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Leaving Everything to Follow Jesus

January 29, 2023 Speaker: Jonathan McLeod Series: The Christ

Topic: Discipleship Scripture: Luke 5:1–11

An Amazing Fishing Story

Back in 1979, Ken Fraser set the world record for the largest bluefin tuna ever caught. He actually caught it off the coast of Nova Scotia. It weighed in at a staggering 1,496 pounds! Surprisingly, it took Fraser only 45 minutes to reel in the massive fish.

There’s another amazing fishing story in Luke 5. Peter caught so many fish that his nets were breaking and his boat was in danger of sinking! 

But it was on that day—the day of his greatest catch—that he chose to leave behind his boat and nets to follow Jesus.

Jesus also calls us to follow him.

Is it really worth it to leave everything to follow Jesus?

Leaving It All Behind

Jesus is standing by the lake of Gennesaret—also known as the Sea of Galilee. People are crowding around him, wanting to hear him teach (v. 1). 

Jesus spots two fishing boats on the shore and has an idea. He gets into the boat that belongs to Peter and asks him to put it out a little from the land. Jesus then teaches the people while in the boat, which would provide excellent acoustics (vv. 2-3).

When Jesus finishes teaching, he says to Peter, “Go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish” (v. 4, NLT). 

Peter addresses Jesus as “Master,” which means “rabbi.” Perhaps Peter is thinking, “What does this man know about fishing? He’s a rabbi, not a fisherman.” 

Peter tells Jesus, “We fished all night and caught nothing!” It was common to fish at night since the fish couldn’t see the nets when it was dark. It didn’t make sense to try again during the day. 

Imagine me going down to Fisherman’s Cove and telling experienced fishermen how to catch fish! They wouldn’t listen to me. But Peter does listen to Jesus? He says, “At your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5). 

Why does Peter listen to Jesus? This isn’t the first time Peter has met Jesus. On another day, Jesus had healed Peter’s sick mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). He’s seen Jesus do the miraculous before.

Peter lets down the nets, perhaps thinking he might catch a few fish. But he catches so many fish that his nets begin to tear! He calls his fishing partners, James and John, for help. The catch is so big that their boats are in danger of sinking! (vv. 6-7).

Peter is “astonished” (v. 9). He falls down at Jesus’s feet and says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (v. 8). Peter doesn’t yet realize that Jesus is the Lord, but he sees that Jesus is someone who possesses the power of God. And now he senses his unworthiness to be in the presence of such a person (like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5).

So what does Jesus do? Does he say, “Yeah, you’re right Peter. I should ‘depart’ from a sinner like you”? No, Jesus invites Peter to become one of his disciples. He says, “Do not be afraid! From now on you will be catching people!” (v. 10, LEB).

Humans aren’t made to live in water. We need to be pulled out of the water with the net of God’s grace. Jesus wants Peter to have an important role in the spreading of the message of the gospel. Jesus does more for sinners—sinners like Peter and us—than offer forgiveness. He recruits sinners to be his disciples.

So Peter is faced with a decision. He can either accept Jesus’s invitation to become one of his disciples, or he can remain a fisherman. Keep in mind that Peter has just had his most successful day of fishing. He could have said, “Forget fishing for people; I’m going to keep fishing for fish!” 

In the end, Peter leaves everything—his boat and nets—and follows Jesus. He believes Jesus is someone worth following, someone worth giving up everything for. 

Being a Disciple of Jesus

Jesus also calls us to be one of his disciples. A disciple is a follower. A disciple of Jesus follows his teaching and example. A disciple is not a special class of Christians (like an executive membership at Costco). A Christian is a disciple.

So when Jesus talked about what it means to be one of his disciples, what he says applies to us today. [Read Luke 14:25-33.]

  • “If anyone comes to me and does not hate [i.e., love less] his own father and mother and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
  • “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (v. 27).
  • “Any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (v. 33).

Jesus says that being his disciple costs you something. The cost is complete commitment.

Of course, no disciple always has complete commitment. And, yes, there is forgiveness when we fail Jesus (e.g., Peter’s denial of Jesus). But we have to have the mindset that commitment to Jesus takes precedence over commitment to anyone else or anything else.

Is It Worth It?

[Read Luke 18:24-30.] The rich ruler didn’t think it was worth it to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. It was a short-sighted decision. 

Everything is nothing if you don’t have Jesus.

On one occasion when lots of people were abandoning Jesus, he asked his disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67). Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68).

Peter leaving everything behind to follow Jesus eventually led to his martyrdom. What do you think was going through his mind during his final moments? Was he thinking, “I should never have left my boat and nets behind”? I don’t think so. 

If you have Jesus, you have what matters most.

Do you have Jesus in your life? Have you made the decision to follow him?

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