“Fishing All Night”
Located in the Rift Valley on the eastern border of lower Galilee, the Sea of Galilee is a fresh body of water, full of fish. The surface of the lake is about twelve hundred feet below the surrounding hills and seven hundred feet below sea level. It is thirteen miles long and seven and a half miles wide with some thirty miles of shoreline. In the Old Testament it is known as the Sea of Kinnereth and it is also referred to as the Sea of Tiberius in the New Testament. The Jordan River feeds into the sea from the north, and fresh water and saline springs are found around and under the lake. The Sea of Galilee receives less rainfall than the surrounding hills. Because of the steep hills surrounding the lake the wind coming down the slopes can create sudden and violent storms. The only flat farmland along the shore is found on three planes to the northwest, northeast, and south. The northwest plane has a wonderful climate and produces a variety of crops. During New Testament times, this whole area was densely populated. Jesus ministered in many of the towns and villages; including Capernaum, Chorazin, Gennesaret, and Basaida. Those who were sick coming to the Hot Springs to the south, the rich agricultural lands, the trade routes passing through the area and the fishing industry were the primary sources of income for those living in this area. And it was right here that Jesus found at least one third, or four, of the men who followed Him and became His apostles.
Some people I know enjoy fishing. Others I know REALLY enjoy fishing, and if they could they would be somewhere fishing every single day. Perhaps you are such a person. Yes, fishing can be enjoyable and even addicting. But fishing is also a way of life for many people. They fish for a living and in order to provide for themselves and their family members. There are also various occupations that revolve around the fishing industry. Oh, in various ways, fishing is important to many people. The same was especially true in Bible times. In fact, it was perhaps the primary work done by most of the men who lived during the time Jesus lived on the earth. The way they fished, of course, was quite different from the way most of us tend to fish today, even though some still use the older method. Oh, make no mistake about it, fishing was hard work. It was done by strong men who did not mind putting in a hard days worth of work. Some even fished all night long. And that sets the scene for our Bible story today on “Key to the Kingdom.” As Jesus encountered some hard working fishermen He invited them to join Him in doing a different kind of work. They immediately accepted, and they went from catching fish to catching people. That might not make sense right now, but I believe it will, as we open up our Bibles and study from Luke chapter 5. I do hope you will stay tuned to this station for the lesson entitled “Fishing All Night.”
The majority of us are awake all day and we sleep all night. Now I realize that is different for others, but for those who are awake during the day there are occasions when we have to be up all night. Perhaps we stayed by the side of a loved one, maybe we worked all night. We might have had to make an unexpected trip, and perhaps during the night we could never find a time to rest. Maybe there was not a place to stop and take a break and by the next morning we were tired, we were worn out, and obviously we needed some rest. Well, in the gospel of Luke chapter 5, we encounter some fishermen who had worked all night. And no doubt, they were tired, they were worn out, they were ready to give up. And what they were doing was trying to catch some fish, but the result was nothing. They had worked all night. They had fished all night. They had fished obviously in various places on the Sea of Galilee but they had nothing to show for it. It was the next morning when Jesus showed up, there on the Sea of Galilee. Listen to part of the story here in Luke chapter 5 beginning with verse 1. <One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret (or the Sea of Galilee), the people were crowding around Him and listening to the Word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.> Early on in Jesus’ ministry, He drew large crowds. He very quickly became popular as He cast out demons and healed those who were sick. Others wanted to know more about His teaching and to receive some sort of special blessing from Him. Some wanted to be fed, others wanted to become His disciple, and all of this was a part of Jesus' ministry, as He went about doing His Father’s will. Well, on this occasion, here in Luke chapter 5, He was doing just that. In fact we read in the previous verse, chapter 4 verse 43, that He was preaching the Good News of the kingdom. He was going everywhere throughout the land telling the Good News story about the Kingdom of God. Well, as He was being pressed by the crowds, He hardly had room to breathe. He did not have room to have space in order to do His teaching; and so, He saw these two boats there on the shore and He asked Simon to get in one and to take Him out a little way so that He could sit down in the boat on the sea and then teach the people while they were on the shore. I want you to take a look at this fishing boat, this is a first century fishing boat that has been preserved in the mud. It might be just like Peter’s boat, that he used here in Luke chapter 5. In fact this is the only one that has ever been found in an inland sea like the Sea of Galilee. It took several years for it to dry out and then to be moved to this museum. I want you to imagine the scene though. Jesus gets into a boat like this, He goes out into the water, with Simon the Peter, and He sits down and begins to teach the people from that boat. Notice what happens next as we read verses 4 through 7. <When He had finished speaking, He had said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have not caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” And when they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish their nets began to break. 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.> After Jesus finished teaching the people from the boat, He asked Peter to take Him out a little further into the sea, and he did just that. And then Jesus told him, “I want you to put down the nets and begin to catch some fish.” Well, Peter, we can just imagine, turning to Jesus and saying, “Lord, we have fished all night long. We have nothing to show for our efforts. Perhaps there are no more fish in the Sea of Galilee. But because you have asked me to do this, I will let down my nets once again.” And as he did, the fish began to come into those nets, to the point they began to break. They brought in all the fish that the small boat could handle. And then the other boat, run by James and John, came on the scene, and they too began to fill up their nets with fish and they brought all of those fish into the boat. And then, they took those two boats and went back to the shore. And one can just envision the fish fry those people on the shore had that particular morning. Well, notice what takes place in the last part of the story, as we continue on in verses 8 through 11 of Luke chapter 5. <When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” And so they pulled their boats up on the shore, left everything and followed Him.> In the presence of Jesus Christ, Simon Peter confessed that he was a sinner. He confessed that his life was full of sin, as he humbled himself in the presence of a sinless, Holy One of God, Jesus Christ himself. And that reminds me of the words of Isaiah, in Isaiah chapter 6, on the occasion when he saw the Lord God Almighty in that throne room. He proclaimed these words, “Woe to me, I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Yes, Peter recognized he was in the presence of royalty. He was in the presence of holiness, and he was a sinful man. Well, James and John also recognized Jesus as someone special, and they too bowed down and they worshiped and they were astonished at the work that Jesus had done. And in the midst of all of that, Jesus turned to Simon and said, “Don’t be afraid. I want you to follow me. I have a plan in place for you. I want you to do something special and important.” And Jesus proceeded to tell those men what that was. Jesus saw something special in these three men. And what he saw in them did not revolve around their appearance. These three men were fishermen, they spent their days and obviously their nights out on the sea. Their skin was perhaps burned. They did not look good, as they spent their livelihoods pursuing a fishing career. What Jesus saw in these men did not revolve around their families, either. Jesus had just healed Peter’s mother-in-law. And what He saw in these people did not revolve around their fishing ability. These men had worked all night long and had absolutely nothing to show for it. But what Jesus saw in these men revolved around their faith. Jesus recognized their potential to become His follower, and so He asked them to do something and they did it. They stepped out of the boat and with an act of faith they left everything behind and they followed Jesus Christ. And when we think about that it does not make much sense to us today, does it; to leave everything behind and to follow Jesus Christ? But that is exactly what these three men did, along with Andrew, who was Peter’s brother. They left behind their livelihood and they followed Jesus. And as they did, Jesus reminded them that He would eliminate any fear they might have, that He had a bigger purpose in store for them, and that included catching men. Now, these were the first four men of twelve, whom became what we call His apostles. They were in that inner circle with Jesus. They listened to Him. They prayed with Him. Jesus taught them many things that He did not teach the other people who sought to follow Him. And these men, along with the others, became eye witnesses of Jesus’ ministry. They saw with their own eyes His crucifixion, and witnessed His resurrection. And between this moment and the time when Jesus was crucified and then rose again from the dead, these men were fishing for people. Now, another version of that reads, “From now on you will be catching men.” Instead of casting out their nets into the Sea of Galilee for fish, now they would be casting an even broader net to catch men. And what that means is, simply, they will be presenting the opportunity for all men and women everywhere to come into the Kingdom of God and to become followers of Jesus Christ. Well, Peter would eventually become the person to open the door, both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. We perhaps are familiar with those stories. In Acts chapter 2, on the day of Pentecost, Peter along with the other eleven apostles stood up among the people assembled there in Jerusalem. And these thousands of people had come together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Well, Peter begins to tell them about Jesus. He recounts the story of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he says, “You are the ones who are guilty of putting Him to death.” The people respond by asking the question, “Well, what do we need to do about that? How do we respond?” And Peter told them how to respond. He said, “You are to repent of that sin and to be baptized into Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of that sin.” And on that occasion some three thousand people identified themselves with Jesus Christ and they were immersed into Him. And that was the beginning of Peter opening up the door to the church to the Jewish world. Well, something similar happens in Acts chapter 10, this time with a man named Cornelius. He was a Non-Jew or a Gentile. Peter goes into his home and he basically tells the same story that he told to the people there in Jerusalem, and Cornelius and his entire household heard that message and they too responded in faith. They were filled up with the Holy Spirit of God, and they too were baptized into Jesus Christ. And so, God had a purpose for Peter, and we see that playing out in Peter’s ministry. I want us to go back here to the last verse we just read, verse 11 of Luke 5. Notice again these words; these disciples pulled their boats up onto the shore, they left everything and they followed Him. When I think about that, these men did not hesitate to follow Jesus. They got their boats on the shore, they left their nets with the boats and they walked away. They left their boats for somebody else to use. They left their nets for some other fishing group to come along and to do what they had been doing. But they turned away from that livelihood and now they pursued a new livelihood, a new purpose in their life, as they began to follow Jesus the Christ. They saw Jesus as not only providing the fish they could not catch but He also was providing a new direction for their life. This was the beginning of something special. It would require unusual amounts of faith. They would experience things they had never before imagined. They would know the joy of being a part of His mission for their lives and for this world. What an experience these men must have had on that occasion, on that morning after they had worked all night long, as they accepted the invitation to follow Jesus Christ. Well, like these disciples, have you ever put forth a great deal of time and effort into accomplishing something good and yet you came up with no results, you had no success? Perhaps you worked all night long. You were ready to quit. You were ready to give up and to throw in the towel because you were not achieving the results you had hoped to achieve; and, you wondered what the future held. But then all of the sudden, seemingly out of nowhere and at just the right time, Jesus showed up. Oh, I’m not talking about His literal presence in a person’s life, but rather through Scripture reading and through prayer and through a softened heart as you were seeking God’s will for your life it was revealed to you what you needed to do and the direction you needed to go. And perhaps you heard the invitation from Jesus to do something different than you had ever done before. He challenged you in some ways that did not make sense. He invited you to step out of your comfort zone, out of your fishing boat, if you will, and to follow Him and to believe in Him; that He had a better way for your life. And then, you did just that. You believed in Jesus just enough to follow Him where He wanted you to go. And like what happened with Peter and James and John, Jesus saw something special in you. In fact, He sees something special in all of us because He made us. He sees some potential in your life and in mine. Oh, we might be busy pursuing our livelihoods, we might be wrapped up in trying to make a life for ourselves and for our families, and we are working hard to find our way in this world; but, it seems to not be working. We’re meeting with very little success or positive results. But Jesus knows and He sees what is happening. He is watching over your life and mine. He recognizes our strengths and our weaknesses. He recognizes our struggles and our abilities, and Jesus knows when we need a change of direction. He knows when we need a fresh start and He offers that opportunity to follow Him and to make that change. And as He does, He reassures us with the very same words He gave to Peter, “Do not be afraid.” And indeed, there is no need to be afraid as Jesus changes our life. He provides more than enough resources to accomplish what He calls upon us to do. Let me ask you a few questions today. What might be Jesus calling upon you to do in your life? Is He calling upon you to give up some old habits that keep you separated from Him? Is He inviting you to re-adjust your priorities? Is He offering the invitation to become one of His disciples? Oh, if any of those things are happening in your life right now, I would suggest you do the same three things that these men did here in the story of Luke chapter 5. Number 1: Be humble enough to recognize the sin in your life. That’s what Peter did. He cried out. He said, “I am a sinful man.” And often times, we don’t have the results and the success we want to have, because there is still some sin in our life. But when we humbly submit to the Lord, confess our sin and turn away from it, it is then that God can use us, through Jesus, for some special purposes that He has in store for us. But then Number 2: Be humble enough to quit what you may not need to be doing. That’s what these disciples did. They quit their fishing business and they moved on to something else. There might be something that you are doing in your life today that is not good, and Jesus would invite you to quit doing that. Don’t go that direction, anymore. Have a change of heart. Have a change of life and pursue something different. And if that is the case, I would encourage you to be humble enough to make that change. And then finally Number 3: Be humble enough to accept the invitation to follow Jesus. Jesus invites you and me and all people everywhere to follow Him. And that is His greatest desire, that we become followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We understand what He would have us to do. We listen to His teaching. We read and we know He has a better way for us to live; and, it involves submitting ourselves to Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the one and only Son of the Living God. And as we do those things, let us remember, there is no need to be afraid. There is no need to be worried or anxious or concerned about what the future holds, because His presence and His peace is with us. He may invite you to accept a challenge to go in a different direction. And that may not make much sense to you today, but He will provide the guidance and He will provide the resources that you need. He simply invites you to step out of the boat, step out of what you are doing now, in a spirit of faith, trusting Him that He has a better life in store for you. No matter where you are today, no matter what you are doing in life, Jesus continually invites you to follow Him. He invites you to become His disciple. He invites you to experience all the good things that He has in store for you as you walk in His foot steps and are obedient to His will. Yes, He invites you to experience His daily presence, to enjoy all the wonderful spiritual and physical blessings that He wants to give to you as a child of His Father. My hope and my prayer for you today is that you will accept that invitation, to take that step of faith and to embrace the new opportunities that Jesus has in store.
Thank you for being a part of today’s broadcast. I trust that this message, as well as the pictures, was beneficial and encouraged you to follow Jesus. No matter what our occupation might be, we can all be followers of the Lord. Jesus can use any and all of us for His Kingdom purposes, if we are willing to step out in faith and to follow Him. This message entitled “Fishing All Night” is available on the website; feel free to download it in a variety of formats without any cost or obligation. Many other lessons are on the website as well, and you are welcome to look at any which might be of interest. While on the website, I hope you will take a minute to look at some of the Key Moments; these are two minute videos which help make some practical application of God’s Word. One minute devotional thoughts are also there for your daily inspiration. All of them are designed to assist you in your walk with the Lord. By calling the phone number on the screen, you can leave a message which will be returned. We will be happy to visit with you about any aspect of this mass media ministry. You may even want to find us on Facebook®. Many have already done so and follow us on a regular basis. New material is uploaded every week, and I hope you will share it with others. Other ways to access “Key to the Kingdom” are through Roku® Television, and a free phone app for smart phone users. If there is any way we can assist you in following Jesus Christ, do not hesitate to contact us. Again, thank you for watching today’s broadcast, and I invite you to join us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”