Because You Say So
The account of Jesus calling Simon to become an apostle is an instance of a miracle wrapped in a parable in Three Acts.
Before considering the story, I invite you to think about your own life in three categories: time, treasure and talent.
First, your time. Like everyone else on the planet, you have twenty-four hours in each day. What do you typically do with your time? Are you a Type A personality who has your day planned in fifteen to thirty-minute blocks, or are you more fluid and casual in your approach to time? In either case, think about how you utilize time throughout your day.
Second, think about your treasure. I’m thinking here of your tangible assets and finances. How do you go about deciding how you’ll spend your money, how much you’ll save and how much you’ll give away? Are you systematic in your approach? Or, do you reach the end of the month and wonder where your money went?
Third, think about your talents. Are you able to discern what natural abilities you possess and have an accurate sense of your skill set? How about spiritual gifts, those divine abilities that further God’s kingdom? What would you say are your most valuable gifts, skills and abilities?
With these questions in mind, we turn to Luke chapter 5 verses one through eleven.
Act One: Jesus Teaches from the Boat
We find Jesus standing beside Lake Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, sharing the word of God with a crowd of people pressing in on him. No social distancing here. Somewhere off to the side are a group of fishermen who have pulled their boats on shore and are cleaning their nets. As the listening crowd grows larger, Jesus decides to climb into one of the two boats left by the fishermen and push out into the water for a better position from which to continue teaching.
Jesus chooses Simon’s boat and he chooses Simon as the one to engage in a reasonable, highly doable activity. After he had gotten into the boat, Jesus asks Simon to “put out a little from shore” (Luke 5:3) so that he can continue teaching the crowd. The manner in which Jesus approached Simon is intriguing.
Jesus met Simon precisely where he was in his life and on Simon’s terms. Surely the request by Jesus was reasonable since Jesus only asked Simon to offer what he already possessed, earthly things like his boat, his oars, his strength, his time and his expertise. Simon utilized these things every day and was intimately familiar with all things related to fishing. At this stage of his relationship with Jesus, nothing extraordinary is asked of Simon. Rather, Simon is simply asked to do a favor for a remarkable teacher, a request he complies with immediately.
Act Two: A Remarkable Act of Faith
After Jesus is finished speaking to the crowd, life gets interesting for Simon. Seated in his boat along with Jesus, a simple favor now becomes an invitation for Simon to “launch into the deep” and let down his fishing nets for a catch. This bid from Jesus carries both a literal and a figurative sense.
Simon is being asked to literally row further out from the shore into the deeper waters for a catch of fish. There is more to the story here. Since Simon and his fishing partners had finished fishing for the night and were obviously ready to clean their nets, store their gear and rest, this second request from Jesus upped the ante for Simon.
As an experienced fisherman skilled in his craft, Simon would have been well within his rights to refuse Jesus on the basis of his expertise alone. But, Simon did not do so.
Jesus had asked Simon to launch out beyond his experience, beyond his own understanding of the way life worked and beyond his considerable fatigue. “Master,” said Simon, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything” (Luke 5:5a). I presume many of us would have been tempted to stop right there if we were in Simon’s position. Maybe Simon was tempted to turn back as well.
And here we find the essence of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ: “But because you say so, I will let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4b, emphasis mine). Simon launched out into the deep figurately and literally by setting aside his own plans, ignoring his own tired and sore muscles, pushing through his uncertainty and returning to the same unproductive fishing grounds he had occupied only hours before to again let down his nets.
Simon chose to put his faith, his absolute trust in Jesus exhortation over, beyond and above his own well-informed understanding. The miraculous results were immediate. In this gospel account, there is a direct correlation between the swiftness of Simon’s response to Jesus and the astounding fruit of his obedience.
Act Three: The Calling of Simon
Much like the prophet Isaiah feeling as if he were disintegrating in the presence of God, Simon was completely overwhelmed by the presence of the one whom he now referred to as “Lord.” The miraculous catch of fish astonished all of the fishermen present and surely weighed heavily in their decision to leave everything and follow Jesus.
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men,” Jesus said to Simon (Luke 5:10). As a true prophet, Jesus’ words to Simon came to fruition years later on the Day of Pentecost as three thousand people were added to the number of Jesus’ disciples.
Simon, the uneducated and roughhewn fishermen had become Peter the Apostle after being fashioned and formed into the man Jesus knew Simon could and would become. Simon’s initial response to Jesus was immediate; his transformation took time. The same principle applies to us.
As I have studied and meditated upon this passage of Holy Scripture, three questions have rattled through my mind and pressed upon my heart. I offer these questions to you for your own reflection and as a call to action.
1. What do you possess that Jesus might use to build up his church and expand God’s kingdom? Think in terms of your time, your talents and your treasure.
2. What are you going to do about it? Jesus call to discipleship always carries a conditional clause. You have free will and do not have to follow Jesus Christ. Nobody does. You are free to choose to go on with Jesus and free to turn back. So, what are you going to do?
3. When are you going to do it? A friend once encouraged me “not to confuse actually obeying Jesus with determining to do so.”
As a new seminary student over twenty years ago, I shared a table with a small group of fellow students as we took turns sharing our experiences of being called into ordained ministry. Most of us at that time were in our late twenties or early thirties, but one gentleman was in his mid-to-late fifties. I cannot remember his name, or even where he was from, but I’ll remember what he said for as long as I live.
When it came time for this older gentleman to share his story he said, “I sensed a call to ordained Christian ministry twenty-one years ago and I’m just now acting on it. I shudder when I think of what I’ve missed.”