Jul 272017
 

Caught By Christ

“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ ” (Luke 5:1-5)

By now, Simon had partial knowledge of who Jesus was. Jesus was the teacher who recently healed his mother-in-law and who loved to preach the Word of God with authority. If the Master needed his boat for relief from the pressing crowd, so He could preach good news to them, Simon would respectfully comply with Jesus’ request and even lend Him his piloting services. On the other hand, fishing was Simon’s wheelhouse. He and his partners, James, John, and likely his brother, Andrew, had just come back from a night of fishing and had caught nothing. However, despite his skepticism, if Jesus wanted to put out into the deep for a cast, Simon would comply with Jesus’ word.

“And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:6-7)

Jesus used this opportunity to bless Simon and is partners with a miraculous catch. However, instead of simply calling down fish from heaven, Jesus blessed their work. This is how God usually works: hidden but within creation. (God is not distant or uninvolved with His creation.) God works for us constantly through human beings working in their various vocations and by physical means. Jesus Himself is the perfect example of God’s power hidden in weakness. If we insist that God no longer works miracles or that miracles only occur when the laws of nature are visibly suspended, then we will fail to recognize (and praise) God’s sustaining presence and work in our lives. Occasionally, a blessing may be immediately recognizable as a miracle, but other times it may be only with hindsight that we recognize God’s hand in a situation.

Jesus does not come or preach for the purpose of providing for our physical needs. Yet, when the first thing sought is His kingdom, He is not unmindful of our physical needs: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) Here Jesus provided substantially more than what the bodily needs of Simon and his partners required. Whether it was divine knowledge of where a massive school of fish would be or divine action to bring the fish to the net, we are not told. In any event, the massive catch of fish was so improbable that Simon immediately recognized the presence of God at work on the boat. Jesus was after a different catch using a different net!

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:8-11)

Most Christians are aware that God uses His Law to bring us to repentance by showing us our sin and threatening us with punishment. But God also uses His kindness and blessings to move us to repentance, as Paul teaches: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4)

If we acknowledge that God is good to us and blesses us constantly with physical life, family, shelter, food and “stuff,” despite the fact that we are covetous, greedy, ungrateful, unmindful of God, etc., then God would have us repent. God wants us to work, but He wants us to depend on Him for our bodily needs. He wants us to work, but God wants us to trust that He will provide for us. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt 6:25-26)

Without the Gospel, God is terrifying to sinful man. Most of the time, the Divine nature of Jesus was hidden within His human nature. In that way, He was approachable and people did not fear Him (although the demons recognized His divinity). But on this occasion, Simon felt the presence of the Divine through the miracle and this experience immediately called to mind his unworthiness and sin. Being on the boat, Simon could not flee from Jesus; he could only pray that Jesus would depart from him.

This is the first step to repentance, as King David wrote: “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps 51:17) The Good News is that Jesus has another Word: forgiveness. Jesus comes to save, not condemn sinners. True, He desires to kill our old sinful nature inherited from Adam, but only so He can raise His own offspring, after His own likeness and image, and grant us eternal life.

So Jesus did not depart from Simon. Instead, He gave him absolution: “Do not be afraid”. Simon was now clean. Jesus caught Simon with the net of the Gospel.

Jesus cleansed Simon from his sin, just like He cleanses us from our sin, by bearing our sin in His body on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus defeated sin and death and the devil to give us the grace of His heavenly Father. If we believe this, then we too are caught in the net of the Gospel, which rescues us from the kingdom of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of Christ in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Amen.

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?” (Ps 118:5-6) Amen.

 

  12 Responses to “Jean’s Gospel: Caught by Christ”

  1. Beautifully composed as always, Jean.

    There is a ton of theology woven through this piece…perhaps if I have a moment between appointments this morning I can dig in to some with you and our readers.

  2. Absolutely Michael. If the appointments are medical in nature, then my prayer is for your health, body and soul.

  3. Took Trey to work this morning, then I have medical stuff a little later.
    Appreciate the prayers…

    “This is how God usually works: hidden but within creation. ”

    This is well said…do you see a correspondence here with the Reformed doctrine of providence?

  4. Hi Michael,

    I don’t know the Reformed doctrine of providence well enough to provide a comparison. However, I can share a Lutheran perspective and perhaps you could respond with how well that lines up with your background or current theology:

    Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth. All authority has been granted to Him.

    God sustains creation and all creatures:

    “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

    “In him we live and move and have our being”

    God uses even unbelievers to carry out His will, whether they know it or not.

    His wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

    God “unpreached” is wrathful. Things look unjust – the wicked prosper, the good suffer. God unpreached is terrifying, and we should not seek Him “naked”, because if we found him that way, we would surely die.

    The Psalmist writes:

    “For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
    10 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
    yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
    11 Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?”

    Only in God “preached” can we find a gracious God. Only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ can we find the death of death, forgiveness of sins, salvation and everlasting life.

    I am no Greg Boyd fan. I would rather have a sovereign God who works everything for the good of those who love Him, rather than a distant God who doesn’t get His hands dirty in the seemingly chaotic and often ugly events which take place in His creation.

  5. “And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ ”

    sometimes it is very hard to find just where obedience lies as we do our daily walk, but oh, to have Simon’s attitude, his heart…

    my take away is it isn’t always clear or easy, but keep at it – thank you, Jean

  6. Westminster on providence;

    I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things,from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge,[and the free and immutable counsel of His own will,to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

    II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

    III. God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above,and against them, at His pleasure.

    IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men] and that not by a bare permission, but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

    V. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

    VI. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, does blind and harden, from them He not only withholds His grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had, and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin;and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God uses for the softening of others.

    VII. As the providence of God does, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it takes care of His Church, and disposes all things to the good thereof.

  7. You’re welcome John 20:29.

  8. Michael,

    That’s something which which I struggle at times – the difference between articles V and VI listed above. The difference between “His own children”, and “those wicked and ungodly men”. How did that separation occur……

    Jean,

    Could you enlighten me on what is meant by God “unpreached” and “preached”?

  9. Hi Owen,

    Great to see you here.

    God preached and unpreached at one level refers to God revealed in Scripture vs. God hidden. But the finer point about “preached” vs. “unpreached” is that God does not want simply to be known, feared or worshiped on the basis of the revelation of himself in the Scriptures. God wants to be our God; He wants the atoning death of His Son to be your sacrifice and mine for the forgiveness of our sins, received through faith. Therefore, what we need is a preacher to bring us this Good News, the Holy Spirit and faith.

    Does that make sense?

  10. Ah, okay, that makes sense.
    God preached is bringing in the personal relationship aspect.

    One might also say the OT is God unpreached, the NT is God preached. Probably oversimplified, however.

  11. Owen,

    I think that distinction should trouble us…I’m not sure that I would defend that statement of the Confession fully.

    The Reformed have a way of making God appear to enjoy damning people…I reject that notion.

  12. Yeah, I too wonder about that, Michael…. especially the “from them He not only withholds His grace….”.

    It’s hard for me to believe that , with all the abundance of grace I know I’ve received from Him (completely undeserved), that there are those from whom He withholds it.

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