Lesson 28: Preaching and Fishing from a Boat Near Capernaum
Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome to lesson # 28. We're going to read in just a moment from Luke 5:1-11. But, while you're finding that; let's review. Jesus healed a LOT OF PEOPLE in Capernaum. A man with an unclean spirit. Then Jesus healed Peter's wife's mother. Late that afternoon, after as sun set and the day changed from Saturday to Sunday; many sick people were carried to the door of Peter's house and Jesus healed every one. The next morning, on Sunday, Jesus arose early and found a solitary place to pray. But the crowd soon found Jesus that morning with the help of Peter. However, Jesus insisted that they go on to other cities of Galilee preaching "the kingdom of God." (Luke 4:43). Then, we read Matthew's summary of Jesus' ministry over Galilee (Matt. 4). Matthew said GREAT multitudes followed Jesus; people from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and beyond Jordan. Mark's said (1:28) that "immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee." Matthew said Jesus invited four disciples who were fishermen: namely, Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him on that tour.
Keep your finger on Luke ch. 5 just a minute; but, before we read, let me say this: somewhere along the line that winter and spring of AD 30-31; Jesus began to select and teach a special group of disciples that he later designated as apostles. We need to give some attention to the kind of men that Jesus selected. How he trained these men; AND, how these men got that WORD to us. Let's read, "And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 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. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto 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. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: and so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him."
O.K. a very vivid picture. Luke's pen almost has video. Can't you almost feel the breeze hitting you in the face and see those little waves sloping up and down on the gravel bar as those little fishing vessels vacillated up and down in the water? Here, these crafts are called ships; but, I would assume they were relatively small fishing boats, we would say. Look at v.1, "the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God..." Try to picture this! Did you ever try to speak to a group of students, out in the open, and the people in the back keep encroaching closer and closer and the crowd just keeps inching up? I would assume Jesus was experiencing something like that as he spoke to the crowd on the shore there at Capernaum that morning. Lake Gennesaret (v1) is another name for the Sea of Galilee. If you study v.1 and v.11, that we just read; it would appear Luke is connecting this occasion with v.42 and v.43 up in ch. 4. So then, this was that Sunday morning, the next day after the occasion of our last two lessons. That morning when Jesus got up early and had gone to a desert place for prayer. And, we learn something else here. Peter and his partners, Andrew, John, James and their father Zebedee had gone fishing during the night or the wee hours of the morning. Peter said (in v.5) they had toiled all night and didn't catch a thing. After Peter and the others tied up their empty fishing boats that morning; Peter had helped that gathering crowd to find Jesus, according to Mark 1:36. So, it was natural that the gathering crowd migrated back to where these fishermen were washing their nets and putting away their equipment. So, as Jesus taught the people and the crowd encroached upon him; he climbed up into Peter empty fishing boat where he could see all the crowd and all the crowd could see him. He asked Peter to push it out a little from the land. Then, the second sentence in v.3 says, Jesus "sat down, and taught the people out of the ship." You will remember, we observed when Jesus taught in the synagogue at Nazareth, it was apparently their custom for the teacher to set down. In a crude sort of way, this was an ideal little makeshift amphitheater arrangement with a movable stage. Although, sound usually doesn't carry very well around water; especially, when one has to compete with the wave sounds breaking on the beach, the birds and the screaking of a fishing boat. But, you get the picture. The only thing missing is Jesus' speech. What did Jesus say? We don't know! Of course, Matthew gave us a general description and Luke up in v.43 said he preached the kingdom of God. But, the Holy Spirit did not see fit to preserve for us here what Jesus said on that occasion.
But, finally Jesus brought his lesson to an end. Now, tune this in sharp! Look at verse 4. We're not told the last thing Jesus said to the crowd. It could have been, Thanks for coming! But, more likely an appeal for repentance and obedience to the gospel. And THEN, Jesus turned around to Simon Peter there in the boat and said, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a drought." Can you visualize that? Try to study Peter's character and personality as you envision this. Now, this was the disciple, that was first introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew back at Bethabara beyond Jordan (John 1:41); where Jesus gave Simon the nickname "Peter", which John explained meant simply "A stone." So, Jesus when he dismissed the crowd he turned around to the Old Stone, Simon Peter, and said: "Launch out into the deep." Now, THAT would make a good sermon title, wouldn't it? Get your eyes on Peter (v.5). "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing..." What would you call that? a protest? an argument? or a disagreement? Can you imagine how much work it would be to mess around with those old fishing nets and try to rudder and steer a fishing boat all night long? Can you see where Peter was coming from? But, then Iperceive, right in the middle of Peter's sentence; Jesus looked Peter right straight in the eye; causing Peter to suddenly realize that he was not obeying the Master. Jesus had said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matt. 4:19). So, as Peter and Jesus made eye contact, Peter did a switcher-rue, shoved his sentence into reverse and said: "nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." Do you see what happened? When Peter realized he was disobeying the Master, he suddenly and instantaneously, changed his mind and corrected his mistake. That's called "repentance". So, would you describe Peter's personality quality here as a "Rock" or "A stone"? Not hardly! Thus, you can see why, I believe, Jesus gave Peter that nickname as a kind of joke; a witty way of describing Peter's personality. It tells ME something about the personality of BOTH Jesus AND Peter. But, I do not SEE IT as a derogatory nickname! This characteristic of Peter, when seen correctly, is the personification of humility, honesty, sincerity and integrity; a real spiritual servant. Peter knew how terrible sin is and Peter's desire was to obey. Not my will, Lord; but, thy will be done. Peter had developed great respect for Jesus. Peter's mother-in-law and all those miracles the day before had established Jesus' credentials in the sight of Peter. You better believe it! So, when Jesus said, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." Peter launched out into the deep. He didn't say Lord: I'm too tired to attend the services today. He didn't say, Lord, this excuse and that excuse. Peter launched out into the deep AND let down the net.
Now, obviously, Peter didn't expect to catch anything. His experience and his fishing expertise told him it was a waste of time and an exercise in futility. But, if that was what Jesus wanted; it was worth doing. Of course, Peter didn't understand why. Maybe he though Jesus wanted a demonstration of their fishing equipment, I don't know. But, the fact that Jesus required it was all the reason Peter needed. AND there's a GREAT LESSON couched in that example. Why did Jesus select and invite Peter to follow him? You haven't seen nothing yet! Jesus knew what was in man! Do you remember that? (John 2:25)? And, Jesus LIKED what he saw in Simon Peter. What about you and I? Peter may have been an old calloused fisherman with a tough skin and a lot of muscle; but, Peter had an honest and obedient heart. And Jesus knew Peter's heart. DON'T EVER FORGET! Jesus knows my heart and Jesus know your heart. Peter had faith! He had confidence in Jesus. The Hebrew writer said, "Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." (Heb. 10:35). Do you have faith? Do you remember John 1:12? FAITH gives us the power to BECOME. Peter had it! Why do you suppose Jesus didn't go to the synagogue and the priests and the educated and the rich and select the most polished scribes that could be found and invite them to follow Jesus? Of course, they were invited. You and I are invited. What's the lesson? Peter followed!
O.K. v.6, the boat had moved out into the deep and they let down the net. Who were they? Jesus, Peter and possibly Andrew. "And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their net brake." Can you imagine how excited that old fisherman got when he saw all those fish? There's something exciting about catching fish. I've seen some one catch one single little fish as big as your hand and they talk about it for months and it gets longer every time they tell the story. But, to Peter, THOSE FISH were his bread and butter. Fish fed his family. Fish paid the bills and made the house payments, so-to-speak. And, there may have been more fish in that net than Peter had caught in a month. And, the net began to break. Can you imagine how excited this old fisherman got? Like a kid in a candy store. V.7, "And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them." I can see it now; Peter waving and motioning and trying to get the attention of the other. And, then, while the other boat was on its way; undoubtedly, Peter began to try to store as many of the fish as he could in the barge of his ship. Stretching, dipping, pulling and trying to keep the net together must have brought some perspiration. The adrenalin flowed and his breathing and heartbeat began to pump. Finally, when the other ship arrived: "they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink." 0 Boy! Ready for home!
Now, notice what happened, v.8. After Peter had worked like a trojan, after the fish were loaded, after the big excitement was over, after Peter could finally breath, after he found ONE MOMENT to relax; it finally hit him. Peter became frightened at his own thoughts. "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord." It finally dawned on Peter who Jesus was; the Christ of God. That wasn't just ordinary fishing. There was more to it than that! It was a miracle! Peter began to see himself in relation to Jesus, the Son of God. It was no coincidence. When we begin see ourself in relation the Master of the universe; it's the greatest realization and the greatest education a man can ever get. Solomon, acknowledged to be the wisest man who ever lived, said in Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." You see, when we realize who Jesus is; our size and our worth and our sinful nature becomes apparent. Peter, tired, exhausted, sweaty, hungry and smelling like fish was overwhelmed by that thought. And, NOT just Peter! Look at v.9. "he was astonished, and all that were with him..." V.10, "And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon."
Then, finally, in the second sentence of V.10, Luke gives us Jesus' reaction to Peter astonishment. "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." That's like saying, Peter, you haven't seen nothing yet; you are going to fish for something still greater. And of course, the implication was the souls of men; the most valuable thing to us there is. So, when they got that boat to the harbor; v.11 says, "they forsook all, and followed him." That's another way of saying they departed from Capernaum on that Sunday and went into other cities of Galilee as Jesus had said he must do up in v.43 of Luke ch. 4. We read Matthew's summary of that tour, in the last few verses of Matthew ch. 4.
Matthew and Mark do not tell us about the great miracle in Peter's boat; but, they do tell us about Jesus calling these four fishermen to accompany him on the tour through Galilee. We read Matthew's account (4:18-22) in our last lesson to help set the stage here. But we didn't get to Mark's account in Mark 1:16-20. It's interesting to me how these writers differ in their reporting style. Since we have just finished Luke's account of Jesus inviting and motivating Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Jesus by a miraculous catch of fishes and this is still fresh on your mind; it's a good time to read Mark's account. So, let's read! Have you got it? Mark 1:16 beginning. Ready? "Now 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. And Jesus said unto them, Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him." O.K. notice as usual, Mark's account is very abbreviated. Yet, in a basic and skeletal way Mark covers the same thing as Luke. Mark even covers a few points that Luke did not mention. For example, what happened to Zebedee? Luke leaves us to wonder if the fishing business just simply ceased at that point. But, Mark filled in that blank (v.20) by painting the picture that Zebedee with the help of hired servants (which the others didn't mention) continued the fishing business.
Now, in closing, let me ask you: How do these thing apply in our lives? Have you ever launched out into the deep? I heard about a mountaineer fishing from a rocking chair in his little cabin door with a big long cane pole. He was fishing in a mud puddle at the edge of his lawn caused by the recent downpour of rain. Someone passing by said: Zeb, don't you know there's no fish in that puddle? The mountaineer responded, "Yes, but look how convenient it is!" My friend, Peter was motivated by more than convenience. God bless you in your study! Have a good day.