Luke 5:1-11 Fishing for Jesus (A Fishing Trip to Remember)


The Sea of Galilee is probably my favourite place on earth. If I could retire somewhere abroad it would be to Galilee. When I return there it feels like I am going home. It is an awesome place, and usually a tranquil place also. Its also the place where I caught my largest fish… with my bare hands… The Sea of Galilee is an oval–shaped lake of fresh water about eight miles wide and thirteen miles long, and nearly 700 feet below sea level. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that in the first century some 240 boats regularly fished the waters from 30 different villages of which Capernaum was the largest. Perhaps that is why Jesus made it His lakeside base. Maybe He liked fishing. That is what Simon Peter and Andrew his brother were doing when they met Jesus, casting a nets into the sea. 

That particular day however, they were going to learn about a whole new kind of fishing, and maybe, today, we will too.

‘Gone fishing’ means different things to different people.

1. Fishermen with Amnesia

Ask them what a fisherman is and they’ll scratch their heads. Ask them why they go fishing and they’ll probably says its because their parents did it, or their grandparents. They feel they ought to go fishing but they don’t know why.

2. Agnostic Fishermen

You meet them on Sundays in places like Brighton or Hastings or along the River Thames when the sun is shining. With their rubber boots, waxed jacket and fancy fly hooks in their straw hats. In good weather you may even see them close to the water. When pressed they would say with the greatest of respect that you don’t have to believe in fish to be a fisherman.

3. Socialite Fishermen

For them, fishing is a hobby. About being a member of a fishing club. About getting up early, filling the flask, making the sandwiches, meeting up with friends and exploring a new stretch of river. At the end of the day they’ll be down the club telling tall stories about the one that got away. To the socialite fishing is a means to an end. Unlike the agnostic, socialite fishermen do believe in fish. Its just they wouldn’t know what to do if they ever caught one. Fishing to the socialite is all about believing in fishing, joining a club and having a good time.

4. Competitive Fisherman

The competitive fisherman must have all the latest gear and belonging to the right club. They love to tell you the latest book on fishing, the make of their rod, the breaking strain of their line and how far they can cast. To them fishing is all about winning. Competing, comparing themselves with other fishermen. What matters is how big the fish are, how much they weigh. What matters most is catching more than others and belonging to the largest club. Fishing is all about the photos and the trophies on the sideboard.

Four kinds of fisherman. The amnesiac, agnostic, socialite and the competitive fisherman. There is a fifth kind, and I’d suggest it’s this kind Jesus was talking to that day by the lakeside of Galilee.

5. The Professional Fisherman

The professional fisherman respects the weather and the elements but he knows if he doesn’t catch any fish, his family will not eat. He may enjoy fishing. He may enjoying fishing with his friends. But he is a fisherman first and foremost because it’s his trade, and because he’s learnt to be good at it.  He knows about fish. He has studied their habits; knows their favourite food; where they feed. He knows where and when they will be found. He doesn’t expect the fish to come to him. He searches for them, even at personal risk and hardship. To the professional, fishing is neither a club, a game or a sport. It is his life.

I would suggest to you that it was to professional fishermen, that Jesus spoke. It was professional fisherman Jesus called to be his disciples. And it was the trade of the professional fishermen that Jesus uses as an illustration for Christian ministry.  Because Jesus has called us to be fishermen. He has not asked us to name a club after him or sponsor a trophy in his name. He does not allow us the luxury of redefining fishing. He calls you and I to follow him and serve him by fishing.

The primary role of the church is to enlarge his church in the same way that professional fishermen catch fish. It is as simple and as profound and as final as that.  But what happens when we settle for one of these four substitutes? When Churches choose priorities other than fishing  - you know what happens? If you don’t go fishing, you won’t catch anything. The church is in decline in so many of our communities because Christians are not fishing, don’t see it as a priority or have forgotten how to.  But its worse than that.

What happens when fishermen don’t fish? When Christians don’t share with others what God has done for them? Answer: They find other things to do. When fishermen, don’t fish, they began to fight. When fishermen don’t fish, instead of casting nets, they cast stones. When fishermen don’t fish, instead of holding out a helping hand, they point accusing fingers. When fishermen don’t fish for the lost, they become critics of the saved.

So lets examine how Jesus got these seasoned fisherman into the only fishing that matters. A fishing trip to remember.


1. The Call to Deeper Commitment to Jesus (Luke 5:4-7)

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." “Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." (Luke 5:4-5)


Simon had been washing and mending his nets, keeping one ear listening to what Jesus was teaching.  Jesus’ request for Simon to launch out into deeper water is a picture of was about to do in Simon’s life. Jesus calling Simon Peter to a deeper, more personal commitment to Himself. And that is his intention for you. But when we hear the call to launch out deeper we are tempted to listen to other voices.

Guided by friends?

We are so often tempted to be guided more by what our friends think than by what God says. Undoubtedly the advice of his friends, the other fishermen who overheard what Jesus said would be, “Peter don’t do it. You have you nets all cleaned and stored. If you go back out you will have to do it all over again, for nothing.” How often are we influenced more by friends to compromise our faith, our morals, our priorities, our use of time? 

Guided by experiences?

We are tempted to be guided by our experiences instead of what God says. The Lord asks Peter to do something contrary to his own expertise in fishing. The best fishing on the Sea of Galilee was at night close to shore in the shallows. Jesus asked him to launch out into the deep in the middle of the day. Are we too guided more by experience or is God asking us to trust Him.

Guided by circumstances?

Simon Peter replies “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing…” The word “toiled” indicates very hard work. They had not slept all night. They were very tired, exhausted. Now Jesus was asking them to take those freshly cleaned nets and row out to the deep water and go through strenuous process of letting out and taking in the nets all over again. Obedience to Jesus does not hinge upon favorable circumstances. Do you allow circumstances to dictate your obedience?

Guided by fears?

Perhaps Peter was reluctant because he was afraid of failure.

Jesus was in effect asking Simon to try again even though he had failed in the past. This of course would be an important lesson for Peter in the future, not to allow past failure to keep him from serving the Lord. God may ask you to try again even if you have failed in the past. Will you allow past failure to keep you from following Jesus? Its very tempting to be guided by our fears instead of what God says. The greatest obstacle in life is our own fear. The fear of being inadequate, the fear of failure. What is fear keeping you from doing for God?

In Peter’s reply he reveals his respect when he calls Jesus, “Master”. Underline the word. This word means master or teacher. Peter showed his love and respect for Jesus by acknowledging he was teachable. How does Jesus take us from where we are to where he wants us to be? By calling us to a deeper commitment. Maybe its time for you today to obey God and try things His way, even it you don’t understand where, why or how it’s all going to work out. Launching out into the deeper water is scary and it is less familiar but it were God’s blessings are usually to be found.

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:6-7)


The results of obedience are always spectacular.  As they harvested their catch, the two boats, over 7’ wide and 27’ long, were filled to overflowing and began sinking. Several tons of fish were hauled ashore that day in the midst of a delighted if stunned crowd. All because Simon said, “Because you say so, I will”. (repeat).  God is not looking for excuses, for alternatives, for explanations or for shortcuts, but for obedience. Because Simon obeyed he witnessed a miracle. The call to a deeper commitment to Jesus, led secondly to,

2. The Confession of Greater Intimacy with Jesus (5:8-10a)

“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.” (Luke 5:8-10)


At first Simon’s request seems strange. But we have to understand the scene in the light of what has happened.  This new revelation of the power and glory of Jesus has given Peter an acute sense of his own sinfulness. Peter was not really trying to get rid of Jesus; he was simply overcome with a sense of his own unworthiness. When he calls Jesus, “Lord” it is an entirely different word than used previously in Luke 5:5. Lord or (kurios) is reserved by the Jews for God alone.

Peter was not overcome by the size of the catch of fish but by the one who caught them. For the first time he saw and understood for himself who Jesus really was. He cried out just as Isaiah had done when he encountered the living God,


"Woe to me!" I cried. "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)

Confession, if it is genuine, is from the heart and not just the lips. It arises out of a deep awareness of our sin and need of forgiveness.  Job had much the same experience; “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6)


And the Apostle John would write of his experience on the Island of Patmos “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead….” (Revelation 1:17). When introduced to the power and majesty of the Lord we are immensely aware of our own sin, and will often try to escape from his presence. Simon asked Jesus to leave him, not because he did not want to be in his presence but because he felt unworthy of being there. But as our experience deepens; as we realize that he died in our place, has forgiven our sins, and gives eternal life, we find ourselves drawn to him. This is how it happened for Peter. In John 21 we read that after the Resurrection, Peter, distraught over his repeated denials of Jesus, went back home to Galilee and decided to go fishing - perhaps to clear his head and sort things out. He and his old friends fished the night away without success.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize it was Jesus. He called to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water (John 21:4-7).

Peter stood before Jesus, hair and beard dripping, breathless from his swim to shore. Peter dashed to Jesus because he knew himself for what he was (a weak, frail sinner) and also because he knew so much better now who Jesus was and what he had done for him.[1] The call to a deeper commitment to Jesus led not only to a confession of greater intimacy with Jesus but thirdly to,

3. The Commission to Wider Service for Jesus (5:10-11)

 “Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch people.’  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10-11)


The word translated “catch” in 5:10 is literally “to catch alive” - as taking fish alive for an aquarium. Yesterday Mike and I caught 8 fish - or rather we bought them - for his aquarium. Sometimes it seems there are two kinds of Christians: those who catch the fish and those who come to look at them. But the church is not an aquarium for entertainment but rather a life-saving station. “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch people.”

Catch people alive, rescue people, save people. So they pulled their boats to shore and turned their backs on the biggest catch of their lives and followed him. The word “followed” is a word which also signifies the deepest inward attachment. The mission of the church is ‘catching people.’ That is why our mission statement is “To know Jesus and make Jesus known”. We exist “To turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.” Our strategy is “Win, Build, Send - to win people for Christ, to build them in the faith and then send them to do the same. 


The Seven Step Strategy

To help us do so I want to commend to you a simple seven step strategy[2], tried and tested in 100s of churches which help us identify where we are ourselves, and help us become more fruitful assisting sinners become saints.

1. Build a Relationship

The first step is to reach ‘unchurched Harry and Mary’ personally. That is why Jesus began by asking Simon if he could ride in his boat. Rather than beginning with the message of Christ, we should seek to build relationships so that when we do share the message, we have credibility. People are more inclined to consider a radical message from a trusted friend than from a stranger. The love and interest we show cultivates the ground in preparation for sowing the seeds of the gospel.

2. Share a Verbal Witness

A witness in a courtroom simply describes what they have seen and heard. That is what it means to witness. We describe the life we knew, how we encountered the Lord Jesus, and the changes he has made in us. Seekers need to hear how we once were, who can save them and how. That is why having your testimony written and memorized will help you be ready.

3. Invite to a Seeker Service

Every month, we arrange services that are ‘seeker friendly’ like the All-age Family Service at 10:30 on the first Sunday of the month. We present some facet of the message of Jesus in a simple clear way that is intended to lead people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Other occasions include our festival services on Mothering Sunday, Easter, Harvest, Remembrance Sunday, Christmas, and the special events such as the performance of Mary Magdalene in July. Experience shows that people need time to process information. When that process is honoured, the commitments made take root better than poorly informed impulse decisions.

4. Become Part of Christ Church Community

At some point, unchurched Harry and Mary receive Jesus as their Saviour and Lord and begin to attend weekly Sunday  services and our fortnightly mid-week Community. Through in-depth Bible teaching they gain a better grasp of God’s word. These services are designed to help believers grow up in the faith, so Harry and Mary  - now Believer Bob and Betty - experience community and learn to worship through song, prayer and communion.


5. Participate in a Small Group

Life change happens best in a small group where you can know and be known, love and be loved, celebrate and be celebrated - where you can be known authentically and where you share your spiritual journey with others. Jesus modeled the small group principle the day he called Simon and his friends to follow him. Our mid-week small groups of between 6-12 members meet at least twice a month to learn from God’s Word in a discussion format, to pray for one another, support one another and share one another’s burdens.

6. Serve in the Body of Christ

Every believer has been given at least one spiritual gift by the Holy Spirit in order to help build the church of Jesus Christ. We expect and encourage every member of Christ Church to discover their gifts and invest them through one or more of our serving teams. As individuals and as a church, we are under construction, and together, we will only truly experience what it means to be members of the Body of Christ when we are serving, participating, building up his church and extending his kingdom influence in our community and beyond.

7. Steward Financial Resources

When God becomes master of our spending and giving habits, we can be confident He is master over one of the most personal areas of our lives. All our resources have been entrusted to us to use for God’s purposes as well as to meet our personal needs. The last step in the Seven Step strategy for personal maturity is to allow God to have freedom in this area of our lives.

Because of the Tsunami tragedy, we have held back launching our 2005 Budget challenge until today. Please read the leaflet carefully and prayerfully and invite the Lord to guide you in deciding how much of all he has given you, he would have you reinvest in the ministry here at Christ Church. Then we will be able to not only maintain our evangelistic and disciple making ministries but expand them as we believe the Lord is prompting us to do in the year ahead. Lets commit to ensuring what in the stewardship of our financial resources we honour God in every respect.

Seven steps to fishing, seven steps to personal maturity, seven steps to sustained church growth. In the months to come we are going to unpack these seven steps in more detail. We are going to focus much more on what membership of Christ’s Church really means; on how to live a purpose driven life; on how we can become a purpose driven church, on what it means to be servant followers of Jesus Christ. Knowing Jesus and making Jesus known is not just a catchy mission statement - its the purest, truest, most essential role we have as a Church. Everything else is secondary, everything else is optional.  Christ mandates us be fishermen.[3] This morning God is calling you to a deeper commitment to Jesus, to a confession of greater intimacy with Jesus and to a commission to wider service for Jesus. Will you answer the call?

[1] R. Kent Hughes. Luke: That You May Know the Truth. Vol. One. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1998) pp. 162-163.
[2] The Seven Step Strategy was developed by Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Community Church. This outline is taken, with thanks, from their ‘Participating Membership Manual’
[3] With grateful thanks to John Hamby and Lyndon Marcotte for ideas and inspiration for this sermon drawn from their own sermons on this passage accessible at .