by Michael De Haan
It is good to be with you today. Pastor is gone because he is on a Work and Witness trip. I think it is amazing that our Senior Pastor goes on these trips. I think that is one of the most incredible things to see—a Pastor who goes on mission trips. He’s not just concerned about ministry here, but he’s also concerned about us as a church focusing outward and going into these areas of need. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here, but I’m also grateful for a Senior Pastor who loves things like Work and Witness.
Pastor and I would spend a lot of time this summer on his fishing boat. Occasionally we would have our staff meetings on this boat. And if you guys know anything about me or about Pastor, fishing is not exactly what we are experts at. The first time we went fishing, we were going to go up next to the rocks where we could find this one kind of fish—I don’t even know what we were trying to get. The problem was, it was super windy that day. And we got pushed up onto the rocks. Guess who got to be the one who had to go out into the water, lift the boat off the rocks and shove it so we could get going? The youngest pastor on board.
Pastor has these two really nice fishing poles that he would use to cast off the back of the boat. I would sit on the front of the boat with my $5 cheap, Wal-Mart kit that came with everything you need to start fishing. And since this was staff meeting, a lot of the times Pastor would be on the back of the boat on his phone still while I’m on the front of the boat just trying to get a nibble. I’m pretty sure it was the front of the boat. Because every time I finally caught something, they would not be any bigger than this [hand gesture]. It wasn’t even worth the catch. But this is what Pastor would get [show picture]. It was great. My fish story does ever get bigger. My fish story always seems to get smaller.
But here’s the thing. I’m not a fisherman. And, if you asked Pastor, he would probably tell you the same thing. He wants to be one, but based on our fishing and boating experiences, it’s pretty obvious we’re not experts. We’re not fishermen in that sense. We would call ourselves a different type of fishermen. And you probably know that story in the Bible where Jesus calls out to Peter to come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men. And that’s what I want to talk about today, that call to follow Christ. So if you have your Bibles I encourage you to open to Luke 5.
The Call of Simon
Before we get too far, I want to set the context of this story in Luke. Luke is a gospel which describes the story of Christ. It is the gospel with the most details surrounding Jesus birth. And soon after that John the Baptist comes on the scene. And after Jesus is baptized, he is in the desert being tempted by the Devil. And when he comes back from the wilderness, his ministry begins. Jesus begins to proclaim good news to the poor. And one of his most famous sermons is when he quotes Scripture. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent to preach good news to the poor; to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (4:18-19)
He preaches that and everyone is amazed and rave about him because of the gracious words that come from his lips. And he keeps preaching and he goes on to countryside and they are amazed at his teaching because he delivered his message with such authority. And you get to chapter 5 and you get this again. It says, “One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word.” I love that. There is a crowd. The people have been coming out to hear him preach. Those you on the back row—I’m going to ask you to step forward and fill in these empty seats so we can all just experience this a little more. They were so eager to hear God’s word that they were pressing in around him.
“Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught crowds from the boat.” Now just imagine this for a moment. You are Peter. You’ve been washing your nets. You’re doing your work. It’s just a typical day for you. You come in from fishing and the next step is to wash your nets. As a fisherman you have these nets with floats on one side and weights on the other. And you drag it through the water. As it goes along sometimes it would scrape along the boat of the lake and snag up rocks, pebbles and dirt. It would catch things you didn’t want—seaweed or other fish or animals you don’t want. So you have to pull your nets on shore and now you have to wash them, clean them, mend them if there’s hole. That’s what Peter is doing as Jesus comes in. And I can imagine Peter’s on the shore, minding his own business, doing the thing he knows he’s supposed to do. And the next thing is he looks up and Jesus is sitting in his boat. Can you imagine that? The nerve of Jesus.
But that’s what he does. And Jesus asks him to do something very simple—row out a little distance so I can teach this crowd. I love that! Jesus just asks him one tiny little thing and Peter says, okay, fine. But I can imagine some of the thoughts going through Peter’s mind. He’s been up all night trying to catch something and he didn’t catch anything. I can imagine Peter going, “Man, I’m so tired. I just want to finish my nets so I can go home and go to bed. I don’t really want to help you right now.” I wonder if that’s what is going through Peter’s mind right then. But he helps him.
The thing about Jesus, a lot of times, is that when he shows up in our lives it’s when we’re the busiest. It’s when we have something going on, or in the daily routine of our life. There is always something that has to be done. And that’s when Jesus shows up and says can you help me out over here. Have you ever noticed that before? There’s something that has to be done before I can do anything else for you Jesus. It’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing. But I have to do it before I can help you Jesus. But a lot of times that’s when Jesus shows up—right in the midst of our busyness and says, “Hey I need your help.” And it’s usually something small at first—couple of bucks in the offering, pray for this person. It doesn’t really take a whole lot of time or effort. But that’s sort of how Jesus first shows up in our lives—in the midst of our daily lives.
“Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, ‘Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.’” Go out into deeper water let down your nets for a catch. Think about this. Peter has pretty much lived his entire life at the shallow end of the pool. He’s stayed where it’s been safe. He’s stayed exactly where he thought he knew where all the fish have been. He’s knows what’s down there. He can see. But Jesus says, “I want you to venture out just a little bit. I want you to venture out into the deep waters—the place where it’s unknown.” The word that’s used here for deep is the word bathos which is the same word used to describe the vastness and depth of God’s love and mercy. In other words, it’s so big, it’s so deep, it’s so huge there’s no way you could possibly know or comprehend all of it. You couldn’t encompass it all. That’s what the deep water is. “I want you to venture out over here where it’s murky. It’s unknown. You can’t see. You have no clue what’s going to happen.”
You know what’s interesting of Jesus request? He never promises fish. He never says, “Let out your nets for a catch and I promise you—I guarantee you—there will be success. I guarantee that you will be amazed at what you see.” He doesn’t say that. I also like that he doesn’t say, “You know what your problem is Simon? Your problem is you’ve been over here trying to fish when you should have been over here. That’s your problem!” He doesn’t say that. Instead he says, “I want you to venture out into deep water; into the unknown.”
What is interesting about when Jesus shows up in our lives is a lot of times he asks us for something small, but he goes, “Now that you’ve done that, I want you do something by faith. Would you do something you cannot see? Would do something for me that you have no clue what the outcome will be. In fact I’m not going to tell you what the outcome is. I can’t promise you anything, because if I told you, it would be seeing and for you, seeing is believing. I want you to go this distance by faith. I want you to come this far and trust me. If I showed you what was going to happen, it wouldn’t be faith.”
That’s a lot of times how Jesus shows up in our lives. He comes up and asks us for a little step and then the next thing that happens is Jesus asking us to venture out in faith, the deep waters, the great unknown where we can’t see, where we don’t know what the outcome will be. We don’t know if there’s going to be fish there. But we venture out in faith.
I love Simon’s response. He says, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”
Have you ever watched The Red Green Show? It was one of my favorite shows growing up. And I love how they ended the show. After a squeal goes off that signifies meeting time, all the guys go downstairs in the basement of the lodge. And before the meeting they all say a prayer together. “I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to. I guess.” If you could describe that word in one prayer it would be the word reluctance. Right? I don’t want to do this. But if I have to I guess.
A few weeks ago when the snow first fell my wife and I were excited to take our daughter, Ryann, sledding for the first time. Ryann is about to turn 3 and she is so ready to go sledding. So we got a sled and we were going to take her sledding after her nap. And everyone knows that you don’t wake a sleeping two-year-old. So we waited. On this particular day we waited longer than usual. But we were both excited about going sledding. In my mind the perfect place to sled was some hill away from where everyone else was. I had in my mind the idea that we were going to drive out into the country, or to a city park and go sledding where no one else is. I was super excited about sledding until I found out where my wife wanted to go sledding—which was at the Centerville Hy Vee. If you’ve ever been to the Centerville Hy Vee you know that there is a nice, big hill on the south side of the parking lot. And you park in the lot and walk up the hill to a housing area at the top. But I was so reluctant because I didn’t want all the people walking into Hy Vee to see our family. I didn’t want the people in the café seating area to see our family sledding. I was so reluctant because I did not want to go sledding there. But when Ryann finally woke up it came down to either we go to Hy Vee or we weren’t going sledding at all. I can change, if I have to, I guess. So we went sledding and it was the most incredible time. [Picture] I want you to see the smile on Ryann’s face. It is the most incredible smile I’ve ever seen. And if I would have taken my stand and said, “I’m not going sledding,” I would have missed out on one of the most incredible gifts ever. I cherish that picture so much.
Sometimes we do this too. We are so reluctant to do some of the things God asks of us. God asks us to venture out into the unknown, to do something that is by faith and we say, “No, you know God, I really don’t want to do that. I’ve got something else going on. I’ve got get my nets clean. I’m so tired. I just want to go to bed. It was a bad night.” And we put our foot down and we miss out on so much for what God has for us. The funny thing about God is that he is willing to take even our reluctant yes and allow it to expand our faith. There’s a difference between expanding faith and testing faith. Test is just to see if you have knowledge. But expanding allows the faith to grow. And that’s the way God works. If you say one tiny ‘yes’ to God, he’ll take that yes and turn it into an incredible gift.
The story continues. “So they dropped their nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled the boats so full that they were about to sink.” That’s the incredible gift you get for venturing out in faith. It’s so incredible you can barely take it all in. “When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!’” That’s exactly what we do sometimes. And I wonder if it’s something more like this. You could make an argument that Peter recognized that he was a sinner and that he was in the presence of a holy man and that created a clash. But I wonder if what’s going through Peter’s mind is, “Oh no! My whole world is about to change.” Everything I’ve ever done, this whole life I’ve built here, my life as I know it is about to be turned around because of one encounter with Jesus. Because of one ‘yes’ to God and venturing out in faith my whole life is about to change.
And I love Jesus’ response. Simon says, “Leave me alone, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” And it goes on, “Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too. Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid.’”
Isn’t that most incredible words you can hear from Jesus? “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of venturing out. Don’t be afraid of the great unknown. Don’t be afraid of mystery of following me because if I showed you it wouldn’t be faith. If I told you, you wouldn’t follow me because you would make it into a coincidence. Don’t be afraid of what’s about to happen. Don’t be afraid of trusting me because after all, I am God. I’m on my throne. I’m in control. I have a plan. There’s a purpose for doing this. There’s a reason for all of this. Don’t be afraid.”
And a lot of times that’s exactly what Jesus does in our lives. He comes and says I need something tiny and small. But then he goes on to the next level and says I need you to venture out and take a risk. But then he says, “I’ve got you. Don’t be afraid. I’m with you.”
Simon recognizes that this is God’s doing and he pushes away and says, “Don’t bother me. My whole world is about to change.” And Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. You’re better than this. I’m here. From now on you’ll be fishing for people.”
I love this next part of the story. It says, “As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they took the fish, sold the boats and followed Jesus.” No, that’s not what it says. It says, “They left everything and followed Jesus.” I look at that part of the story and go, “That is terrible!” That is the worst possible thing they could do. The fish could have been sold to help fund Jesus’ ministry. The boats could have been used as their traveling preaching platform. I feel like Jesus missed out on an incredible opportunity here. Jesus performed this incredible miracle and he didn’t capitalize on it. Seriously? “As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.”
Sometimes Jesus shows up in our lives in the midst of our busyness and says I need something small from you. Then he asks us to venture out in faith and says do something huge for him. And then he just kind of leaves it. He says “Follow me.” And he gives us the opportunity to respond. He gives us the opportunity to say yes. Sometimes that yes to Jesus means we have to leave something behind. Something that was important to us. Something that was so vital to our lives.
Today I just want to end by asking some questions. When you leave here today and go home with your family and sit down for lunch, I want you to ask each other these questions. I don’t want you to come here and listen to some sermon and say that was incredible. I want you to go home and reflect on this.
I want you to ask the question do we have the courage it takes to follow Jesus like Peter? Do we have the courage it takes to follow Jesus? Because I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have constantly put my foot down and say no I’m too busy. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to be the type of person who is so reluctantly saying yes to Jesus that I’ve said no too many times. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wish I would have done something differently. Do we have the courage it takes to follow Jesus—to venture out into the great unknown, the deep waters? You know what’s interesting, the next time Jesus comes to Peter on the boat Jesus asks him to take a step out of the boat. So he’s no longer venturing out into deep waters with the safety and security of his boat, but he’s now stepping out in faith that’s even bigger. Do we have the courage it takes to follow Jesus?
Next question. Do I try to seek my own personal comfort more than Christ’s call? Am I so concerned about getting my nets clean and doing the thing I need to do to get by? Or am I more concerned about following Christ? Am I too busy or am I going to follow Christ when he calls me?
Last question. Do I trust that God is going to come through? If I’m going to leave everything behind, do I trust that God is going to really come through? Will he be the God he says he is? Will he actually come through and perform a miracle for me, provide for me? Do I trust God to come through?
I’ve got to be honest with you. It is scary following Christ like that. This journey of venturing out into the unknown is the scariest thing you can do in life. And I imagine that there are some people in this room today who look at me and go, “You know Michael, I feel fine. I feel like I’m doing everything I need to follow Christ.” Then this message wasn’t for you. But I have to believe that there are some in this room who resonate with me and saying, “Man I wonder if I do have the courage it takes to follow Christ. I wonder if I have been seeking comfort more. I wonder if God will really pull through.”
I can tell you this journey with Christ is scary. But it also the most rewarding journey in life. I want to challenge you to follow Christ when he comes into our lives and asks us to follow him and be his disciples. I’m asking you to venture out into the deep waters and not miss out on God’s gifts for us.
Michael Da Hann is Youth Pastor at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene (Moravia, Iowa). This sermon was submitted to Nazarene Theological Seminary as part of the Corlett Sermon Award, 2015.