Sermon Notes, 5th Sunday after Trinity, 5 July 2015Anno Domini
1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 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 was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
Unless a Christian or a minister is called of God, he will not follow Jesus. He must be both called and chosen. This principle is born out more acutely in today’s text. It is the THIRD calling of Peter, James and John – and it is the EFFECTUAL calling of the three for they forsook all and followed Him on this Third calling. Peter, especially, seemed one who was hard-headed of hearing. The Lord had called Peter to follow Him three times, He had told Peter that he would deny Him three times, He asked Peter, “Lovest thou me?” three times, and He told Peter to “Take and eat” (Acts 10) three times. This latter calling to take and eat had nothing to do with the ceremonial food laws, but the acceptance of the Gentiles into the church. There is an overruling principle here that our Lord will not give us rest when He calls and chooses His disciples. He will continue the call in increasing intensity until the Spirit has prepared the heart to respond. In human reason and logic, which covets its own will, this principle is resisted to the end that salvation comes to rest upon human will and not that of God. (For the three callings of the three, see John 1:35-42, Matthew 4:18-22, & this present text above.
As the 17th Article of Religion confirms, based on many Scriptural proofs, and which I quote in part:
XVII. Of Predestination and Election – “Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.”
God calls and chooses, and He does not relent. He will have that which He lays claim to. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matt 20:15-16) “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16) He had chosen you, too, if you are a disciple of Christ, and the Holy Spirit drew you nigh unto God as a fisher’s hook in the jaw.
Now to the greater detail of today’s Gospel Text: Jesus stands on the shore of the Galilean Sea (Gennesaret) and saw two ships standing there unoccupied. He chose the ship belonging to Simon Peter. When God chooses His Elect, He also chooses their all – “lock, stock, and barrel!”[i] Ask your mom or dad if you know not what this latter term means, or see the footnote of the written version of this sermon. All that you own, have owned, or ever will own, belongs to God the Father. We can give nothing to Heaven but that which Heaven has given to us.
“. . . . and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.” There were so many people pressing about Jesus that He needed a separation from them to preach. Today, the minister may get so close to the people that he will begin to preach what THEY want to hear, and not that which God has spoken in the secret chamber. I believe humor is important for health and happiness; however, when in the pulpit, it should not be the center of attraction. The Gospel is serious, and we must be serious in preaching it. So we separate ourselves by some distance when preaching. That is the purpose of the pulpit and, I might add, the true minister will separate himself from his own worldly thoughts, too, when preaching. Jesus sat down and taught the people as was His frequent custom. He did so because He was the Teacher – He had the Authority.
“4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” This was most certainly early morning since the ships were sitting idle and the fishermen were cleaning their nets (which they did always after a night of fishing). Jesus has fully orchestrated this moment from before the foundation of the world. He has the chosen disciples, He has the boat, He has the soul hungry people on shore, and He has the great sea filled with fish who also respond to His call. But the command of Jesus to the disciples (Peter, James, and John), does not seem at all rational. The morning sun is not a good time to fish since the fish are not feeding at that hour and they can also more easily see the net. The best time is in the darkness of the night, and the disciples had been fishing all night long without profit.
We are very much like these three disciples. We labor in earnest but nothing seems to avail. But when Christ arrives on the scene, and we do His bidding, the results will be quite different! “5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” It is obvious that Simon (Peter) has the stuff disciples are made of for he was willing to ignore his own impulses and follow the command of the Lord – even if it defied all reason to Simon. Why can we not all say, with regard to personal affairs, and national policy, “nevertheless at thy word.” “No matter how little your Word makes sense to me, Lord, I will nevertheless, like a good soldier of the line, obey without hesitation!”
We make strong nets to catch fish, and large and elaborate buildings to accommodate worshippers, but these are never sufficient to the purpose when God is in the matter. “6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.” I would love to have seen the expressions on the faces of the disciples, and the crowd ashore, when so many fish were gathered as to break the net! Why are we always surprised when God performs a great work or miracle in our lives? “And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them.” The work of preaching and evangelizing is not a one-man show – it is a joint effort of the Church. We must trust and depend upon one another to help in the harvest. But the tremendous returns of God to our meager investments of labor are dwarfed at the blessing and size of it! “And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.” No one at Galilee had ever witnessed such a prolific catch of fish – and what an unusual hour for it! If we labor not to harvest the crop, God will set our fields on fire. If we hear His Voice and obey, He will bring forth showers of blessing. There was not an un-amazed observer either at sea or on the shore that day in Galilee.
“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon.” Only God commands the sea and the creatures of the deep. Peter, though a common sense kind of seaman, was overcome with astonishment at this miracle and knew, without doubt, that he was in the presence of the Lord of Heaven! So did his comrades know it. The question is this: Do YOU really know it? In your quiet times in closet on by the sea, do you know and feel the presence of the Lord of Heaven? “And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Truly. Peter became just that as well as the other two disciples present.
This third calling of Christ to the disciples – Peter, James, and John – was an effectual calling as evidenced by the last verse: “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” We also must bring our catch to shore, or to Heaven. God may have called you to His bosom many times, but you have yet to respond. Have you yet forsaken all and followed Jesus?
[i] A term first used by Sir Walter Scott in 1817. The whole weapon of a gunman was composed of a lock (firing mechanism), a stock for carriage, and a barrel to propel the projectile.