Fishing for People (Luke 5)

Reading:  Luke 5 verses 1-11: The miraculous catch of fish

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “We worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so (“nevertheless”), I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realised what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (New Living Translation)



Have you had one of ‘those days’ recently…when nothing goes right?

SIMON (also called Peter) had experienced ‘one of those days’…

  • He and his partners (James & John) had fished hard all night and caught nothing
  • So they had come ashore and mended their nets instead… At least it gave them a sense of purpose to be doing something useful!
  • But in being purposeful and conscientious, they had stopped listening to Jesus!

Let’s be careful that we don’t fall into the same trap!

Simon was probably a large man…perhaps a giant of a man… thick-set, leathery face from years at sea…hands like plates, muscles like turnips

  • But he was not immune to the impact of difficult circumstances

For all Peter’s strength, experience, determination and close association with Jesus, he was struggling… Lots of effort for no reward! Perhaps some of us have had or are having this experience!

Peter was probably tired and jaded and a bit confused about what to do next… After all, he had started to follow Jesus and be His disciple

  • Now he was paying more attention to his nets than to what Jesus was saying
  • There’s an important principle here…

We may be talented, strong, successful, good-looking, brainy (or not!) … born leaders, perhaps, but there are times when we feel confused, disappointed and unsure of ourselves… (Church leaders sometimes feel the same!)

PETER was a leader of men but had become a bit disenchantedthen Jesus intervened… and things began to change, though not instantly…

God doesn’t often say: “I’m here to solve your problems… so stand aside while I sort them out! Hey presto, problem solved!” Like a genie from a bottle!

More often He brings about circumstances that help us to control and subdue the very things that are perplexing us…

  • We pray for patience and He sends along someone to test our patience to the limit
  • We pray for spiritual success and He allows us to fail, so we come to recognise that of ourselves we can do nothing
  • We pray for converts and He gives us the chance to witness … to the most sceptical person you could meet!

We ask God to intervene and stop us being shaken in life …only to discover that HE is doing or allowing the shaking!

So Jesus first begins teaching the ‘ordinary’ people about the Kingdom of God…and only when He has finished speaking to the crowd, does Jesus address Simon Peter personally…

I wonder what Jesus said to the crowd about God’s Kingdom?

  • Note that Jesus deals with matters of the soul first (speaking to the crowd) and Peter’s practical needs afterwards
  • How often do we put our practical needs ahead of our spiritual needs? Both are important…but it is easy to become so focused on practical issues that we neglect our spiritual development!

We may be tempted to believe that God only speaks to the ‘significant’ people… to those with special gifts and calling…

  • The rest of us are merely interested bystanders, admiring what God is doing in the lives of other people
  • So we buy books and CDs and read articles and hear talks about amazing events and happenings elsewhere
  • We thank God for what He chooses to do in and through others … but we forget that “the crowd” consists of people like you and me!
  • God has a ‘special word’ for each of us… for this church!

So Jesus tells Simon Peter to head out into deeper water… Deeper water! Jesus doesn’t reduce His demands on Peter… Quite the opposite! He seeks to extend Peter’s trust and faith in Him! Note!

  • And Peter does what many of us do when confronted with a situation that requires faith… He reverts to reason

Lord, we’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a tiddler!

See Simon hesitate… watch him grappling with his pride and doubts… We don’t do it like that here! Do we have the same sort of attitude in church life!

Nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the nets.

We may similarly hesitate to obey God… but as we submit to Christ with a ‘nevertheless’ attitude, we move from REASON to FAITH

The nets were probably not even mended when Peter launched his boat… But Jesus uses ‘broken things’ in His kingdom work…

  • He uses us despite, perhaps because of, our inadequacy… if we are willing to trust and obey and sail into deeper waters.
  • Many of us prefer to paddle… It’s so much less demanding!


“NEVERTHELESS”What a difference that word makes in our lives!

I don’t understand it Lord; but if you say so… despite my doubts and fears, I will do what you command

Think of Jesus, praying in GethsemaneMy Father! If it be possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Nevertheless, I want your will to be done, not mine.

Perhaps, like Peter, we entertain doubts… but God is waiting to hear our “nevertheless, at your word…” response.

Peter lets down the nets…probably with little enthusiasm at first… just a few fish… Then more and more and more!

  • He calls across to James and John to help and soon both boats are bursting with fish because when we’re obedient, others are blessed, too

Simon Peter sinks to his knees (in front of everyone!):

Please go away from me, Lord… I’m a sinner

Notice that Simon was not afraid to be seen in submission to Christ…

  • He didn’t allow his pride or social status or reputation to prevent him from acknowledging Jesus as Lord of his life

How about you and me? It’s quite easy to talk about Jesus Christ among ourselves… yet hesitate when opportunities come along to declare Him to others

Then Jesus adds: “Do not be afraid…from now on you will catch people (not fish)


  • Because this was ‘it’the no-going back moment

No longer ‘nominal disciples’…detached; spectators; on the margin… but wholehearted …moving into a new dimension of obedience and service

NOTE the lessons for our own lives

  1. We make a conscious decision to allow Christ to take control of a situation
  2. We make every effort to stay close to Christ (“Walk in step with the Spirit”), so that we can hear what He is saying to us
  3. We step out in faith, ignoring our doubts… fixing our eyes upon Jesus
  4. We become His true disciples and follow Him wherever He leads.

I wonder if God is placing a challenge before us today to rededicate our lives to Him… to become wholehearted in our obedience … and ‘fishers of men’ with a supreme concern for people’s souls?

If we do so, we must be willing to surrender our talents, abilities, gifts and time to God, knowing that He will make better use of them than we ever could!

  • There are no short cuts… No amount of effort, striving, work, action, personality, preparation, good intentions or sacrifice can compensate for a failure to follow Him obediently… empowered by His Spirit

And remember that Satan is also fishing for souls…

  • So we need to “go deeper” in our fishing: ‘That people will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap’ (2 Timothy 2 v 26)

We don’t ‘fish for people’ in a lily pond! It’s more like a raging torrent!

  • Servants of Satan are not superficial, half-hearted or spectators… They have but one desire… to keep people in eternal darkness
  • Servants of Christ should surely be no less committed to lead people into His light and see their lives transformed?

IMAGINE IF JESUS had said: “I’m willing to be scourged and mocked and spat upon … but that’s my limit… I’m not carrying the sins of the whole world in my body on that cross!

Despite our doubts and fears, may we say ‘nevertheless’ to what Jesus Christ is asking us to do and to be…

  • And see our boats almost sinking from the weight of the souls brought into His Kingdom!

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