by Kent Hunt
Some Bible stories frustrate me.
You get the point, but there are so many more questions that I would love to have answered.
For instance, did anyone show up to Lazarus’ real funeral? I bet there were a lot of people who remembered when he died the first time and headed to his funeral only to find out Jesus had raised him from the dead. I’m sure when he died the second time, most of them said, “Not again! Is he going to stay dead this time?”
The same is true for the story related in the fifth chapter of Luke. The story tells of when Jesus called the first disciples. A few fishermen had been out all night and came back with nothing. They were cleaning and mending their nets, and Jesus showed up with a crowd of people wanting to hear him speak.
Jesus asked Simon to push his boat out from the shore so he could speak to the people from it. When he finished, he told Simon to put the boat out a little further and cast his nets over the other side of the boat. Simon had just heard the traveling preacher speak, and I’m sure he was impressed. But Simon is the fisherman in this boat. So he wasn’t that interested in advice from a carpenter’s son who had a way with words.
“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything,” Simon answered.
How many times do we think we hear God talking to us and begin listing reasons why we can’t simply do what he says?
Simon didn’t let the validity of his excuses stop him from taking action.
“Because you say so, I will let down the nets,” he said.
When he did, something happened that he had dreamed of for his entire career as a fisherman. The nets were so full of fish that he couldn’t raise them. They were so full, the nets started to break.
Simon called over his partners, and they got the nets and boats back to the shore. Their business received a blessing like none they had ever seen. But the focus of the story shifted away from a great day on the lake. They recognized Jesus for who he was. Suddenly, fishing –– in which they had invested their lives and resources –– meant nothing to them.
Jesus told them to follow him, and he would make them fishers of men.
Verse 11 confounds me.
“So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
Really? What happened to the boats? Who sold all of the fish at the market? Somebody got a nice little salary increase that day, but not Simon, James or John. They left their businesses on that shore. That’s like quitting a dream job one day before you get your Christmas bonus –– and I don’t mean a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.
Jesus had filled their nets. But following him was more important than nets full of fish or boats.
Some readers are about to start rationalizing how this is an ancient story and remind me that this is 2012. People just don’t do this anymore. I beg to differ.
My wife and I met a couple in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who could relate pretty well to Simon, James and John. Both of them had been successful business owners in a suburb of Dallas. They had just completed construction on a dream house with a pool. Their son and daughter were happy and healthy. Their nets were full.
And then one day at church, it all became unimportant. They felt a calling to leave it all and go to Africa. Before long, they had sold their dream house and moved into an apartment to save money and wait for an answer to what they were supposed to do. Soon, they had been hired by our agency to help the American families traveling to Ethiopia to adopt.
So they left everything and moved to Addis Ababa. Are you expecting me to tell the happy ending now? I wish I could.
Several years after they arrived in Ethiopia, and right after our first trip, the government there began to restrict adoptions and forced our agency to lay off its entire American in-country staff. They had to return to Texas and start over.
The same was true for the fishermen. They followed Jesus for a few years and then saw him killed on a cross. Everything they had worked for seemed to have been taken away. They stopped fishing for men and went back to their nets.
That’s when it happened again. John 21 recounts the story. After he had been resurrected, Jesus appeared to his disciple several times. One of these times came when the boys had been out fishing again and, again, caught nothing. An unknown man appeared on the shoreline and said, “Friends, haven’t you caught any fish?” They told him they hadn’t.
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
You know that had to sound familiar. Right? They did, and once again the net was full. They figured out right away who the man on the shore was.
This time, Jesus told them to bring him some of the fish, and he made breakfast for them and told them to continue following him even after he was gone from them.
They had been called away from full nets, seen their teacher and friend murdered, and called again with full nets to continue the work he had begun.
During tough times, are you still willing to let your nets down on the other side? Are you willing to leave full nets to do what you are called to do? Don’t confuse being called to something with being promised that times will always be good.
Not everything God calls people to is a life of leisure and luxury. There is a lot of hard work to do and you might be the one called to it.
Simon came back to Jesus later and asked him about this very thing.
In Matthew 19, he asked Jesus a tough question: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus doesn’t mind tough questions. He answered him, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
So you have that going for you.