The Calling of the First Disciples
Central Truth: Jesus calls ordinary people to be witnesses for Him.
New International Version, (NIV), © 1984, International Bible Society
Luke 5: 1One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a]with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down[b] the nets for a catch."
5 Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
a. Luke 5:1 That is,
b. Luke 5:4 The Greek verb is plural.
Background: Matthew Henry’s Commentary: The miraculous draught of fishes, Peter, James, and John called: When Christ had done preaching, he told Peter to apply to the business of his calling. Time spent on week days in public exercises of religion, need be but little hinderance in time, and may be great furtherance to us in temper of mind, as to our worldly business. With what cheerfulness may we go about the duties of our calling, when we have been with God, and thus have our worldly employments sanctified to us by the word and prayer! Though they had taken nothing, yet Christ told them to let down their nets again. We must not abruptly quit our callings because we have not the success in them we desire. We are likely to speed well, when we follow the guidance of Christ's word. The draught of fishes was by a miracle. We must all, like Peter, own ourselves to be sinful men, therefore Jesus Christ might justly depart from us. But we must beseech him that he would not depart; for woe unto us if the Saviour depart from sinners! Rather let us entreat him to come and dwell in our hearts by faith, that he may transform and cleanse them. These fishermen forsook all, and followed Jesus, when their calling prospered. When riches increase, and we are tempted to set our hearts upon them, then to quit them for Christ is thankworthy.
Key Questions and Issues:
Jesus enlisted the services of Simon and his boat even before He called him. He used the boat as a platform for His teaching.
q How can we involve people in ministry even before they come to faith?
q How might this give them exposure to Christianity, to the message and God’s people?
q Can you remember your impressions of the church, of Christian faith, or of Christians before you made a commitment to Him? How important was that exposure?
The next thing Jesus did with Simon was take him fishing – on Simon’s own boat! Through that experience He was able to accomplish two things. (1) He bonded with Simon. (2) He shared an experience with Simon that He was able to use as an illustration of His call.
q What are some ways that we can bond with non-believers as we seek to “make friends for Christ?”
q What are some common every day experiences that might be used to illustrate the call of Jesus in people’s lives?
Simon had very low expectations of fishing with Jesus because his previous experience had disappointed him. He had been fishing all night with little success and was frustrated. However, he had been listening to Jesus and was apparently impressed. He was willing to try again, but only because Jesus said so. Jesus had earned an influence in Simon’s life.
q What sorts of frustrations and low expectations do people around us have regarding their own futures and matters of faith? Have many people just given up?
q What are some ways that we might win the right and the ability to have influence over people and how might we use that influence over people to persuade them to take another look at Jesus Christ?
What happened next was a surprise to everyone except Jesus. The only difference in the fishing was that He was with Simon and that He was directing the efforts. Often, people think they have tried everything, but they have tried it all on their own. They are surprised when they get a taste of the possibilities of life with Jesus Christ. We can help people take such a taste and accumulate some life experiences that verify the claims of Christ.
q Did you or someone you know ever experience the difference of the faith life before actually coming to Christ? Tell us about that.
q What is the difference that “launching out into the deep” and “fishing with Jesus” makes in your life over going it alone?
q How do you help other people understand the difference?
q Do you ever revert to the old pattern of “fishing alone?” What are the typical results?
Note: Jesus was modeling with Simon what it means to “fish for men.” He was also teaching Simon that in his future ministry, which he was yet to even imagine, he would not do so alone or on his own initiative. Nor would he be fishing in shallow waters.
To say the least, Simon and his other companions were impressed. In the same way, when we take non-believers “fishing” with us and involve them in Christian life and ministry, they are often impressed with what God does. They can find no explanation for it. They are amazed and somewhat bewildered. Notice that Jesus never mentioned their sin, yet Simon came under deep conviction of his sin and bowed down before Jesus, calling Him Lord. All Jesus had really done was to take them fishing after a “Bible study” lesson.
q What can your learn about witnessing from the example of Jesus? How can we practice His example?
q What does it take to impress non-believers? Why is important?
q Remembering that he had been exposed to a verbal witness, how did Jesus’ demonstration make Simon aware of His sin? What does it take for people to come under conviction? Do we need to badger them or expose them to truth?
q What was happening spiritually that caused Simon to bow down and call Jesus Lord? What brought you to this point in your spiritual life? If it has not happened yet, what would it take?
Finally, Jesus defined for Simon and the others what their experience had all been about. He called them to discipleship as He calls each of us. He calmed their fears and assured them that they would become “fishers of men.” This call was so compelling and attractive to them that they left everything to follow Him. In less than a day, they had come to understand that in order to experience real significance in their lives, they would need to follow Jesus.
q How important is significance in a person’s life? What does it mean?
q When and how did you first realize that God was calling you? How did you respond?
q What does it take for a person to leave everything and follow Jesus? Would you be bold enough to ask someone to do that? Have you done that?
q What does it mean to be a “fisher of men?”
q How will you apply the lessons of Jesus to your own personal witnessing this week?
q Who are some people in your life that you need to spend time with as a way of exposing them to the claims of Christ?
q How might you involve them in ministry or fellowship in order to give them a taste of Christian life, faith, and Christians?
q Pray for these people and each other for opportunities, awareness, wisdom, and spiritual power to accomplish great things for the