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, (2) And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. (3) 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. (4) Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. (5) 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. (6) And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. (7) 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.Luke 5:1-7
When it came to the culture in Jesus’ day, you need understand that education, especially religious education, was highly valued. Synagogues were used from an early age to teach kids in the law. Robby Gallaty, in his book “Rediscovering Discipleship” tells about how children, starting at age 5, went through the first of three potential stages of schooling.
The first stage was called Bet Sefer, which means “House of the Book”. At this level boys and girls were taught to read and write using the Torah.
The second stage was called Bet Talmud, which means the “House of Learning”, where they would study the rest of the books of the Old Testament and some oral teaching.
The best of the best would go on to the third stage, called the Bet Midrash or “the house of study”. Not all that tried to get to this stage passed the test to get in. Those who did not would end their formal education and go back to learn and take on the trade of their family. There is honor in good hard work in the trade that was taught by a parent and handed down to a child. Yet, we know that if a person was in one of those trades, they did not make the cut to be the best of the best. This level of study was entered into by a disciple following a rabbi. The disciple would go to the rabbi and try to make the cut. The rabbi would ask questions of the would-be disciple, and see if he was bright enough to become one of his disciples. The best rabbi’s would wait for the best students to line up and be considered a disciple. He would ask them difficult questions. If the pupil made the cut, the rabbi would tell him “Lech Aharai” which could be translated as “follow me” or “walk after me”. This meant that they would now be the disciple of that rabbi. By saying to them “walk after me”, they were saying “go where I go, act like I act, learn what I know, and do what I say”. The term “follow me” had that kind of cultural connotation. When you say the word “semper fi” in our culture you think of the marines. In that culture everyone knew what “follow me” meant. It meant that a formal relationship to become a disciple was being offered.
In our day people revere names of Ivy League schools. Names like Harvard and Yale carry weight in some academic circles. In that day the best disciples wanted to follow the best and most well-known rabbis. Rabbi’s wanted to have notable disciples. Do you remember that the apostle Paul was a disciple of Gamaliel?
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.Acts 22:3
If a disciple heard “follow me” from a rabbi, they would enter into this relationship at about 14 and would learn until they themselves could become a rabbi, which happened at about 30 years old.
Jesus, a master teacher and rabbi, is doing what rabbi’s do, but He is different. He is not just a mere rabbi. It is clear in this passage that He is God.
Jesus has a master plan. Often it may seem that what He was doing was random, but we must remember that He was definitely not random or arbitrary in His ministry.
His plan was to call disciples, but the good news is he wasn’t waiting for the most qualified to come to Him. Instead, He went out to people who were not qualified as the world deems qualification. He looked for and called ordinary men, and then made them qualified. Men were His method.
Then he sent the men he discipled out on the same mission- to make disciples.
So today, this is your calling and mine as well. God’s will for you and I is to not just be converts, but to be disciples. How do we follow Christ in discipleship?
By observing 4 responses found in this passage we can know what it means to follow Jesus in discipleship.
Response #1- Identify
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,
Jesus is teaching. He is an incredible teacher. Jesus teaches as one having authority. He doesn’t have to appeal to other of his contemporary teachers. He, being God in the flesh, teaches of His own authority.
Here he is on the shores of the lake of Gennesaret, otherwise known as the sea of Galilee.
(2) And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. (3) 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.
The word “ships” here is a good translation, because these were fishing boats that were large enough to have several fisherman, plus helpers. This was Simon’s boat, which we know later there were 12 disciples plus Jesus in either this ship itself or a ship like it.
There were so many people coming to see Jesus and hear him speak that they were pressing him toward the water. Jesus gets on to Simon’s boat to use it as a sort of makeshift platform. Being on the water creates great acoustics.
He gets in the boat and asks Simon to push him out into the water to give enough distance between the crowd and him.
Now here we see two parts to Jesus ministry.
Jesus taught publicly to large crowds, but He also poured His life into a small group of men. It’s obvious He has been working in the life of Simon, who He will later rename Peter. He does something in his life here to help Him respond rightly.
Look at Jesus’ command.
(4) Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
Think about this imperative. He is telling them to go back out, which means taking the boats back out, fishing in the middle of the day, and getting their nets that they were just cleaning dirty again.
In a sense they could have been thinking, “You’re a rabbi, not a fisherman. You’re good at Bible things, and we know about lake things.”
Jesus was asking them to do something that tested their faith in him. I’m sure they did not totally understand why He was asking them to do something like this. Look at Simon’s response:
(5) 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.
The term master would have been a traditional way to address a rabbi. Simon had a respect for Jesus, but His perspective on Jesus was about to grow. He tells Jesus reasons why this command made no natural sense. If they hadn’t caught anything at night when fishing was good, why would they catch anything in the day, while the fishing was bad?
Yet, Simon obeyed. Notice what happened as a result of his obedience.
(6) And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. (7) 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.
What an incredible miracle. They did what did not make sense to them because they were obeying Jesus. They were overwhelmed at the catch. They called the other ship over to help with the catch. They filled up both boats until they were both riding very low in the water.
Jesus Christ demonstrated his knowledge and control over the natural world. It is clear through this miracle that Jesus is not just any other rabbi. Jesus is God, and He wants his disciples to know it. He wanted them to identify Him correctly.
When it comes to following Jesus as one of His disciples, we must identify Him correctly. He is not just another teacher. He is not just another religious figure, like all of the others. He’s not a meme. He is not just a good example. Jesus Christ is God. He teaches of His own authority because He is God. He is in control over the created universe because He is Creator God. As Creator He has a right to call us to follow Him in discipleship. It is His grace and mercy to call us to this high calling.
To follow Jesus rightly, we must identify Him correctly. He is the Lord Jesus Christ!
What is keeping you from being one of the disciples of Jesus? Do you see Jesus as an authority? Do you believe that He is God and therefore Lord over your life?