The Lord’s Day
May 10, 2009
“How Jesus Makes Disciples”
Dr. J. Ligon
Amen. If you have your Bibles, I would invite you to turn
with me to Luke chapter 5. As we continue to work our way through this Gospel,
let me remind you that the last time we were with the Lord Jesus in this Gospel,
at the end of Luke 4, Jesus was preaching in Galilee and in Judea and was
proclaiming the kingdom of God. We talked about what that meant for His
proclamation to be about the kingdom of God, and we talked about how that was a
theme in the Gospel of Luke.
Today, we encounter Jesus in a great miracle. He is
teaching the multitudes on the shore of what the other Gospels call most
frequently the Sea of Galilee (which John sometimes will refer to as Tiberias,
which Luke always calls a lake). There is a story in there somewhere. I am not
sure what it is. Luke always calls it a lake. Here he calls it the Lake of
Gennesaret. It is the only place where he calls it that. More frequently he
speaks of the Lake of Galilee. But Jesus is teaching on the shores, and there is
a large multitude that has been following Him to hear His teaching and they are
pressing in on Him because they can’t hear. And so He gets in a boat and goes
out just a little ways and speaks to them from the boat. What follows is an
amazing miracle. And, after that miracle, Jesus issues a call to His disciples.
So, it is a very important passage.
Let me invite you to look at three parts of the
passage. If you look first of all in verses 1-3, you will see Jesus teaching to
the multitudes and you will see something of their response to Jesus’ teaching.
Then, if you look at verses 4-10, you will see
Jesus’ miracle and you will see Peter and the other disciples’ response to that
miracle. Then, if you look again, at verses 10-11, you will see Jesus’ call to
the disciples and their response to that call. So, in three different scenes in
this one connected story we will see Jesus’ teaching and the response of the
multitudes; Jesus’ miracle and the response of the disciples; Jesus’ call and
the response of His disciples. So the passage is perfectly crafted to show us
what an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ looks like and how it plays out,
and that of course fits in with one of the great themes of the Gospel of Luke.
Luke is concerned to put Jesus before your eyes so
that you understand who He is, what He is here for, and how you ought to respond
to Him. So this is a word for us, every bit as much as Jesus’ word on the lake
of Gennesaret that day was for the gathered multitudes who were there to hear
So, let’s pray and ask for God’s help and
blessing before we listen to God’s word.
Heavenly Father, Your word is living and
active. It is not a dead letter. It is not a dusty volume filled with musty
stories meant for people two thousand years ago. It is Your word in our ears and
for our hearts and lives. So, by Your Holy Spirit, open our eyes to appreciate
that, that when we hear Your word read and proclaimed, we are hearing Your voice
speak to us just as surely as Jesus’ voice was heard by the multitudes and by
His disciples on the day the story of which is recorded in the passage we are
about to read. Keep us, Lord, from being blinded to this enormous truth and
reality and open our eyes to behold wonderful things in Your word. We ask it in
Jesus’ name. Amen.
This is the word of God; hear it:
“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
0 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, the 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.”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s Holy, inspired
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth on all our hearts.
What would it be like if you encountered Jesus?
If you could hear Him with your own ears read the word of God, and teach the
word of God, and preach the word of God? Explain the word of God, proclaim the
word of God, apply the word of God? What would it be like to encounter Jesus in
one of His mighty miracles? What would it be like to be right in the middle of
one of those like the disciples were that day…literally in the middle of one?
How would you respond? What would your reaction be? What would you do? What
would you say? What would it be like to encounter Jesus in one of His amazing
calls, where He gives this direct call to action to the people that are hearing
Him? You know, once upon a time (Matthew tells us at the end of chapter eleven)
He looked out at the people who were assembled around Him and He said, “Come
to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
The passage we are looking at today is one of His
great calls: ‘Don’t be afraid. From now on you are going to be doing
something very different from what you have spent your life doing heretofore.
Now, you are going to be catching men. Come. Follow Me.’ How would you respond
if you were there to hear one of Jesus’ calls?
Well, my friends, you are. This is not the word of
the church. This is not my word that I bring to you today; this is the word of
Jesus. Jesus — in the word of God — is coming to you and He is laying claim to
you and to your life in His preaching and in His miracle and in His call. Let’s
give close attention to it today.
First, let’s look at His preaching. Look at verse
1. What was the crowd pressing in on Jesus for? When the crowd was pressing
in on Him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret.
You understand what is going on. Jesus is teaching on the shore. There are so
many people there that they are having a hard time hearing Him. They are
getting closer and closer. He knows that that is making it harder and harder for
the people that are on the fringes of this multitude. We don’t know how many are
there…hundreds, maybe. And so He decides [since He doesn’t have one of these
things] that He is going to get in a boat, go out just a little ways and use the
water as His amplification system. If He can get a little distance from them and
speak up, more of them will be able to hear Him plainly teach the word of God.
But why are they pressing in on Him? Because they want to hear Him. (Again, look
at verse 1). They want to hear Him preach and teach the word of God.
Jesus is teaching the word of God, and the crowd is responding by pressing in on
Him to hear the word of God because they sense the importance of hearing the
word of God…of hearing Jesus teach the word of God. They want to hear the word
And, my friend, it ought to be an agenda of ours
when we gather in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to hear His voice in the
preaching of the word of God. We should accept no substitute. It is not the
wisdom of men that we need. It is not interesting stories and entertainment that
we need. It is the word of God that we need. And it is the word of God that is
causing this multitude on the shore of Galilee (or the lake of Gennesaret, or
whatever you want to call it) to press in on Jesus to listen to Him. Because
they knew that they needed to hear the word of God. And it is the aim of all of
your pastors to be sure that we are servants of this word of God… that when we
preach the word that we are preaching Jesus’ word, that we are preaching God’s
word to you. And your response, like the response of these people on the lake of
Gennesaret that day, ought to be to press in to hear the word of God. It is that
important. And it is not just the messenger of Jesus that you are to give
attention to, it is the message of Jesus. It is the word of God itself.
A friend of mine, many years ago, became the
president of a mission organization that had been founded by a man that had been
greatly used of the Lord in the lives of hundreds and hundreds and thousands of
people in the time of his ministry. Let’s call the founder of the ministry John
and let’s call my friend Steve to protect all of the innocent involved in this
story. When Steve became the president of this mission organization, it was
decided that a good thing would be to bring all of the missionaries together
(many of whom had been personally blessed and powerfully impacted in their lives
by the founder, John, of this mission organization) and have Steve, as the new
president, along with others they loved and regarded and respected, preach God’s
word to them to encourage them in their mission work. As the leadership team
was gathering to organize this conference, they started talking about what
topics would be spoken on and who would be invited to speak. And they said to my
friend Steve, “Now look, we don’t want you to preach. We want you to read a
sermon that John wrote twenty-four years ago.” Now you understand, my friend
Steve was the new president of this organization. He was an ordained minister
and a very effective and powerful preacher. But the leadership wanted a sermon
written by a dead man twenty-four years ago to be read instead of having my
friend Steve to preach.
My friends, you already sense how out of whack this
is. It is almost cultish, isn’t it? They didn’t want to hear the word of God
preached by a faithful minister who was alive; they wanted a man who was now
dead — a faithful man, a godly man, a man who had been used in the lives of
others for years and years and years — they wanted his message read. What did
they confuse? They had confused the messenger with the message. It was
the word of God they needed to hear. It wasn’t that particular message.
Messengers come and go.
We are only judged insofar as we are faithful to the
word of God. I want you to understand that one of the reasons that we are
constantly bringing before you faithful men to preach the word of God from this
pulpit is to send this message loud and clear: It is not about the messenger up
here. What you are looking for is the word of God. Who cares who the messenger
is as long as he is faithful?
It was my privilege a couple of weeks ago to hear a
very, very different group of brothers preaching the word of God. Eight men
expounded a passage of scripture — all of them different, all of them having
different personalities, all of them having different styles, all of them
attempting to be faithful and bring the message of the word of God to the people
It struck me how many different ways there are to
faithfully bring the word of God. But the important thing of course is that we
are listening to and for the word of God.
Jesus on this occasion is bringing a message of the
word of God. It is a word from God, it is a word about God, and it is a word that these people
need to know. All around us, my friends…all around us are Christians gathering
Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day who are not hearing the word of God served to them,
and “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the
mouth of God.” We need that word.
You ought, like these people at the Lake of
Gennesaret, to press in to hear the word of God. You should demand no
substitute for that word. The word of God is what you ought to be looking for,
and not a particular messenger. But faithfulness to the word of God, because it
is what we need. We don’t need bright ideas by brilliant people. We don’t need
stories and entertainments. We need the word of God. That’s what we need.
Second, look at verses 4-10. Here, Jesus displays
his power and we see something of Peter and the disciples’ response to the
miracle. Look at verse 5. It is a fascinating exchange, isn’t it? After
Jesus has finished preaching, He says, “Peter, let your boat go a little bit
deeper in the lake. Let’s go out a little ways and let your nets down.” You see
just a little hint of a rebuke in Peter’s response. Look at his first words:
“Master, we toiled all night and caught nothing.” You can almost hear Peter
(not quite saying out loud, but he is thinking it): ‘Look, Jesus, I’m a fisherman. You are a carpenter. Leave the fishing to
me.’ But Peter, notice, also says ‘Master, if you say so. On your word I will do what you
say.’ Night time was the time that fishermen thought was the best time to fish.
They had fished all night and hadn’t gotten any fish. Now a carpenter is telling
them to go out deeper and let their nets down. And he says, ‘Okay, Jesus, if
you say so I’ll do it.’
Let me just pause right there and say it is
sometimes tempting for us to think that Jesus doesn’t have anything to say to us
about our vocations. You know… ‘Jesus, You just tell me how to get saved.
You leave the banking to me. Jesus, You tell me how to get saved. You leave the
lawyering to me. Jesus, You tell me how to get saved, but You leave my school
teaching to me…or how to be a mom to me, or how to be a doctor to me.’ Notice
that Jesus has something to say to you in your profession. Jesus is ready to
tell Peter how to be a fisherman, and Peter wisely listens despite his
instincts. He wisely listens.
Jesus has something to say to all of us no matter
what we do, in what we do, about what we do. We had better listen, because Jesus
is Lord of everything and everyone, and every inch of our lives belong to Him
and are under His Lordship. You better listen.
Well, Peter does it. They let down the nets and
you know the rest of the story. Not only did they fill up one boat, they
fill up two boats. Their nets begin to break and the boats begin to sink. John
actually counts the number of fish that day. You remember? I can almost picture
John with the tarps out on the beach counting: ‘One, two, three, four….’ And
very frankly, it blows Peter away. Peter had fished this spot the night before.
Peter had caught nothing. Peter knew what the haul was that they had brought in,
and he immediately knew that he was in the presence of someone far greater than
a prophet or a man. He was in the presence of the Son of the living God, and
suddenly he finds himself prostrate in the boat before Jesus, at His knees, at
His feet, saying, “Lord, depart from me. I’m a sinful man.”
Now it is an amazing thing, isn’t it? There has been
nothing in this passage so far said about sin. I don’t know, maybe Jesus
preached about it in the sermon, but it is not recorded here. There is nothing
in this passage about Jesus’ holiness or about sin, but immediately in the wake
of this miracle Peter is overwhelmed by two things: the greatness of Jesus and
the greatness of his own sin. He is brought face to face with the inestimable,
the incalculable greatness of Jesus and he is brought face to face with the
greatness of his own sin.
And, my friends, this is how encounters with God
happen in the Old Testament. (You are going to hear Derek preach about one
tonight, by the way, in First Samuel.) In the Bible when people have a real
encounter with the living God, they always come away with a sense of the
greatness of God, and the smallness of themselves, and the sinfulness of their
own hearts. You remember Isaiah, seeing a vision of the Lord, high and lifted
up, in Isaiah 6? And what is his instinctive immediate response?
“Woe to me for I am a sinful man. I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among
a people of unclean lips.”
He senses the greatness of the Lord and the sinfulness of
his heart, and he longs to get away
because he rightly senses that he deserves the judgment of
If you have ever heard R.C. Sproul’s series on “The
Holiness of God,” this is one of the themes that he will work out in that series
and show how people respond when they are in the presence of the living God. And
repeatedly, in the Old Testament when people encounter the living God they are
struck with terror and fear…with a sense of His greatness and a sense of their
sinfulness…and in some cases, people encounter God and die. After hearing R.C.’s
series on the holiness of God, my friend, C. J. Mahaney went out and preached a
sermon series called “People Who Met God and Died.”
The whole point is, my friends, Peter was right to
tremble. When you really encounter the living God, you know that He is not the
God that you have fashioned in your mind. He is something altogether on a
different order of magnitude, and especially the holiness of His being becomes
transparently clear to you.
Is that the Jesus you have encountered? Is the
Jesus you know and love big and great and holy? Or have you scaled Him down and
you up? Are you big and Jesus is small? Then you have not met the Jesus that
Peter met. This Jesus is great. It is precisely because of His greatness and His
love and His holiness that He is capable of changing your life, and that is
exactly what happens in response to this miracle.
Do you know what happens next? Look at verses
10-11 again. Jesus says, “Peter, don’t be afraid.” Jesus is not saying this
because it was inappropriate for Peter to be afraid. He is saying this just like
God said so often in the Old Testament to the people of God, like in Genesis
46:3, when He says to Jacob, ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m going to go with you to
Egypt. Israel, don’t be afraid, I am going to go with you down into Egypt.’ It
is not God saying, ‘You know, there is really no reason for you to be afraid.’
It is God saying, ‘Oh, there is every reason for you to be afraid, but here is
the reason for you to not be afraid: I love you. I am on your side. I’m going
to be with you.’ In other words, it is the gospel that makes the presence with
God a joy and a comfort and a delight rather than an occasion for terror.
You know what hell is? Hell is eternity in the
presence of God.
You know what heaven is? Heaven is eternity in the
presence of God with a Mediator who has given Himself in your
place so that you are not the vessels of wrath any longer, you are the objects
of mercy. So when Jesus says “Do not be afraid” to Peter, He is preaching the
gospel to Peter. ‘Here is the reason you do not need to be afraid, Peter. Not
because I am someone who ought not to be feared, but because you need not fear
Me, for I have set my love on you and I am going to die for you.
You don’t need to be afraid in My presence, Peter,
because I love you and I am going to save you, and I am going to cleanse you
from your sin, and I am going to present you faultless with exceeding joy before
My heavenly Father in heaven. So don’t be afraid.’
And then He says, ‘And by the way, Peter, leave
your boat, leave your nets. You are coming with Me and we are going to fish for
something else.’ And the response is really astonishing, isn’t it? Luke puts
it so simply:
“When they had brought their boats to land, they left
everything and followed Him.”
Now, my friends, I don’t know a message more timely for us
today than that message, because, you see, Jesus’ call for us to leave
everything and follow Him is not His call just to a unique group of super
apostles at the beginning of Christianity. It is not just a call to people who
are going to be deacons or elders or leaders in the Women In the Church. It is
not just a call for ministers or missionaries. The call to leave everything and
follow Him is the call of Jesus to every disciple…every disciple. Now what
leaving everything and following Him looks like is very different for every
disciple. For instance, did His call to them to leave everything and follow Him
mean that they would never fish again? No, you will find them fishing before you
have gotten to the end of the Gospels. But it is a call to recognize that
everything else does not equal to Jesus, and that Jesus is greater than
everything else; and, therefore, He is worth leaving everything else behind to
Sometimes, God teaches us that message by taking away
things that are exceedingly precious to us…sometimes taking away people that are
exceedingly precious to us. Sometimes God pulls the rug completely out from
under us…to teach us what? That Jesus is more than everything else, and that
Jesus is all we need, and that henceforth forevermore we are going to be
pursuing Him. In the words of Matthew — recording Jesus’ words — we will “seek
first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.” And all these other things …?
Well, God will take care of that. He’ll add those things. He’ll provide for us
what we need, but henceforth and forevermore we are following Jesus.
Have you come before Jesus and seen Him as He is
and said, “My God how great You are!” and then realized that everything else
that we are so caught up in does not compare in the least to Him? If you
have, you have taken the first step of a disciple. It is the call of Jesus to
every disciple, and it is so important for us especially because of the people
and stuff that God has showered on us. We have been given so much that while the
world is literally falling in around our ears, we are hanging on to our stuff
with all of our might instead of realizing with Martin Luther that the only
right response of the believer to the majesty and the holiness and glory of
Jesus Christ is to let goods and kindred go. [Can I say that on Mother’s Day?]
“Let goods and kindred go;
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill….”
They can take all of that from me but they can’t take
Jesus. And therefore we are going to leave everything and we are going to follow
Now for some of you that may mean being uprooted from
your present vocation and winding up in the ministry or the mission field. For
others of you, that may mean staying right where you are in your vocation and
being such a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ that you offend someone and you
lose advancement in your vocation, or that you stay in your very vocation and
you serve the Lord faithfully and the Lord uses that to bring a gospel witness
to many souls who would never ever have heard it. It could work out a million
different ways, but the call to every Christian is the call to be a
disciple and to leave everything and follow Jesus.
There is not a more important lesson for us to learn
as a congregation than that lesson. Join me in this adventure.
Our Lord and our God, we hear the Lord Jesus
calling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Make our answer to be “Yes, Lord,
we will follow you.” We pray it in Jesus’ name.
© First Presbyterian
Church, 1390 North State St, Jackson, MS (601) 924-0575
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© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.
This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.