Follow Me: Leaving Our Nets for Christ

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Leaving Our Nets for Christ

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MP3 Audio (8.99 MB)


Follow Me: Leaving Our Nets for Christ

MP3 Audio (8.99 MB)

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, Mark 1:16 and Luke 5:1-11, 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) 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). 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). 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).

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). 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).

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). 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; Mark 1:20) and “forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11). 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), in chiding Jesus when He spoke of being killed (Matthew 16:22-23), in running away like all the others at Jesus’ arrest (Mark 14:50), and in denying Jesus three times that same night (Luke 22:54-62). 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). 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) at the spot in Galilee to which He had directed them to go (Matthew 26:32). 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).

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). 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). 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!