What You See Is What We Get
Matthew 4.20-22 / Luke 5.1-11
Dr. Jim Denison
William Barclay said, “Many people saw steam raise the lid of a kettle; only James Watt went on to think of a steam engine. Many people saw an apple fall; only Isaac Newton went on to think out the law of gravity. The earth is full of miracles for the eye that sees” (Barclay, Luke 57).
Others saw fishermen; Jesus saw apostles. A preacher for Pentecost; a writer for his Gospel, his letters, his Revelation. Others saw a Galilean itinerant rabbi, a small-town carpenter; these fishermen saw God.
The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). Some years ago I learned this fact: I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am. Almost always that’s true for me, and for you.
But there’s a better way. The Bible shows us today what God thinks you are. When you become what God thinks you are … well, let me show you.
Fishing with God (Luke 5:1-11)
Have you ever been fishing with God? Peter did, and so did his brother Andrew. So did their business partners and friends, James and John. So should we today.
In Luke 5 we find Jesus with Peter. Remember, they’ve spent a year together. Now they go fishing together.
Peter and his partners have caught nothing all night, the best time to fish. But when Jesus tells him to let down the nets, he agrees. “Master,” he calls Jesus (v. 5), their word for teacher; this fact will be important in a moment.
Almost instantly, they catch so many fish that Peter and Andrew must call James and John for help. Still the massive catch threatens to capsize their boats.
Now Peter knows he’s not just in the presence of a great teacher and healer, but God himself.
“Go away from me, Lord,” he cries (v. 8). Now he calls Jesus not Master but Lord—kurios, their word for Emperor, God.
Why? “I am a sinful man!” (v. 8b). Remember Isaiah’s cry in the presence of the holy God: “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” (Isaiah 6:5). When we see God as he is, in that light we see ourselves as we are. Sins, stains, dirt, and all.
Now comes the good news.
Jesus replies, “Don’t be afraid” (v. 10). Be assured of God’s grace and forgiveness. The Bible says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
In fact, Jesus loves Peter so much that he invites him to join Jesus in his divine work on earth: “From now on you will catch men” (v. 10b). As you caught fish—more than you could imagine, now you’ll catch men. Billions, in fact.
They’ve been fishing with God. Now they are called to fish for God.
Their response? “They pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him” (v. 11).
Matthew’s gospel gives us more details. Peter and Andrew left their nets; James and John left their father Zebedee, and their boat. “Immediately,” v. 22 says.
To go fish for men. To help people follow Jesus. They moved from the Sea of Galilee to the sea of souls, from lake to lives. To use their gifts and abilities, their resources and relationships, to help everyone they could to know God as King and live forever in his Kingdom. To change eternity. And they did.
Fishing for God (Matthew 4:20-22)
See the boldness of their vision: “immediately” they made Jesus’ call their lives. No ambivalence, waffling, questioning. Instant obedience.
See the sacrifice of their vision: examine what they gave up to make Jesus’ vision theirs. They sacrificed their profession and their prosperity. They left behind their family and friends. In fact, Peter would later say to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Matthew 19.27).
See the courage of their vision. They followed Jesus’ vision with no idea where it would lead them, no five-year plan for their future. They “went out not knowing” (Hebrews 11:8), with nothing but their courageous faith.
See the results of their vision.
Peter would preach the first sermon in church history. Later the Galilean fisherman would pastor the church in Rome herself.
John would write the Gospel and letters which bear his name, and the Revelation of Jesus Christ. 20 centuries of pilgrims would journey to his exiled cave on Patmos, and would worship his best friend and Lord.
Today we name churches for these fishermen, and place their pictures in places of worship. We read the books of the Bible they wrote, and meet God in their words and lives. Imagine God using you to do this, and you sense the surprise they must feel this morning in heaven.
Jim Elliott, the missionary martyred by the Auca Indians he tried to reach, wrote in his journal this now-famous life motto: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” These men wrote that motto across their lives. And they were not the last.
Fishermen before us
We began this year with Jesus’ Kingdom vision, and learned last week that he calls us to the same Kingdom work. Now, how can we be as bold, as sacrificial, as courageous in our vision for our lives and church as these disciples were?
There’s a way, and our leadership has asked me to announce it to you.
First, let’s gain some historical perspective. Jesus commissioned his church to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). He told us to begin with our Jerusalem, and work until we have reached the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
He showed us how: meet needs in his name, earning the right to meet spiritual needs with his love. As he fed the crowds so he could feed them spiritually, opened blind eyes so he could open blind hearts, so he calls us to meet the needs of our community, so we can meet their soul’s need for god.