Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from Jesus Christ His Son who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one:
Years ago, the British agnostic Thomas Huxley had to leave early one morning to go from one speaking engagement to another, so he got into a horse-drawn carriage to go from his hotel to the train station. He assumed that the hotel doorman had told the driver of the carriage that they were to go to the train station. So, when he got in, he simply said to the driver, “Drive fast.”
Off they went. After a short while, Huxley, who was somewhat familiar with the area, realized that they were actually going in the opposite direction from the train station. He yelled to the driver, “Do you know where you are going?” Without looking back, the driver replied, “No sir, but I’m driving very fast.”
I believe this is the perfect illustration to point out how many Christians live their lives every day. The more years pass the faster we seem to live our lives. Technical advancements and streamlined operations were suppose to make our life easier and thus give us more time, but the further things advance the more we seem to want to cram more things into any time that might be saved because of it. Before you know it were just running from one obligation to another without really understanding where all this anxious activity is taking us.
As Christians we are all taught that, to spend our time most effectively and efficiently, our activities should be in line with God’s will for our lives. But, somewhere God’s will gets lost in the frenzied activity of life. All the while the devil wonders why we make it so easy for him to manipulate our lives.
In our Gospel lesson we witness Christ standing by the lake of Gennesaret, another name for the Sea of Galilee. Around Him the crowd is pressing in hoping to hear the Master speak. With them are some of the fishermen who make their living on that lake and now follow Christ. Several commentators see this incident separate from Jesus’ first calling of His disciples which was about a year earlier.
It turns into a discourse between Peter, here called Simon, and Jesus. His disciples have been following Jesus and learning from Him. Their real mission of evangelism hasn’t started yet and Jesus, here, redirects their lives to their next phase in discipleship, to take what they have learned to the masses. In the opening lines, Jesus is teaching while the fishermen are washing their fishing nets. Soon Peter is no longer focused on nets for fish, Now, he will be trying to bring in a more important creature. From now on he will be fishing for men, along with all of Jesus’ other disciples. Understanding Jesus’ words in verse 10 are key to understanding and applying this story to our own lives.
Jesus’ words in verse 10 are these, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” The Greek word for catching here literally means to catch alive. In their old vocation as fishermen of the sea, everything they caught would eventually die, but now, as fishers of men, they would look to bring life. Men dead in their sins would be made alive in Jesus Christ. This is a great illustration of how Christ works in our hearts every day. It shows us God’s will for each and every life who claim Him as Lord of their lives. It teaches us that the greatest purpose for our lives and the purest form of worship is found when we follow Jesus in the catching of men. And, in this process, we have no need to fear, because, our trainer and teacher will always be there with us.
Try to put yourself in this scene. Hundreds of people are pressing in on Jesus who finds Himself out of dry real estate standing at the edge of Lake Galilee. They are listening to His every word. And where are Jesus’ disciples? They are working their trade, preparing for their next outing as fishermen. As they clean they try to calm down the frustration they are feeling because the night of fishing has not been kind to them. No fish would be cleaned this day, they think to themselves, only these burdensome nets.
It is no coincidence that they are within earshot of their Master because Jesus has a very important thing to say to them that will literally change their lives.
Archbishop Chenevix Trench describes it as Jesus designing Himself to take fishermen to HIS net. His first lesson is this, to catch men for Christ, we must first shift our focus from our over-complicated lives focused on worldly success, to the success that can be ours in catching people for the Savior.”
That should be our first goal in life. Every success in the world is temporary but the catching of men can bring eternal rewards. Our focus should be on Christ first and foremost and it should be seen in everything we do.
Worldly success is fine. There is nothing wrong with wanting our business, our lives, to thrive in the world. God wants us to do well in our worldly vocation as long as it is parallel to His desire for us. It isn’t more spiritual to be mediocre in our vocation of work. Even in this God wants us to work to the best of the abilities He has given us because in this way we better serve others.
Jesus is not telling us here to end every earthly aspect of our lives to fish for men. But He is saying that many of us need a change in life so that, even when we live our earthly lives, we are fishing for people to help bring their lives to Christ.
As followers of Christ who profess our faith in Him, we need to shift many of our priorities. If our earthly endeavors come before our work in the name of God, then ultimate success will never be found, at least spiritually. God’s primary purpose for us will never be that we are successful in our jobs. Jesus Christ makes this clear in Matthew 6:19 and 33, where He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in a steal, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Secondly, I believe the lesson is, “To catch men for Christ, we must obey the sovereign authority of Jesus.” Jesus is much more than a man of wisdom. He knows exactly what each man should do to find their ultimate and eternal success. As Jesus is speaking, He demands that the fishermen “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” This was to show His authority.
Here is a simple carpenter to many, telling professional fisherman how to do their jobs. Peter and the others knew that they had just fished at night, the very best time to fish, and had caught nothing. But, after a brief protest, He does what his Master demands. The result of this act of faith is yet another of Jesus’ miracles. This miracle is a lesson to them on who to trust.
So often we attempt to bring Jesus Christ down to our own level simply because He lived a life like ours. We fail to see the man of God in His divinity. To make their next step of faith, the fisherman would have to see Jesus as more than a mere mortal. They would have to see Him as the ultimate authority. Because the message was too great to trivialize, the task they were to undertake was too vital. The lives they were now to lead needed to be focused on the purpose they were born to fulfill. They needed to know that their initiative and guidance for evangelism would come directly from God Himself.
And we are no different. Their calling is also ours. In fact, everyone who claims Christ is obligated to share His message of salvation as a first priority in their lives. As Jesus speaks to them He is also speaking to us. As I’ve said many times before, God has great plans for every life. He died and rose again so that you would understand His authority to lead us to action. And the obedience we need in evangelism lies within us, propelled in faith by the Holy Spirit at work inside us.
And finally, to catch men for Christ, we must work together with other transformed sinners. In verse 7 Peter had to call on his fellow fishermen to haul in the enormous amount of fish in his nets. He couldn’t do it alone. And in the catching of men, it also takes all of us working together for a common goal.
Together we are stronger, together we are wiser, together we are more stable because we have each other to lean on in the work of God we are all appointed to do. As fishers of men we are to work together even though we are not ultimately responsible for the catch. The Lord is! We work together but all glory goes to God who has worked through us to bring more and more of His children to everlasting life.
How blessed we are to have a God who trusts in us enough, who loves us enough, to let us do His divine work with the guiding of His Holy Spirit. You and I have a story to tell. A story of salvation, A story of everlasting possibilities. And all because Jesus Christ loved us enough to take on all those things that might hinder our efforts in His name.
Is the thing that captivates your life your earthly business or the Lord’s business? Are you fishing for profits or are you fishing for men? I found an illustration about a elderly man who ran a variety store. It had once been a thriving business, but as he got older, the man became obsessed with keeping the store neat and clean. He spent hours arranging and rearranging the merchandise on the shelves. Some days he wouldn’t even open the store, for fear that it would be messed up by customers. That man had lost sight of the purpose of his store.
In our spiritual life, unfortunately, it’s too easy for us to do. We get so busy with our earthly priorities that we forget the truest purpose.
We have so very much to be thankful for. We have so many lifesaving stories to share. Stories of forgiveness and redemption. Stories of godly grace and divine power. Think about it. You and I have been gifted to live an everlasting life with the author of love. You and I have been given the righteousness of Christ. We have been set free from sin and death because God thought we were to precious to give up on. Yes, we have a beautiful story to share.
Don’t let the busyness of life overtake your greatest priority to tell the story of grace and mercy found in the one true God. Don’t let your earthly goals overwhelm the task you have been given to make a Godly difference in people lives. The devil will try to make you as busy as possible with things that have nothing to do with your salvation. In the name of Christ, throw Him back to the mirth and mire He has created and decide to live your lives for the one who has given you life eternal.
I pray that the Lord will use this message to show us all that the greatest purpose we can have in life is to follow Jesus in catching men alive for Him. I pray that each of us will go out into out respective mission fields armed with that purpose, and that the Lord will be pleased to give us a miraculous catch of men and women and young people for His kingdom. Amen.