JESUS USES ORDINARY PEOPLE WITH DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS IN HIS WORK.
LUKE 5:3-11, 27-32
MEMORY VERSE: LUKE 5: 32 “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
We never know what life holds for a person or what God can do in time. Jesus called some unlikely people to be His followers, reminding us that God sees people differently than we do.
THE CONTEXT (LUKE 5:1-11, 27-32)
From the earliest days, Jesus brought other people into His inner circle to prepare them for future leadership in His church. He was looking toward the time when He no longer would be present physically. While large numbers of people heard Him speak and scores followed Him from place to place, only a few enjoyed the intimacy of His quiet talks in between the public encounters.
We need all four Gospel accounts to identify the various places, times, and relationships to one another. Andrew first met the Lord shortly after Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River. He introduced his brother, Simon Peter to Jesus (John 1:29-42). Later, the events of Luke 4-5 took place, setting the scene for Jesus’ calling His first disciples.
After Jesus returned from Nazareth to Capernaum, He ministered to the synagogue and among the residents of the city. At Simon Peter’s home, He healed Peter’s mother-in-law of an illness. As Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, He began to select and train this special group of disciples who later would be named apostles (Luke 6:13). Jesus’ choices were not random. In His omniscience, Jesus knew exactly who He wanted and why.
Much of this early ministry traveling from place to place took place around the Sea of Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Galilee was the large region between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Sea of Galilee on the east. Capernaum lay on the northern coast of the sea, while Gennesaret included the district on the western coast. From the last part of Luke 4 to the early sections of chapter 5, several of the first disciples can be identified. Residing in this sea coast town, at least four of them worked as fishermen.
Jesus always took people where they were, but He did not leave them in that situation. He gave some of them new names; to all He gave a new purpose. The fishermen would leave their nets, their families, and the safety of their livelihoods, but Jesus made them all fishers of men. One disciple was a tax collector, but Jesus gave him the job of collecting souls.
PETER, JAMES, AND JOHN (LUKE 5:3-11)
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 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."
As Jesus walked along the seashore, crowds of people pressed against Him. They wanted to hear everything Jesus had to say about the Word of God. To avoid being crushed, Jesus entered one of the nearby fishing boats and asked its owner, Simon, to put out a little from the shore so He could continue teaching the people.
After Jesus had finished speaking to the large crowd, He turned again to Simon. He told him to put out into deep water. Commercial fishermen of this era threw large nets and brought the boats about in order to encircle schools of fish. At this time of day, the fish probably were not close to the shoreline.
Simon had fished all his life. Simon Peter was surprised when told to let down the nets for a catch. Jesus may have had multiple reasons for wanting Simon to make a good haul of fish. First, knowing they had been unsuccessful the night before, Jesus might have wanted to reward Simon’s loan of the boat. Second, knowing He was about to take Simon away from the family business, Jesus possibly thought to give him a profitable catch. Most likely, the miraculous result of Jesus’ instruction and Simon’s obedience offered a spiritual object lesson that would lead directly to Simon’s response in following Jesus.
Simon addressed Jesus as Master. This word is different from the typical reference to a rabbi or a teacher. Also, the term does not rise to the level of “Lord.” Instead, it acknowledged Jesus’ elevated position of authority. It is the same reference the disciples used later when appealing to Jesus during the dangerous storm (Luke 8:24). Simon also employed this title when speaking to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:33).
James and John were in the other boat. These commercial boats were about thirty feet long. They were big enough to handle large catches of fish and required multiple hands on deck.
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.
Their willingness to do as Jesus said had astonishing results. They did not just catch some fish; they caught a great number of fish. The outcome highlighted the difference between not catching anything during what should have been peak fishing time versus the heat of the day when the fish should have been much deeper in the water. Only a supernatural cause could explain what was happening.
Because they caught so many fish, their nets began to tear. The other boat came alongside Simon’s craft. Between them, they filled both boats. The catch was so overwhelming that the boats 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.
For the first time in this narrative, Luke referred to Simon as Simon Peter, the name was significant since Jesus first called him Cephas when they met upon Andrew’s introduction (John 1:42).
42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called “Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
The name Cephas is Aramaic, while the word Peter is Greek. Both terms refer to a stone. The compound name, Simon Peter, was used to identify him according to what Jesus would make him to become. Jesus reiterated Simon’s new name (Peter) later in Matt. 16:16-18).
When Peter understood the gravity of what just happened, he begged Jesus to go away because he knew he was a sinful man. Whenever humans encounter the divine presence, they become aware of their sinfulness. Isaiah had a similar response to the heavenly vision and was overwhelmed by his sinfulness (Isa. 6:5). Simon Peter was not alone in his response. The others were amazed and soul searching as well. James and John, who were in the other boat, were identified as Zebedee’s sons. Later, they would be called the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). The supernatural nature of the catch was obvious to all of them. When they pulled up their boats on shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.
A believer’s past sinfulness does not disqualify him or her from being used by God. Looking into the mirror of God’s holiness heightens the awareness of our sinfulness. God does not call people because of their worthiness but because of His mercy and according to His purposes. Anyone who is willing to repent of sin and follow Jesus in faith and obedience can experience the wonders of serving the Master.
LEVI (LUKE 5:27-28)
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him,
28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Luke does not give a distinct timeline in chapter 5. Levi was engaged in his normal business activities when Jesus called him. Levi was a tax collector, a profession despised by his own people since the tax collectors worked for an oppressive government. Many tax collectors charged people more taxes than required by the Romans and pocketed the difference.
The scripture suggest that Jesus went looking for Levi and found him. Unlike the calling of the fishermen, Jesus did not perform any miracle or sign to impress Levi. He simply said to him, follow me. Levi undoubtedly knew who Jesus was and what was involved in following Him.
Levi understood he could not remain where he was and go after Christ. To follow Jesus meant leaving everything behind, including his job. Doing that might have legal problems with the authorities. When Jesus called, Levi acted. He got up and began to follow him. Levi walked away from his livelihood and what had been prosperous prospects. What came next was just the start as Levi began to follow Jesus. In time, Levi wrote the book of Matthew, the first book listed in the New Testament.
Jesus still calls people to follow Him. They don’t have to be special people. Most Christ-followers are ordinary. They work regular jobs like Levi and have families like Peter, James, and John. They are not super saints but they do recognize that they are sinners and need divine help. They simply have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. Since He gave His life for them, they respond by giving their lives to Him.
SINNERS (LUKE 5:29-32)
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
People who meet Jesus want others to know Him, also. The term then suggests Levi started sharing Jesus with others almost immediately. As soon as he could organize a banquet for Jesus, he invited his friends to come and hear him. Hosting the dinner at his house, Levi exemplified a strategy believers use today. Our homes can become tools of evangelistic outreach to reach unbelieving friends.
The Pharisees and their scribes were not part of the invited dinner group; they criticized Jesus and his disciples for being there. Three points are important:
First, they did not approach Jesus directly. Instead, they were complaining to His disciples.
Second, they considered themselves morally superior to the people at Levi’s banquet.
Third, their question, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” shows they believed Jesus and His followers could not be true men of God if they associated with these types of people.
31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Jesus compared Himself to a doctor who is not needed by those who are healthy but by those who are sick. The Pharisees and scribes did not recognize their own neediness. They considered themselves above consorting with what they considered to be the dregs of society. Jesus’ response did not suggest these pious pretenders were healthy. Instead, He emphasized that He was called to people who understood their need.
Jesus declared that He had come to call sinners to repentance. He did not excuse or discount their sin, but neither did He allow their sin to keep Him away. His purpose was to effect life change for anyone who would acknowledge sin, repent, and trust Him.
1 Corinthians 1:26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are,
29 so that no one may boast before him.
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.