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I. “The Call to Discipleship – Sea of Galilee
It all began while they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. First, it was the brothers Peter and Andrew who were casting their net, hunting for fish. Jesus called to them from the shore, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And “immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Their partners, James and John were also fishing a short distance away. Jesus called to them too and they “immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Mat.4:18-22).
St. Luke writes, “On one occasion…” Peter and Andrew, James and John were washing their nets. Jesus said, “put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter whined about having been fishing all night unsuccessfully, but condescendingly said, “at your word, I will let down the nets.” And when they did so, so many fish jumped into the nets that they had to call in backup for help.
It was then, probably for the first time, that it dawned on Peter just whom this Jesus might actually be. In utter fear he said, “depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man.” But far from “departing” from him, Jesus said, 'Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.' And as soon as they got their boats back onto the beach, 'they left EVERYTHING and followed him.' (Luke 5:4-11).
These 4 and 8 had “left everything behind and followed Him,’ for three and a half years. What a ride it had been.
The things they had learned from this man. Not just interesting facts and information but wisdom; wisdom that was contrary to the wisdom of the world. They had been taught, “blessed are the happy, for they have life by the tail.” But Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.” They were convinced that, “blessed are the strong for they shall conquer the world.” But Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are you when you hunger and thirst for wealth for you shall be satisfied” was countered with “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied…” (Mat.5)
And the things that they saw this man do. Not just amazing things that make you go 'wow, how did He do that?' But amazing things that were frightening and disturbing and made you go, “depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
He healed the sick and gave sight to the blind and cleansed the lepers and even raised the dead solely by the command of His Word or the touch of His hand. He commanded the stormy sea to be still; five loaves of bread to feed a multitude; demons to depart; and they all obeyed.
Over time, they grew to love this man. And over time, they grew to believe that He loved them. He said to them, “As the Father loves me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9). Over time, they grew to believe that He had loved them long, long before they had loved Him.
You know how it is when you love someone. You rejoice when they rejoice and suffer when they suffer. And how much they suffered when He was arrested and was taken from them and falsely accused and flogged and executed. And there was nothing that they could do to save Him. How their hearts were broken.
I can not believe that they were huddled together behind locked doors ONLY out of fear for their own lives. Surely it was also out of grief and sorrow and mourning for the death of Jesus.
And what confusion. The questions they must have had. You know them because you’ve had them too. Questions like, 'was it worth it?' 'Is the pain and sorrow and the broken heart that they now feel and the fear of what lies ahead, worth what they had experienced with Jesus?' Because, make no mistake, this predicament that they were in was all because of Jesus who called them and Whom they “left everything behind” to follow.
They had to have been asking themselves, 'what if I had not left the nets and not followed him?' Or, 'what if I had not left everything behind and followed Him from a distance like the multitudes did?' They weren't suffering like the disciples were suffering because they didn't have as much invested in Jesus. They weren't afraid for their lives like the disciples are afraid for their lives because they hadn't committed themselves so completely. 'Was it all worth it?' 'What if they had just stayed in the boat?'
Don't misunderstand. This is not a question of being loved by Jesus. Jesus would have loved them just as much if they had stayed in the boat or followed at a distance. If there was one thing that they had learned about Jesus it was that His loved was purely unconditional and He loved everyone.
Nor is it a question of being cared for by Jesus. He would have taken care of them and protected them just as thoroughly if they had kept Him at a distance and not allowed Him to become so “all in all” as He had become for them. How many of those 5,000 and 4,000 were there simply out of curiosity? Yet He fed them all.
And it's not a question of being saved either. If there was one thing that they had surely learned it was that if this Jesus really was the Savior that they had thought Him to be, He saved men and women, boys and girls because of His love and devotion for them and not their love and devotion for him.
No, the question here is not about Jesus and His fidelity to them. The question is about themselves and whether or not their fidelity to Jesus was worth the sacrifice that they had made. And the answer is most certainly “no.”
At least it most certainly would be “no,” if Jesus hadn't come into the room and said, “Peace be with you,” and showed them His hands and His side.
The apostle Paul, whose conversion we heard about today puts it like this, “if Christ has not been raised then your faith is in vain…we are of all people most to be pitied.” If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then what was it all about? “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 15:14,19, 32).
But if Christ IS raised from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, doesn't that just change everything? Doesn't that make the question of whether or not following Jesus is worth it altogether ridiculous if not altogether sinful?
Since Jesus IS raised from the dead, who would even think that it might have been better to have stayed with the boat or simply followed from a distance?' Aren’t we at least a bit ashamed for even having the thought or pondering the question?
And isn't there a 'flip side' to all of this? What about those who were reluctant to “leave everything and follow Jesus” and who remained at a safe distance? What kinds of questions must they be asking themselves after the resurrection?
What kind of questions must that 'rich young man,' whom Jesus had invited to follow Him, but who would not “leave it all behind,” be asking himself now that Jesus is risen from the dead? “What did I miss?” “What a fool I was to let that “abundant life” that Jesus promised to give to me, slip through my fingers because I wouldn't take the risk, I wouldn't let go.”
After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus doesn't ascend into heaven for another 40 days. What did He do during those 40 days? The gospels seem to say that He did not have that daily contact with the Disciples that He had had for the three plus years before. Instead, He ‘appeared to them’ from time to time.
One of those appearances happened in Galilee on what John calls, “the sea of Tiberius” which is just another name for the “Sea of Galilee.” Several of the disciples, probably those who were from the region of Galilee went there from Jerusalem. Peter said, “I'm going fishing.” The others said, “we will go with you.”
They fished all night and didn't catch a thing. Sound familiar? Just as the sun began to rise, the same time of day that the women went to the tomb, a man on the shore called out to them, “Children.”
“With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our dear father and we are His dear children.”
John says that “they were not far from land, about 100 yards.” They don’t recognize who it is who is calling to them, not because they’re too far away, but for the same reason that Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until He called her by name. And the disciples in Emmaus walked with Him yet never recognized Him. He is no longer recognized by sight as He had been.
“Do you have and fish?” As if to say, “Do you have anything to show for all of the work that you have done?” “Has it been worth it?” And they answer, “No.” “He said to them, ‘cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” “So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” And suddenly they realized that all of their questions and doubts were ridiculous, absurd, sinful.
It’s déjà vu’ all over again and one of the disciples puts it all together. “It is the Lord.”
“When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, (we’ll just that little detail go. More than we want to know), “and threw himself into the sea.”
What a strange reaction. Did he expect that this time, he would walk on the water without falling in as he had done on that stormy night? Or was this more like Jonah, who ordered the sailors to throw him into the sea to atone for his guilt of not following as he should have, of denying Jesus as he had done, or questioning whether or not it was all worth it?
The others bring the boat with the fish onto the shore. 153 of them, which means nothing more than this was such an incredible catch that they counted them. Even for professional fishermen, this was an astonishing catch of fish. Sound familiar?
The man on the shore had a fire going. He was grilling fish and had some bread. “Come and have breakfast.” Bread, fish, eat. Sound familiar?
When Jesus came to Saul, Saul asked, “Who are you Lord?” But here, “none of the disciples dared asked him ‘who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.
Sometime later, Saul would come to know Jesus not as One who desires not the death of the sinner but as the One who has died so that sinners would receive forgiveness and life in His name.
Reflecting on all that following Jesus had cost him, and answering the question, ‘was it all worth it,’ Saul now Paul writes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8).
Jesus is arisen, everything is accomplished, your sins are forgiven, your guilt is atoned for, heaven is open and a banquet is prepared.
We are not far from the shore. We cannot yet see the One who is standing there. But we do recognize His voice. “Children, Come and have Supper.”