step and listen all over again. God keeps calling us out into deeper and deeper waters to let down our nets and so as we begin this Lenten journey together I want to invite you to put on some good sturdy boots, take that next step and follow.
Follow – Next Steps
1. Read the story of Jesus calling his first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James and John in Luke 5:1-11. Identify where in the story these four steps take place and what was required of Simon Peter to take each one.
• Listen to Jesus
• Loan your boat
• Let’s go fishing
• Leave everything behind
2. Each one of us is found someplace in this story. What is the next step God is calling you to take? Identify one or two practical things you can do this week to take this next step and follow Jesus.
Listen to Jesus
Loan your boat
Let’s go fishing
Leave everything behind