There is only one gospel, which of course means good news, but there is a multiplicity of ways in which it may be received, assuming it’s first believed to be good news. For news to be good we must be honest about our needs, our brokenness, our limitations and inability to save ourselves. It’s only then we find we’re blessed. Specifically, we’re blessed with the possession of the Kingdom. All that is required is our complete surrender, our everything.
There is a popular story in Luke’s gospel narrative when Jesus calls Simon Peter to follow Him to “catch people.” It begins with Jesus getting into a fisherman’s boat a little off from the shore, so the people can see and hear Him better. Then he sat down to teach. The boat belonged to Simon, and he’s in the boat with Jesus, a front row seat with the greatest teacher to ever utter a word.
We don’t know for sure what Jesus taught that day, but we can make a safe guess that He taught the good news of a Kingdom where the last shall be first. Jesus often sought to raise awareness about this Kingdom in which those on the margins of society, the poor, the hungry, those mourning and needy are the most blessed. It is a Kingdom for the countercultural folks, the gentle and humble, ordinary people — you know, like fishermen. And Simon Peter, the fisherman, is in the boat.
It’s also a safe guess that Simon is not trying to be anything great. He likely gave up on that years ago. For now he’s just living the normal hard life of a first century fisherman trying to provide for his family.
Jesus finishes His teaching, and Simon is likely ready to get back to shore because he needs to go home to explain to his family that he didn’t catch any fish. But Jesus has other plans. He wants the fisherman to take Him fishing.
It seems Simon is thinking something like, “Jesus, You’re great with words, but you clearly don’t know how to catch fish. I know these waters, and I know fish. I’ll do this out of respect for you, but it’s going to be disappointing.” We can suppose as much because he warns Jesus that nothing was caught after working hard all night.
Now, I feel confident Simon would have been happy, amazed even, by a normal day’s catch, but he ends up with an overwhelming amount of fish. Such a catch his boat couldn’t contain it. The fish filled his boat and the boat of his partners, the Sons of Thunder.
Interestingly, Simon doesn’t say, “I guess I was wrong, you do know how to fish.” He doesn’t even say thank you. No, something quite surprising occurred. His response is to fall to his knees and say, “Leave me. I’m not worthy, Lord. I’m a sinner.” He seems broken, humbled, lowly, and in his shame he tries to push Jesus away. Which happens to be exactly why Jesus draws near.
You can imagine the chaotic scene, fish flopping everywhere, Jesus smiling with delight seeing the reaction of the fishermen. Simon is probably also smiling, but in shock, and then it sinks in. Maybe he realizes he recalled the “good news” of the sermon and realized he didn’t really believe it. Suddenly, he sees and hears Jesus. He’d likely heard about Him and even witnessed something miraculous. Maybe He was curious about Jesus, but he didn’t really have the time to wonder if it could be the Messiah. That is, until he experienced the power of salvation found in this moment of surrender.
To Simon Peter the Lord says, “Don’t be afraid. I’m going to teach you to catch people.” Which is a bit odd, but as a result, the fishermen leave everything behind, including two boats full of fish, and follow Jesus without hesitation. Following is surrender. Following is worship. A remarkable story to say the least.
“Don’t be afraid…” That’s good news in a fearful world!
Simon Peter really needed some good news. He’s got a family to feed, oppression to survive, he’s out all night doing all he can to make ends meet, and it’s not enough. All he knows is fishing, but he’s caught nothing. When we realize we don’t have control things get scary, but like Simon, we can confess our inability to save ourselves. In our shame we may feel we don’t deserve His grace, but surely, Jesus will call us to follow Him, to be with Him. How transformative, to feel as if we deserve to be abandoned, but the Lord stays with us.
Jesus knows our needs, and He faithfully provides more than enough. When we consider the mission, without a doubt your neighbors are afraid. They’re lonely, insecure, overwhelmed by debt, medical issues, a job they dread, parents who stress them out, kids who won’t listen, they just can’t seem to get things right. We all have fear of perpetual loneliness and/or shame. Fear can easily overwhelm, but according to a common theme of the Proverbs, the fear of the Lord will bring us to wisdom. When we surrender and trust in Him, we need not be afraid.
What did Peter mean by the confession, “I’m an unworthy sinner”? Being a sinner has to mean more than doing bad things. Following Jesus is not merely about trying to stop doing bad stuff. It’s about being made new. Simon felt his being would defile Jesus. Little did he know that Jesus had plans of giving him a new being. All Simon needed to do was recognize his need.
We, like Simon, are saved from our endless laboring, enslaved to kingdoms that leave us exhausted and fruitless. With Jesus we are given life with eternal significance. No longer catching fish, here today and gone tomorrow, but catching souls for the Kingdom. A Kingdom like no other. It’s good news for anyone and everyone who believes.
Questions for Reflection:
- What would be good news to you in life right now?
- What would be good news to your neighbors/friends/those you know are far from Jesus?
- When you hear the gospel, do you actually believe there is power in it? Do you believe it is good news for you?
When we follow Jesus we naturally make disciples of Jesus. We cast a net, not motivated by fear or shame, but in joyful obedience, confident in the power of the gospel to save. Have you confessed your need for the faithful and abundant grace of Jesus in the face of your need? Do you believe the gospel is good news? When we feel afraid we can look to Jesus and know He is with us, for us, and more than enough. Breathe deeply and hear Him say, “Follow Me.”