Follow Jesus without fear – Luke 5:1-11

Not everyone feels they can follow Jesus without fear. Here in Luke 5, we’ll see very real fear of Jesus from someone there at the time.

Last time we saw how Jesus taught about Good News, and that he actually is the Good News. He is bringing the kingdom of God to earth – and demonstrated it by healing people and casting out demons. He came to destroy the works of the devil and establish his own kingdom reign.

Now, it’s one thing to see Jesus doing great things for other people. You might know people who have been transformed when they became a Christian. You might even envy their joy.

But how does someone get from knowing about Jesus (and even thinking that that’s good), to actually following him? And what does that mean for Christians who would love others to follow Jesus?

Luke’s orderly account has a new section for us, showing us Jesus having dealing with specific people. And you’re led to a truth that you might find reassuring, or you might find unnerving.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered at Bromborough Evangelical Church in September 2022. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Jesus fishes for you (1-3)

We’ve had a sample of Jesus teaching at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19). And we’ve seen how his teaching has been applied at Capernaum and in the region. Now Luke gives us a series of events showing Jesus calling people, healing people, and being rejected by others.

In Luke 5:1-6:16 we get 7 scenes:

  • Jesus calls Peter
    • 2 healings bringing joy
  • Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector. Quite the shock move!
    • 2 disputes over the Sabbath, bringing trouble
  • Jesus calls his 12 apostles

So “calling” is obviously a key theme.

And because Peter is such a key figure (notably early in Acts), his calling by Jesus is given prominence here by Luke. Read Luke 5:1.

We know what he was preaching: Read Luke 4:18-19. Notice that the crowd here were pressing in on him to hear his message. Not for healings or exorcisms, but to hear Jesus speak.

Read Luke 5:2-3.

Simon doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to have an extraordinary encounter with Jesus.

But it’s not entirely out of the blue.

  • We’ve already read about Jesus healing the fever from SImon’s mother-in-law. Instant and complete!
  • Then Simon would have seen everyone bringing their people to Jesus in the evening, and how Jesus touched every one and healed them, and cast out demons.
  • And, with Jesus in his boat, he’s hearing Jesus teaching about the Good News of the kingdom of God. First hand, and probably not for the first time.

Jesus went fishing for Simon (in Simon’s boat!)

What Simon might not have fully realised is that Jesus was in Simon’s boat fishing for Simon.

  • He had been for some time, and was reeling him in!
  • The miracle of the catch of fish was specifically aimed at Simon the fisherman.

When I was a teenager, from a non-church family, I didn’t care much for religious stuff. I didn’t know anyone who went to church in our village.

  • I did think about whether or not there might be a God, and guessed probably not.
  • Sometimes I’d think about how insignificant I was in the grand scheme, and wondered if there was something more. But that was it, really. Nothing concrete.
  • When I started going out with Julia (who was a Christian at the time), I began to mix with her Christian friends one week and then my own down-the-pub friends on alternate weeks.
  • It dawned on me that the things that were supposed to be great (down the pub etc) were actually a bit rubbish, whereas the teenage Christians that I knew didn’t do any of those things but seemed genuinely more joyous.

Why do I tell you this now? It’s the story of how Jesus came fishing for me. How he reeled me in.

When a church thinks about evangelism, there can be a feeling that we’re all supposed to be giving full gospel presentations to every unbeliever we meet. There’s a time and a place for that (see the Ethiopian Eunuch account in Acts 8).

But very often the Lord calls people slowly, over a long time, helping them realise the truth about their own sin and the grace of God in Christ. There are examples of just this happening in Acts too.

Is he fishing for you?

It might be that you’re a bit like Simon here in Luke 5.

You’ve seen Jesus do amazing things, but you’ve not actually stepped towards Jesus yourself.

  • You can see from these verses that you’re not expected to take a blind leap in the dark.
  • Look carefully at the Bible, at the evidence of what we’re saying. Don’t believe what others say: Read it yourself.
  • Look at the positive change that Jesus has brought to Christians you know. What else can do that? Nothing.
  • (No-one is saying all Christians are perfect; none is. But Jesus is changing us all for the better. Only he can.)

All of which begs a simple question: Do you feel Jesus calling you? Does this ring true, and cause you maybe to think of stepping forward – but you’re not sure?

Don’t be afraid (4-10)

Let’s read again what happened next: Read Luke 5:4-10.

It’s obviously a miracle. It’s supernatural. An extraordinary, once-in-a-career catch of fish. Nets weren’t designed for a catch like this – they started to tear. The boats weren’t designed for a catch like it either – they started to sink! It was normal for two boats to fish together, but unheard of for two boats not to be enough for a single catch. How did it happen? Who knows? It’s not important, or we’d have been told.

But almost as surprising is Simon Peter’s reaction.

  • We use our full name at key moments in life. Not “in trouble with your mum”, but rather birth, marriage, deaths.
  • He’s called “Simon Peter” – his full name – because this is such an important moment for him, and for the church to come.

Read Luke 5:8.

Why didn’t he just thank Jesus? A lesser person might even have said, “Wow! Do it again tomorrow!”

Everyone was equally amazed: Read Luke 5:9-10a.

But the focus is on Peter: “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”

In v5 he called Jesus “Master” in respect. But in v8 he calls Jesus “Lord” – in a totally different league.

Peter has realised something.

A vision of God

Back in Isaiah 6, Isaiah had a vision of God.

  • His immediate response was terror. He had no right to be anywhere near God – he was a man of unclean lips, a sinful man.
  • Likewise, in Judges 13, Samson’s dad thought he and his wife would die for having seen the angel of the Lord (until his wife stepped in with “If the LORD were going to kill us…” he would have, but he didn’t.
  • In Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel is again appalled at himself and terrified for having seen a vision of God.

So when Simon Peter said to Jesus “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man” – he wasn’t asking Jesus to leave the boat!

  • It was the natural response of a sinful man in the presence of God.
  • This is a “theophany” – a physical appearance of God to humanity.

Sinful humanity can’t approach God in his holiness – you’d be consumed like trying to fly to the sun. But God can make it possible for you not to be consumed. He can make it possible for you to come to him.

Which makes Jesus’ response wholly appropriate for the Son of God: Read Luke 5:10b.

  • With Isaiah, Samson’s parents, and Ezekiel, what was happening?
  • God was making himself known to his people.
  • And he was commissioning them for his work.
  • Jesus is calling Peter and commissioning him.

To fear or not to fear God?

Someone might wonder why we should be afraid of God? Someone else might say, “I thought fear of the LORD was the beginning of wisdom?” Do we fear God or not?

  • The Bible recognises two types of fear of God.
  • Negatively, there’s the fear of punishment, judgment. You’re bang-to-rights and you fear what’s coming.
  • Positively, there’s the fear of reverence – you’re coming to someone super-important and you don’t want to mess up!

When Jesus calls you to himself, and you’re unsure about going to him, he says, “Don’t be afraid.”

  • Fear no judgment or wrath of God; Jesus has taken it.
  • Don’t fear disappointment or let-down. God is abounding in immoveable faithfulness.
  • Don’t even fear opposition or hardship. They may well come, but with Jesus on your side he will see you through.

But if you choose to continue to deny him, if you spurn his love and trash his Good News – then be very much afraid of him. He is your judge.

Peter, glimpsing who Jesus is, and despite his own words, chose well:

Follow Jesus (11)

Read Luke 5:11.

That’s pretty amazing. He’s walking away from work, income, security, livelihood. Peter isn’t following an idea, or a religion, or a set of laws. He’s following Jesus. His example shows you who you are also to follow:

  • Jesus the Son of God.
  • The destroyer of Satan and his works.
  • Jesus the bringer of Good News. He makes Good News happen.
  • Follow the ruler of the kingdom of God, in which there is freedom, life, release, hope.

Peter left boats and business.

What do you need to leave behind if you’re to follow Jesus?

  • Certainly your sinful lifestyle.
  • If repentance is about realisation (about yourself and about God), and about reorientation (turning to God in Jesus), then it’s easy to see Peter’s repentance here.
  • And if Jesus commissions you to do his work when he calls you, what else might you need to leave behind?
    • A comfy corporate job with a steady income? Maybe.
  • And if following Jesus puts you at odds with others who don’t want him, you might leave behind good friends.

Is he worth leaving those things, to follow him?

What does following Jesus bring?

  • It brings death and life. Death to your old self (crucified with Christ) and new life in Christ (in union with him).
  • You’ll be expected to take up your cross, as he did, and possibly suffer in God’s plans and purposes.
  • It’s likely that at some point you’ll follow him into opposition and rejection, maybe from those closest to you.
  • And, in the end, you’ll follow him to glory.
    • To the Father’s welcome.
    • Jesus is already there. He calls you to follow him.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and to introduce the kingdom of God. He has begun that work and will complete it. Bank on that. He will dwell on the earth with his people.

Jesus himself invites you to follow him, to join him in life. He is fishing for you to do you good.

Don’t be afraid; he is ready to welcome you and will keep you. Follow him. Every day, everywhere. Forever.