Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Luke 5:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
5 Once while Jesus[a] was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
This past Sunday in the 11:00 Service, livestreamed from the sanctuary, our reading was Mark’s version of Jesus calling his first disciples. Today we have Luke’s version of the calling of Simon Peter, James, and John. Jesus said to these fishermen, “From now on you’ll be catching people.” They answered Jesus call by following him and when they began following Jesus, they left their boats and their nets and all the other fishing equipment.
I shared on Sunday that following means leaving. One cannot follow anyone or anything and stay put. So, if following Jesus means leaving, what does Jesus call us to leave? I think there are a few things. Here are a couple:
When we follow Jesus, we leave the past behind. This is great news! Through the loving grace and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ, we can leave in the past those memories and hurts and sins that weigh us down. That’s part of what repentance means. It means changing directions by turning our back on our sins and our grudges and following Jesus in the path of forgiveness and new life.
Paul learned this in his life. When Paul met the risen Christ on the Damascus Road that day, he was able to receive the grace and forgiveness of God and put the past in the past. Listen to his words from his letter to the Philippians (3:13b-14): “But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Even God leaves the past in the past and forgets it! The prophet Jeremiah spoke God’s words of hope to a hurting and troubled people having a hard time moving forward: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” [Jeremiah 31:33b-34]
When we follow Jesus, we leave our comfort zone. Jesus called those fishermen using the image of fishing to describe to them what their lives would be about. He said, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
The thing that makes a fisherman successful is to go where the fish are and to keep casting the net. If you want to be a successful fisherman, you don’t look for the most comfortable spot on the lake. Instead, you go to where the fish are.
Jesus was always taking his disciples outside their comfort zone. When he called them, they left what was most familiar to them: boats and nets and family ties and hometown. In other words, they left their comfort zone.
Later Jesus would take them through the strange and hostile territory of the Samaritans. Even though most Jews would circumvent that territory to avoid the Samaritans, Jesus took them straight through it. Over and over we read of Jesus loading the disciples into a boat and taking them—or sending them—over to “the other side.” The other side of the Sea of Galilee was Gentile territory with its strange customs and un-kosher people and food. They even herded nasty, unclean pigs over there! Those people on the other side weren’t like them. It was way outside their comfort zone.
In his teaching, too, Jesus challenged his disciples to leave their familiar prejudices, their familiar understandings, and their comfortable beliefs about the way things are and the way they will always be.
The leaving part of following is a challenge, isn’t it? Why can’t things just remain the same? Why must I change? Why must I leave my comfortable place? Why can’t I remain the same? It’s hard to leave the familiar, isn’t it?
It’s not ALL about leaving, however. Remember that when Jesus called those fishermen, he didn’t say, “leave fishing.” Rather, he said, “From now on you’ll be catching people.” They followed Jesus, taking with them the talents and abilities and insights and skills that God had given them and that they had worked hard to develop. Those disciples took their skills and their instincts and put them to use in their followership. What are the resources and talents and abilities and tools and personalities that God has given us to follow Jesus in ministry today? Where is Jesus leading us today? What must we leave behind in order to follow faithfully?
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster