This lesson deals with the disciples going back to fishing after they spent about nine months investigating the words and works of Jesus. Fear causes many today to drop out before they are fully trained and convinced of the claims of Jesus.
Background: These men spent nine months off and on with Jesus so this passage is not their first exposure to Jesus. After those initial nine months, Jesus stopped by their places of business and called to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Perhaps Jesus had hoped these men had developed a heart for the harvest and reaching lost souls for Christ. They dropped everything and followed him. We don’t know what caused them to return to their nets; perhaps it was fear. Luke 5:1-11 is really a confirmation of their call to become fishers of men.
Bill Hull writes:
When Jesus called the handful of Galilean fishermen away from their nets to follow him, they responded directly to that invitation (Mark 1:16-20). After a short sojourn with the master in Capernaum and the surrounding villages (Mark 1:21-39, Luke 4:31-44), they returned to Galilee to take up their nets again (Luke 5:1-11). Apparently they went home under the guise of straightening up their personal affairs, but Jesus knew better. He knew they needed a little more time to solidify their commitment, one more time-out from ministry to fish for a few days, experiencing the futility of empty nets.
He goes on to say that it is a leadership art form to be able to salvage the dropout. They were discouraged, fearful, and slipping into the old life patterns. Many good disciples fall through the cracks but Jesus teaches us that the dropout syndrome may be reduced by bringing would-be disciples to total commitment in stages.
John Mark is a great example of this in Acts 15:36-38. John left the ministry (Acts 13:13) and Paul wrote him off early (Acts 15:39-41), but over time, John Mark became a valuable asset to Paul in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).
Is Matthew 4:18-22 the same event as Luke 5:1-11? Likely not because notice the differences:
- The location of Simon and Andrew: they were not fishing in Matthew and Mark, but they were in Luke.
- The location of Jesus: he did not enter a boat in Matthew and Mark, but he did in Luke.
- The catch of fish: Matthew and Mark don’t mention a catch of fish, but Luke does.
So, it appears that these two pairs of brothers went back to fishing after their call to come and follow Jesus. After responding to this second call, they stayed with Jesus until the end, and returned to fishing only after the crucifixion.
What do we know about the popularity of Jesus at this point in the narrative (Luke 5:1)?
Where did all of this take place (Luke 5:1)? Gennesaret or Galilee?
Why did they go back to fishing? Perhaps they were overwhelmed and longed for the safe and familiar.
- Dealing with demons (Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31b-37).
- Dealing with needy people (Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41) and the reality of compassion fatigue.
- Dealing with the demands of the crowds (Matthew 8:14-17, Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41).
Why did Jesus want to be in Peter’s boat (Luke 5:1)?
- A better position for acoustics: podium and how sound carries over the water.
- A better position for the miracle: to teach Peter a lesson of faith.
It may have been an awkward moment for Peter facing Jesus, whom he left to go back to fishing. Jesus was unwilling to let these guys fall through the cracks.
Why does Luke choose to call the disciple Simon son of John when Jesus had given him a new name, Cephas (which means Peter – John 1:41-43)? Maybe the old Simon was resurfacing during this time, and he was not “the rock” that Jesus said he was. People often take a step forward and three steps back. “Simon” reflected Peter at this time in his life.
What happened when Peter let the nets down into the water (Luke 5:6)? What symbolize might we see here?
When the nets began to break, what happened (Luke 5:6-7)? What lesson might we see in partnerships, working as teams, or doing ministry on our own?
How did this miracle affect Peter (Luke 5:8-9)? Shame and amazement. Peter knew that God alone was omniscient, and since Jesus knew where these fish were hiding, Jesus therefore is God. The one who called them to catch men was none other than the second person of the trinity! Peter falls on his knees. While fishing was Peter’s thing, and he knew about fishing, what he witnessed was not fishing. Jesus knew where the fish were and was controlling them (that is not fishing). This was supernatural.
What experience is more overwhelming than the challenges of fishing for men (Luke 5:10)? Jesus says to not be afraid, even though he knows our sinfulness, finiteness, fear.
At the end of it all, Jesus does not offer another invitation, but rather an affirmation (Luke 5:10b) of the previous call.
How did they respond to this affirmation (Luke 5:11)? They realize that fishing for men is not a temporary activity but an eternal pursuit. Now they are getting ready to build their faith and get equipped for a life of fruitful service.