Follow Me: Leaving Our Nets for Christ

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Leaving Our Nets for Christ

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Nearly 2,000 years ago several fishermen were going about their generational heritage of casting nets into the Sea of Galilee. The rhythm of life, like the lapping of waves on the shore, was slow, steady and reassuring. Once on shore they would clean and mend their nets and hang them to dry. These nets were precious, their families’ survival depending on them. Practically speaking, their nets meant everything!

But all was about to change. Jesus would enter “their turf” and declare that now was decision-making time! This dynamic moment, related in Matthew 4:18-22 Matthew 4:18-22 [18] And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. [19] And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. [20] And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. [21] And going on from there, he saw other two brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. [22] And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
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, Mark 1:16 Mark 1:16Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
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and Luke 5:1-11 Luke 5:1-11 [1] And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed on 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 to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. [5] And Simon answering said to him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at your word I will let down the net. [6] And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net broke. [7] And they beckoned to 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 to Simon, Fear not; from now on you shall catch men. [11] And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
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, offers meaningful consideration for us today about what it means to heed Christ’s ongoing and expanding call of “Follow Me.”

Miraculous intervention

Jesus stood on the shore watching the fishermen going about their trade. He was no stranger to them. Besides rubbing shoulders amid lakeside towns, brothers James and John were related to Him, their mothers being sisters. Andrew was present at the Jordan River when John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29-36 John 1:29-36 [29] The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. [30] This is he of whom I said, After me comes a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. [31] And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. [32] And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it stayed on him. [33] And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, On whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizes with the Holy Ghost. [34] And I saw, and bore record that this is the Son of God. [35] Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; [36] And looking on Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!
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) and was afterward directly asked by Jesus, “What do you seek?” and invited to come and see more at His lodging (John 1:35-39 John 1:35-39 [35] Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; [36] And looking on Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God! [37] And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. [38] Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, What seek you? They said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwell you? [39] He said to them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelled, and stayed with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
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). Believing Jesus to be the Messiah, Andrew brought his brother Simon, later called Peter, to meet Him (verses 40-42).

But now came a momentous day when Jesus walked into their world to share a miraculous lesson and grant a life-changing invitation. The brothers had been out all night on the lake, having given their all with nothing to show for it. James and John were nearby mending their own nets in their boat.

Jesus seized on the moment as He stepped into Simon’s boat, spoke in front of a crowd and challenged the fisherman, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:1-4 Luke 5:1-4 [1] And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed on 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 to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
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). Peter initially balked, declaring it a waste of time since it was now daylight and the fish could see and avoid the nets, but he further replied, “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5 Luke 5:5And Simon answering said to him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.
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).

What followed is a snapshot moment of amazement. In following Jesus’ directive, Peter and Andrew’s net became so full of fish it almost broke. Their business partners, James and John, came to the rescue in their boat to save the plenteous catch that almost sank both boats (Luke 5:6-7 Luke 5:6-7 [6] And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net broke. [7] And they beckoned to 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.
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). Imagine the smile on Jesus’ face and the awe, laughter and joy of the watching crowd.

Realizing the need for Him

In this moment Peter grasped the emptiness of the works of his own hands and that his well-mended nets alone could not save him. He cried out for Jesus to depart from him, as he was a sinful man feeling guilty and unworthy. This fisherman knew he was as personally empty as his nets had been (Luke 5:8 Luke 5:8When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
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).

But Jesus was not deterred. He was here to fill Peter’s life and that of his companions with another assignment—to follow Him and become fishers of men (verse 9). He’d just shown them that they didn’t need those nets; what they needed was Him! “Do not be afraid,” He said, “From now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:10 Luke 5:10And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Fear not; from now on you shall catch men.
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). Jesus knew the moment was ripe. They were ready to “launch out” to wherever He would have them go on land or sea, and He would always be on board with them.

The four fishermen’s response? They immediately left their boats (Matthew 4:22 Matthew 4:22And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
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; Mark 1:20 Mark 1:20And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
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) and “forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11 Luke 5:11And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
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). Pulling up their personal anchors, they dropped their nets, got out of the boat and handed over their past, present and future to the beckoning Man on the shore.

Fully committing—now and through life

So, what does this have to do with you today? Perhaps you’ve shown some interest in the teachings of Jesus Christ, passing near Him like the Galileans of His time. Perhaps you’ve even had short visits with Him like Andrew and Simon first did. But is that all that’s desired of you? Or have you come to a “reality check” like Peter in realizing all our personal efforts through our own resources resemble Peter’s nighttime fishing—nothing to show for it?

God doesn’t want to just rub shoulders with you or simply settle for a drive-by visit. What He wants is that you—with all your heart and immediacy in heeding His words—pull up your anchor of self, get out of your leaking boat of life, leave your nets and obey Christ’s directive of “Follow Me.” And not just once but again and again and again—wherever He takes us and no matter what comes our way.

Some of us may be saying: “Been there, done that. I’m in!” Peter said as much, but more would come his way after that initial trusting response. Peter would take his eyes off Jesus in walking with Him on the water and starting to sink (Matthew 14:22-32 Matthew 14:22-32 [22] And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him to the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. [23] And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. [24] But the ship was now in the middle of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. [25] And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. [26] And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. [27] But straightway Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. [28] And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be you, bid me come to you on the water. [29] And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. [30] But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. [31] And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? [32] And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
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), in chiding Jesus when He spoke of being killed (Matthew 16:22-23 Matthew 16:22-23 [22] Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be to you. [23] But he turned, and said to Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense to me: for you mind not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
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), in running away like all the others at Jesus’ arrest (Mark 14:50 Mark 14:50And they all forsook him, and fled.
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), and in denying Jesus three times that same night (Luke 22:54-62 Luke 22:54-62 [54] Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off. [55] And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. [56] But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked on him, and said, This man was also with him. [57] And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. [58] And after a little while another saw him, and said, You are also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. [59] And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. [60] And Peter said, Man, I know not what you say. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crew. [61] And the Lord turned, and looked on Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, Before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice. [62] And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
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). Peter stumbled. We all stumble even after initially committing to “get out of our boats” for Christ.

Renewing the relationship

Perhaps some of us have gradually resettled into the familiar, comfortable world of our past nets, despite Jesus’ assurance that we don’t need those nets—that we need Him. Yet God is patient and won’t let us go. Meeting us on our turf, Christ keeps on knocking on the doors of our hearts (Revelation 3:20 Revelation 3:20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
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). Often life is a circle, with Christ bringing us back around to drive home the lesson.

William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of John (Vol. 2, p. 285), paints a powerful picture of Peter’s return to the point of life-changing encounter. The now-risen Christ meets the disciples (now for the third time—John 21:14 John 21:14This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
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) at the spot in Galilee to which He had directed them to go (Matthew 26:32 Matthew 26:32But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
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). But why? While waiting for His appearance they went fishing again, and their nets once again came up empty. Christ appears on the shore and comes to the rescue, again performing a miracle of filling their nets with fish (John 21:3-8 John 21:3-8 [3] Simon Peter said to them, I go a fishing. They say to him, We also go with you. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. [4] But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. [5] Then Jesus said to them, Children, have you any meat? They answered him, No. [6] And he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. [7] Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat to him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. [8] And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
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).

But now Jesus desires Peter to “launch” into a deeper relationship with Him and knocks (pounds?) on the door of His heart with point-blank questions. Jesus three times asks Peter, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15 John 21:15So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs.
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). The first time He words it, “Do you love Me more than these?” (emphasis added).

Barclay comments that this can mean one of two things. On one hand, the term “these” may be referring to Peter’s fellow disciples, so that the question is if Peter loves Jesus more than the other disciples love Jesus—referring to Peter’s earlier slight of the others in notoriously saying, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33 Matthew 26:33Peter answered and said to him, Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended.
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). With Jesus pointing to the gathered disciples, Peter’s words haunt him and he must admit in his heart that He didn’t live up to his professed commitment.

It’s time to launch

But here Barclay proposes another thought—that the scope of this first inquiry is wider than that. He suggests that the risen Christ sweeps His hand over a broader landscape as Peter visually follows His Master’s gestures and beholds the familiar waters set before them, the beached boats on the shore, and the drying nets, with Jesus asking, “Do you love Me more than [you love] these?”

Regardless, Jesus in this place has created the perfect teaching moment: Peter! Remember this is where it began. You left this seashore with Me. And here we are again. Remember: You walked toward Me out on this same water at one time. And yes, you sank but for a moment and I pulled you up. Just as I told you when we first talked right here, it’s time to “launch” once again.

He was pounding home the eternal reality: You don’t need these—you need Me!

Whether you are just now responding to Jesus’ invitation of “Follow Me” or responded long ago but somehow, somewhere have lost your way, this message is for you. It’s time to launch, with Him at your side!