“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” – Luke 5:1-11
The story of this great catch is not just an account of a great fishing experience. It is far more than that! Understand that it’s not the fish who got hooked but the fishermen—Simon Peter, his brother Andrew and their partners, James and John. Let me ask you a question: Do you want to get hooked by the Master Fisherman? Would you like to become a fisher of men? If your answer is yes, then understand that there are three stages through which you must pass in order to follow in the steps of Jesus and be a fisher of men. The first stage is this: You must hear the voice of Jesus calling you.
First, let me give you a little background information. A comparison of this text to the other gospel accounts (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, and John 1:35-42) reveals that all of these passages describe the calling of the disciples to come and follow Jesus. This call was progressive over several days, perhaps even weeks. Luke’s account is not Jesus’ first encounter with Peter, John and James. An examination of all four gospels illustrates the progression of their calling into the ministry:
- Jesus first called them to follow Him the day after His baptism. In John 1, we see John and Andrew following Jesus, and Jesus asks them, “What do you want?” They respond, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” His answer: “Come and you will see.” Next, Andrew went and got his brother Simon (Peter) and said, “We have found the Messiah.” A day later, Jesus called Philip and then Nathaniel. Gradually, over the course of time, Jesus called these men to come and follow Him.
- In Mark and Matthew, we learn that Jesus sought out four special fishermen—Peter, Andrew, James and John—and some of these men He called more than once. His first call is simply to follow Him.
- In the Luke account, after He performs this incredible miracle, He calls these four to leave everything.
- Later in Matthew, we see Jesus call Levi, the tax collector, to come and follow Him.
- The other disciples are called, but their specific calling is not recorded in the Gospels.
- In Luke 6:12, Jesus appoints the Twelve disciples as His apostles. What was their mission? To be fishers of men.
It is evident from these four accounts that the disciples were called over the course of time, and their total commitment evolved as they began to see more clearly who Jesus really is.
Jesus spent a lot of time around the Sea of Galilee, which Luke calls the “Lake of Gennersaret.” Do you know why He spent so much time there? He was seeking specific men—some fishermen by the names of Peter, Andrew, James and John. One morning as Jesus walked along the shore, He saw Peter and John washing their nets. They had fished all night because the best time for fishing is at night. Jesus saw their boats pulled up on the beach and He knew they were tired and discouraged. And so, what did Jesus do? He began to preach the Word of God, and a huge crowd gathered. They had heard about this man who spoke with such authority and performed miracles. The crowd grew larger and larger and began to press in on Him. Therefore, Jesus climbed into Peter’s boat and asked him to put the boat out a little from the land. Peter complied, and Jesus began to teach the people from the boat.
Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what He preached, but we do know this: Earlier in Luke 4, Jesus had gone to his home town and read from Isaiah. He read: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Certainly, this must have been what He preached—the good news of the Gospel. All of the people heard Jesus speak the truth of God’s Word to them. And Peter was listening as he sat in the boat.
If you want to be a fisher of men, then you must first hear the voice of Jesus. You must hear Him speak to you. Have you heard His voice? In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Have you heard the voice of Jesus speaking to you? You may think: “Russ, how does Jesus speak to me today? He is in Heaven, and I’m here on earth!” If you have placed your trust in Jesus, then He lives in you by His Spirit, and His Spirit will speak to you if you listen carefully.
John 16:13 states, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” The Spirit speaks to us as we spend time in God’s Word. I never would have known what I was to do, in terms of ministry, if I had not gone into my study and asked God to speak to me from His Word. Whenever you pick up the Bible and read it, you are giving God a chance to speak to you. So I ask you: Are you spending time in His Word every day? If not, why not? As you spend time in God’s Word, your mind and your heart will be transformed, and you will come to know God’s will for your life. Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” If you want to know God’s will for your life, if you want to know how you are to fish for men, then you must hear His voice and do what He says. Hearing His voice happens when you open up His Word and listen. Hearing his voice is the first stage through which you must pass if you are to be a fisher of men. But, there are two more stages. So, stay tuned!