The Faith of a Fisherman

I know that Jesus said that one must have faith like a child to enter into the kingdom, but I submit one can also have faith like a fisherman to enter into the kingdom. I see this in Luke 5:1–11, where Jesus calls his first disciples.

Luke sets up the scene by inserting a large crowd, a few fisherman, two boats, and one preacher into the narrative. Luke 5:1–3 reads, “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,  and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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.” These verses serve to create the context in which Luke 5:4–10 occurred.

After the teaching of the people, the scene focuses on the a fisherman and his boat. For the first time in this scene, we hear Jesus’ words as he commands Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (5:4). Recorded speech is always important in the Gospels. This is one reason that we can tell Luke 5:1–3 is a set up for 5:4–10. Actually, this entire story is framed by direct speech from Jesus (5:4 and 5:10). The account simply illustrates the words of Jesus; but it is not secondary. Story and speech wed together in the Gospels to communicate the Evangel.

A CAUSTIC SAILOR

But let’s leave this rabbit trail, and return to the story. We need to notice Simon before and after his catch. Simon calls Jesus “master” (epistates). This is a term of respect in general for someone. It’s a nicety. It’s akin to calling your grandfather “sir” with a sort of condescending pleasantry. Simon then reluctantly obeys Jesus: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5). You can hear the humoring timbre of Simon’s tone.

Without precedent and to the great surprise of Simon, “they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking” (v. 6). This caused the sailors with Simon to signal “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” (v. 7).

A CHASTENED SUPPLICANT

In verse 8, we begin to see the transition from caustic sailor to chastened supplicant. While Peter had called Jesus “sir” (epistate) with a patronizing tonality, his resonant outburst changes to humble worship here. Luke 5:8 says, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Not only is this fisherman shell shocked by his catch of fish, but so were the fisherman with Simon. Luke 5:9–10a reads, “For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.”

Jesus focuses directly on Simon, however, “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). Before thinking through Jesus’ words, let’s consider the transformation of Peter.

While Peter called Jesus epistates (“master”) in a condescending way, he now calls Jesus “Lord” (kurios) in extreme seriousness, as is evidenced by his falling to ground and asking for the holy Lord to depart from him on account of his sinfulness (cf. Isa 6). Perhaps Simon realizes that he not mocking simply his master but the Lord himself. Not only does Peter change his confession of Jesus, he also changed his feelings toward him.

Peter and the other with him became “astonished” at Jesus’ works. Not only this, but he also began to fear the Lord, as is evidenced by his falling at Jesus’ knees and proclaiming his sin and Jesus’ holiness and also by Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid.”

Peter confesses that Jesus is Lord and fears Jesus in his heart.

A KIND SAVIOR

Remember that Jesus started the point of this story in verse 4 and concludes it in verse 10. The narrative is framed by Jesus’ words. Jesus tells Simon and the other disciples with him, “from now on you will be catching men” (v. 10). After demonstrating his power with a sign, the disciples exercise faith in him. Then Jesus calls them to no longer catch fish but to catch men.

While Jesus can supernaturally cause a plethora of fish to be caught in the nets of the disciples, so also can he cause a gaggle of human souls to be snatched in the dragnets of the Gospel message. This is why Jesus gave this sign to his new evangelists. Having seen Jesus’ power here, they can be assured that he will empower their evangel preaching.

The simple faith of a fisherman who confesses that Jesus is lord and fears him in his heart can transform the world. It is not because of the fisherman’s power but the power of Lord.

Before leaving here, I want to draw attention to perhaps the most significant point to this narrative in Luke 5:11. Just listen to it: “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” These simple fisherman left everything and followed him. They literally left their boats, nets and fish on the ground and followed Jesus. After the colossal catch, one would think they would consolidate their gains before following Jesus. But no. They left it all, picked up their cross and followed the Lord. This is the simple faith of fisherman, and without this faith one cannot into the kingdom of heaven.

Have the faith of a chastened fisherman not a caustic skeptic or weak legged confessor to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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