By Simon ManchesterSunday 19 Oct 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
12 Week Series
God’s Wide Plan – Fearful and Kind
Based on the Book of Luke
Luke 5: 1 – 16
Our Father we thank you that you are God that speaks and we pray that you would help us to be people who listen. And we ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts would be pleasing to you,our God and our Redeemer; In Jesus’ Name,Amen.
This morning we come to a very famous event in the New Testament,it’s the miraculous catch of fish in Luke Chapter 5. Miraculous because it was the middle of the day,it was completely beyond the fishermen to get the fish and the catch itself turned out to be enough to sink two boats; so quite unexpected,unplanned,virtually beyond their resources. And Jesus immediately turns away from the whole thing and says – that’s of no interest to us,that is over,that’s behind us. Our agenda,he says is men,is people.
And what I would like us to do this morning is to learn from Jesus,what is most important in this world. We need to know the thing that is MOST important. There are so many things that are slightly important. We need to know the thing that is most important. Think of the political leaders who have taken office in the last few weeks and who begin to set their agenda and they have something in their mind which is MOST important. And so one of them says it’s the economy and one of them says it’s the economy and one of the says it’s the environment and one of them says it’s welfare and one of them says it’s the hospitals and one of them says it’s the education system. Or think of the church. Somebody stands up and says the most important thing that ought to be happening at this church,there ought to be love and someone else says,no,there should be worship,and someone else says there should be relationships someone else says there should be truth,someone says there should be mission. There are so many things,aren’t there,which are clamouring and there is in our own mind,even in our own head so many things which are pressing on us and so we say,look this is the absolutely crucial thing that must happen this week; and if this happens – disaster; and if this happens – great. And so we’ve got this sort of strong pressure inside us of what’s important and maybe even what God should do as a result of what we tell Him is important.
Now measured by the world’s agenda,all of those things political/church/personal,they may be important. But what Jesus tells us here in Luke Chapter 5 is what is important by God’s measurement. And without knowing what is important by God’s measurement everything else can be a distortion. But when we know what is important by God’s agenda then everything gets anchored,everything gets in proportion,everything can be confident. And unless we know what God’s absolute priority is we’ll keep going for secondary things,thinking they’re primary and as we go for the secondary things thinking those things are primary it will turn out to be a secondary and then we’re just discouraged.
So let’s think,as we come to Luke Chapter 5,so far we’ve seen,as Jesus begins His ministry,that the Devil comes along to divert Him or deflect Him. We then saw him go into the synagogue and explain His role as the servant of God and was almost instantly attacked for what He said would be His role. And then we see in the rest of Luke Chapter 4 that there are lots of pressures upon Him,pressures to deliver a person from their demonic experience,pressure to heal a person – all sorts of pressures being pushed on Jesus. And He says in Ch. 4,V. 43 what His actual priority is. Look at V. 43,He walks away from all the pressure that is on Him and says,I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God because that is why I was sent,I have come to give a message to the world,which they can hear,which they believe; by which they will live,by which they will life eternally.
Now friends,that may not be what the world wants. I’m absolutely sure it’s not what the world wants. And the world may have all sorts of ideas for what God’s agenda should be,but Jesus says His agenda is to give the world a message which,if they listen to it,will tell them how to be restored to God and how to have life eternal… the message basically is to come under the umbrella,under the rule,under the care,under the control of Christ. That’s His message. And of course His death on the cross is to make that ‘coming under’ possible.
And as we move into Luke Chapters 5 and 6,beginning this morning,He begins to act on what’s important; in other words He begins to do what He says is important. I find this one of the most difficult things in my life is to DO what I know to be important. I see perhaps what is the absolute key and then I just don’t know how to move the things which are in the way of doing it. And Jesus doesn’t have that problem. If I could use business language,his policy which is to see people in the Kingdom and not just in a better world,his policy drives His processes. And in Luke Chapter 5 and 6 there are about six times where we come to a paragraph that begins with the word,something like ‘one day’ the phrase in the original language is literally ‘it happened; it came to be,it came to pass’. And something happens and Jesus causes his policy to drive His processes.
Now the incident in Luke 5 of the catching of the many fish has been abused by many preachers,you may have heard sermons on this before. It’s normally brought out by preachers when they’ve got a new plan for the church. And so they grab Luke 5 and they say – here we are,you know,our boats are not working,I’ve got a whole new plan,I think God is telling us we should do something absolutely crazy and reckless; I think we should go in this direction,we should put out into the deep and we should suddenly become more effective and suddenly we’ll become more successful. But that is to read into the passage what we would like to be there and I would like this morning for these few minutes to read out of the passage what is actually there. So just look at Luke Chapter 5,V 1 and you’ll see the first thing that is most important is that Jesus has a message. One day as Jesus was standing by the lake,that’s the Lake of Galilee,with the people crowding around and listening to the Word of God,He saw at the water’s edge two boats left by the fishermen and He got into one and asked him to put out a little and He taught the people from the boat. He’s faced with a pressing crowd. What does He do with the pressing crowd? Does He say to them,what would you like me to do for you? Well occasionally He does,but mostly here He says,let me tell you what’s important. And He teaches them. Why has the crowd gathered? – To listen to the Word of God.
Friends if Jesus was to visit us this morning,in the flesh,walk down this carpet and stand up the front here,you know what He would do? He would teach us,He would tell us things,He would tell us the things that we need to know and I know exactly what He would tell us – He would tell us the things that are in the scriptures. He is a completely consistent God. What He told the people in the 1st Century he tells His people in the 21st Century,it’s just a different mode of teaching. In the 1st Century you got to hear His voice and see His face and in the 21st Century it comes through the Word of God which is available to all of us. So you haven’t missed a thing by being in the 21st Century except hearing His voice and seeing His face. You’ve got His word in your hands,in your lap; all that is blessed is that you don’t have to go to Palestine and stand on a hot beach in the midday sun and listen to Him. So you’ve got it,it’s there.
And the message of Jesus is going to be,can you guess? About God and about you and how to be restored to Him and about how to walk with Him and about How to live with Him and about how to enjoy Him and about how to serve Him – that’s what it’s going to be. That’s His priority with the crowd. His priority is to teach so the crowd can understand and believe and live and have all their crucial questions answered.
What is the mark of a thinking people,a wake up people? What is the mark of a thinking people? They want the information,they turn up at the beach,they go to the place where they can have their big questions answered. They’re not at the lake,you see,to be entertained,they’re at the lake because they want the answers to their questions. Now friends,is there anything more wonderful than putting together someone who’ll tell you the crucial issues and someone who wants to know them? It’s a great twosome isn’t it? I mean there’s more people running the marathon this morning than are sitting in church,well sitting in this church. Wouldn’t it be great if we had the whole marathon sitting,listening to the Word of God?
So there you are,you’ve got the preachers preaching and very few listening and then occasionally of course you’ve got somebody who just would love to know the answers but nobody is there to tell them,but when the telling and the listening come together,what spiritual blessing there is,as we see here in Luke Chapter 5. And He looks over the crowd and His heart breaks for the crowd because He knows that they don’t understand things. And so,He makes sure that the word gets out to them,He’ll do anything to get the word out to them and this crowd are pushing to get the word into them. They’re eating up everything He says.
Now friends I don’t know what you think the local church is doing. It’s a great congregation to be part of here,I love this congregation,but the one thing we’re here for is to make the message of Jesus Christ known. And therefore we’ve got to bend everything to that agenda. And you and I have got to think together. I wish I had hours this morning to tell you all the ideas I’ve had in the last days as to how we might do that more effectively,but we just have to bend every process to the policy of seeing the Word of God get to people,we’ve got to think about it,we’ve got to pray for it,we’ve got to come up with ideas,we’ve got to be adventurous. I’m not about to say,put out into the deep! I’m just saying we’ve got to be people who put everything to the agenda of God,which is to see people understand the truth of God and themselves. And I wonder whether your life is marked by these early verses,Chapter 5,Verses 1-3,are you the sort of person who just longs to see the message of Christ get out and are you the sort of person who just loves to listen to the truth of God,because that’s the sign of two healthy processes. That’s the message.
Second,the mastery of Jesus. In Verse 3,He borrows a boat so that He can teach,it’s very clever,so that He can push out from the shore; nobody can now crush Him. He turns to the owner of the boat when he’s finished His sermon,it’s Simon Peter and He tells him to put out for a catch. Why does He do this? He’s not interested in the catch really,we know He’s going to walk away from it in a few minutes’ time. He’s not interested in the fish,why does He do this? The answer is because He’s about to call Simon Peter to help Him in the mission. And to help Simon Peter to be useful in the mission He needs to teach Simon Peter that He’s the master of everything. If Simon Peter’s going to be useful to the work of Jesus in the world,he’s going to need to know that Jesus is the Master of everything,that He runs everything. I wonder if you believe this? I wonder whether you secretly think,and I’m tempted to and you may be too,I wonder whether you’re tempted to think that Jesus is a bit of a ‘ churchy boy’ and He just hangs around ‘churchy’ things; But He could never walk to factory,He could never go to a classroom,He could never understand IT,He could never go into a law firm or a hospital? That would be way beyond Him,He’s just good for candles and hymns and sermons? That would be to make a very big mistake,wouldn’t it? If you give,if I might put this a little bit devotionally, if you give Jesus a place in ‘your boat’ and a certain time slot,that would be to completely misunderstand Him. He is the Master of everything.
We often see,don’t we political leaders when they’re looking into a factory or hospital and they’re normally wearing a sort of ‘shower cap’ and they do their best,I mean they are great,but they do their best! They fold their arms and they look at the machinery,and it’s completely confusing and they try to take in as much as they can and they’re intelligent people and they’re trying to learn all they can,you know – why is this room here,why does this factory work what’s this technology going to do? – all that sort of thing. But if you think that Jesus,walking into a factory or a classroom or something like it,is going to fold His arms and say,gee,tell me everything,I know nothing.,that is to completely misunderstand Him. It doesn’t matter what area He walks into He understand everything. He understands the people and the issues and the details and the processes and everything about that particular subject. He’s the master of everything.
Now Peter famously agrees that he will push his boat out. Even though Peter is the expert on fishing and fishing is his business,he agrees,Verse 5,even though we fished all night and caught nothing and it’s now the day and even though I know this business extremely well and I know how it works and it’s not going to work in the day,let me tell You,because You’ve said so,I will move the boat out into the deep. And that’s what he does. He puts everything at the disposal of the word of Jesus. And although this may have gone against his own experience it may have gone against the fishing rulebook and all that sort of thing,it is his wise decision to say,what You have instructed us in we’ll do. And you see that the word of God the Word of Jesus is not just good for a sermon but actually is the key to the Word. I want to therefore urge you,whatever you do,if in your mind you allocate to Jesus some small place,some small time slot,you need to learn that He is the Master of all. Because that’s what Jesus is teaching Peter,that He in fact runs everything above the water and everything under the water. He’s in charge of all the processes,He understands every single detail of every single issue,He’s the Lord of all. And if you know that of course you’re much more confident to walk into any part of the world in order that people that people would know that He’s the Master of everything.
You’re nearly ready,there’s one more thing you need to know and that is the Majesty of Jesus. This follows doesn’t it,where in Verse 8,suddenly Peter turns round and says,having seen the miracle,please leave me. I don’t know what you think is the most surprising thing in the account of Luke Chapter 5. whether you think it’s the huge catch of fish,that’s very surprising? Or whether it’s walking away from the catch of fish? Most of us when we catch one fish are extremely ready for any photograph,to catch two boat loads would be a big day and you would think that it would cause a normal person to hang round forever for photos,but they walk right away from it and that’s quite surprising. But I actually think the most surprising thing is in Verse 8,that in the face of the Majesty of Jesus Peter falls down and say,please go away. Please go away Lord,for I am a sinful man. Now why does he do this? Why doesn’t he just fall down and say,you’re great,You and I could do a fantastic job together,we could harness your power for my business and suddenly we would be making a fortune? Why doesn’t he do that? Surely,surely the key is that he calls Jesus,Lord and he recognises the great gulf between God,who’s at work in the miracle,and himself. I don’t suggest to you for a minute that Peter has got Jesus all worked out,that he knows He’s God and that he knows He’s God incarnate,I’m not suggesting that. But he sees something has taken place where God is at work and he recognises himself to be not only very small,but very ungodly. Godly…Ungodly – it’s the gulf that really comes home to him and he falls down to ask him to leave.
Now this sense of distance,I think,is going to be absolutely crucial not only if a person is going to understand God but also if a person is ever going to serve God. I wonder if there is anyone here this morning and you think that because ‘God is love’ that therefore you have no difficulty of just marching up to Him and being friends. And it’s absolutely true,the Bible tells us ‘God is love’. But it’s also true,the Bible tells us that God is perfect,he’s powerful,he’s superior,he’s pure and therefore there is a sense in which,as we come face to face with the reality of God there is this massive gulf between him and us and it’s a very healthy thing to grasp it. And in fact I’d say one of the first clues to becoming a Christian is to recognise that there is a massive gulf between you and God and the second clue to becoming a Christian is to realise that God has bridged the gulf because Jesus has come and has laid down his life,like a bridge,in order that you and He might be reconciled. They’re the two steps really to becoming a Christian,aren’t they? The terrible news…the gulf. The wonderful news…the bridge,the cross. And this is what Peter needs to learn if he’s to be useful,that first of all he can’t possibly,naturally humanly,simply relate to Jesus; it’s always going to be mercy,it’s always going to be grace,it’s always going to be the kindness of God. And Jesus turns to him,just in case Peter thought to himself-it’s impossible,and said don’t be afraid,from now on you’ll take men alive and behind that little phrase,’don’t be afraid’,you can imagine how much Jesus is telling Peter. He’s telling him,I’m going to do the work of making it safe to know me,I can’t explain all of this to you now Peter,but don’t be afraid. There is a natural gulf between us,but don’t be afraid. I’m going to do everything that is necessary to bridge that gulf,hen I die on the cross I’m going to take on myself everything which is frightening,everything which is fearful,everything which is dreadful,everything which is judgement. I’m going to take that on myself in order that you,putting your trust in me,will have fellowship which is peaceful accessible and wonderful and personal and eternal. That’s what Jesus is saying as He says to Peter,’don’t be afraid’,I will fix what you recognise to be the gulf.
Now I don’t think anybody can really become a Christian without recognising the gulf and the bridge and I don’t think anybody can really serve the Lord Jesus without realising that humanly it’s impossible even to have fellowship with Him. But that by His mercy and by His grace we come to the fellowship and by His mercy and by His grace we come to be useful.
I hope you this morning who understand the golf and the bridge will rejoice in the fact that He has brought you here and I hope that you rejoice that the cross has made all that possible.
And so we come to the mission of Jesus in Verse 10 – you’ll take men alive,says Jesus to Peter. This is the mission which Jesus draws His people into. Now it’s different from fishing. If you fish you know you take a little animal from being alive to being dead,you take it out of its happy environment and you put it into land. I’m not being sentimental about this,I think it’s a great thing to do,those fish have been put there for us to enjoy and to eat healthy food,the fish are there in order to be caught. But you must recognise that if you catch fish it’s not only a small business,but it’s also a life to death business. But if you catch people it is a magnificent mission to be part of because not only is it eternal but your taking a person from death to life,your taking a person whose cut off and therefore has no spiritual life,no eternal life and you’re helping them to know Jesus and when they know Jesus,who is The Life,they have eternal life; a very,very wonderful thing to be part of.
I was reading through the week that the great evangelist George Whitfield was once preaching and in his sermon he called out,as part of his sermon,that Jesus will take the devils castaways. In other words,that a person who’s absolutely hopeless,even the devil is giving up on this person,Jesus will take them and He will remake them. And there was lady in the crowd as Whitfield said this,a very wealthy lady and she went up to him and she rebuked and she said,you shouldn’t talk like that,it’s irreverent. And Whitfield sent round to her house a man who had been converted under his ministry and this man went round to the lady’s house and he said – I want to tell you how I became a Christian,I was in such a mess I was in so much sin and I was in so much sadness and I just had no solutions that I was actually heading off to kill myself and as I headed to the river I went past this crowd and I drew near and I heard this man call out that Jesus will even take the devil’s castaways and I thought,well,there’s hope for me. And he said,I did give myself to Him and He did take me and He did remake me.
And as Jesus invites people,you see in Luke Chapter 5,to be part of a mission to ‘catch people’,we really are catching people who are in a death and bringing them into a life,even the worst possible situations. It’s a very,very wonderful mission to be part of. And of course if you help people to move from death to life you really love them. We know of course that a person can move from spiritual death to spiritual life because Jesus did the opposite when He did – He went from being spiritually alive to being spiritually dead in order to pay for us what is needed to move from spiritual death to spiritual life.
And in the face of this mission,this attractive eternal,wonderful mission,Peter and the disciples,the other fishermen,leave everything,everything is left behind. The great catch which was such an exciting miracle,suddenly becomes the great drop,that’s another miracle,isn’t it – to drop everything? And the problems with this congregation that I’m speaking to and I feel this for myself,and I’m saying for you,is that we have so much ‘stuff’ and we are just accumulating and it becomes almost impossible for us,doesn’t it,to be free in heart or brain because there’s just so much that we’re holding and gripping? And here you see the disciples are willing,in practice,to drop everything. Now Jesus doesn’t call on you and me,in practice,to drop everything,at least He doesn’t normally,but He does call on us all to drop everything in principle. So there shouldn’t be anything that keeps you from following Him and there shouldn’t be anything that keeps you from serving Him because in principle you’ve dropped everything. And if there is somebody who keeps you from believing in Jesus or serving Him or there’s something that keeps you from believing or serving,you know that is an idol.
Now as we come to the last minute I want to leave the beach and want to finish with a little incident in Verses 12-16 where a leper comes up to Jesus and this is the Mercy of Jesus. We’ve seen the Message of Jesus,we’ve sent the Mastery of Jesus,we’ve seen the Majesty of Jesus,we’ve seen the Mission of Jesus and now finally the Mercy,Verses 12-16; this is what Luke deliberately wants us to know because he’s arranged his gospel that Jesus is like. And we’ve heard Jesus explain his priorities,to help people come into the kingdom and to preach the message so that people can be saved and even the miracle of the fish is not the mission which Jesus has come to do. And now a leper comes up in Verse 12-16 who is a total distanced man,he knows he’s cut off,he knows he’s helpless,he knows he’s hopeless and we want to ask the question,does Jesus have any interest in a suffering person? Can a person bring their need to Him or will they find just a steamroller,pushing along saying I’ve got no time for this,I’m just in the business of saving souls? And you see in verse 12 that the leper comes up to Jesus and he prays,if You are will You can make me clean and Jesus touched him and said,I am willing,be clean. And we know that Jesus is full of compassion. We know that we can bring our needs to Him. We know that we can bring our sadnesses to Him and the sufferings of this world to Him. We know He is not a person who turns away but listens. But having done that,look at verse 14 and the instruction that Jesus gives,He says to the Leper – Don’t preach this,do not go and tell the world that is why I am here,to make this world into a perfect place. But Verse 15,something goes wrong and the message gets around and suddenly the crowds are running to Jesus with THEIR agenda and their agenda is that they would all be healed and Jesus,verse 16,has to avoid crowds.
Now I’ve just noticed friends,notice what’s taken place,Verse 1,he loves the crowds because he wants them to know about the kingdom,that’s important,that’s the priority. But here,suddenly there’s been a turn and the crowds are running at him and he is avoiding them,verse 16,that little phrase in verse 16,but Jesus withdrew,because he just didn’t want to be steamrolled by the agenda of the world,He wants to teach what is important,which is that is a person comes into the Kingdom. He of course is willing to do what is needed in terms of hearing the prayers of the suffering,but we have to ask this question as we come to an end and my subject has been ‘what is important’ – where do you see the mercy of Jesus Christ most clearly in Verses 1-16? Do you see the mercy of Jesus Christ most clearly in Verse 12,healing a sick man? We do see His mercy there. But friends,we see his mercy most clearly in verse 10,when he can say to a person who knows that they are cut off from Jesus and have no fellowship with him and cannot possibly serve him,when he says to them-do not be afraid,do not be afraid,not only am I able to bring you near but I am able to use and commission you in my service. That,friends,is the mercy of God most clearly seen,to see a person come near to him,to a person then in his service,that is the real mercy of God,that is the really important thing,we must hold it once we’ve got it,everything else fits into place.
Let’s pray,let’s bow our heads. Our Heavenly Father,we thank you for the great mercy that we see in the coming of the Lord Jesus and the preaching of the Lord Jesus and the teaching of the Lord Jesus and ultimately,in the reconciling work of the Lord Jesus. We thank you that you are a God who is full of compassion to save the unworthy and then,even to use the unworthy. We give you thanks that beyond our sinfulness and beyond our waywardness and beyond our failures and beyond even the mistakes of the last days,you are a God who makes reconciliation possible forever and we ask that you would help us to rejoice in it and we ask that you would help us to publish it. And as we live in this world may we be marked by the compassion for the needs of the world and especially the eternal. We ask it in Jesus’ Name,Amen.