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January 10 lesson: Called to Follow

January 03, 2021
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Called to Follow

Winter Quarter: Call in the New Testament
Unit 2: Jesus and Calls in His Ministry


Sunday school lesson for the week of Jan. 10, 2021
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard


Background Scripture: Luke 5: 1-11
Key Verse:
“Jesus said to Simon: ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’” (Luke 5: 10b)

Lesson Aims:
  • To understand the dynamics involved in the miracle of the great harvest of fish.
  • To understand the difference between a miracle and a sign.
  • To understand the importance of Jesus’ call that we should “forsake everything, take up our cross, and follow him.”
Each lesson allows us to study the terms, phrases and experiences that weave through it, holding all the pieces together to convey one great expression of God’s truth.

Terms

Lake Gennesaret

Lake Gennesaret is also the Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberias, and the Sea of Kinnereth. It is 13 miles long, 33 miles wide, and it averaged only 141 feet deep. The sea was useful for travel. On one side of the Sea of Galilee dwelled the Jewish people; on the other were the Gentile settlements. Therefore, when other texts state, “Jesus went to the other side,” they mean Jesus is going to minister to the Gentiles. The major commerce on the lake involved fishing. Fish proved to be a major staple. Jesus’ disciples included men from various occupations. Several of them were fishermen. Jesus himself knew how to fish, though he was a carpenter/mason.

The crowds were flocking to Jesus and he regularly had to deal with large numbers of people. Again, as long as Jesus performed healings and miracles, the people, in child-like wonder, followed him. However, when he engaged in mostly preaching and called for the people to forsake everything and follow him, they were not as interested. With the miracles they might expect God would do something for them. Now Jesus is beginning to preach and call the people to do something for him. Give him obedience! We can understand why the crowds were initially reluctant to take up their cross and follow Jesus. The religious leaders and the Roman government had severely suppressed them. Taking up a cross and following Jesus sounded like more of the same. However, they are not understanding the grace and love of God for them. The call to follow Jesus would be a choice. The people would follow because of transforming grace at work in their lives. They would want to follow, not be made to follow.

The Word of God

The term “Word” in Greek is logos. One of the more interesting facts about the Hebrew understanding of Word is their creative power. In the beginning, everything was created through the spoken Word. For example, God said “let there be light.” Vows were taken very seriously. When a person gave their word it created a holy, unbreakable bond. I find it sad that vows are not taken as seriously by many. A vow to God is serious! The breaking of a vow to God was akin to the commandment concerning taking the Lord’s name in vain. The epistle of James directly addresses the power of the spoken word.

Jesus was the Logos incarnate. Jesus was the literal Word of God in flesh and blood. The Word wasn’t something Jesus just knew; he was the Word! John begins his Gospel with the remarkable revelation that, “In the beginning the Word, and the Word was with God and was God.” The Logos is certainly a facet of the mystery regarding the trinity.

Yet, the Word possessed another dynamic readily apparent when listening to Jesus. A large number of the masses understood that Jesus was speaking from another place. He spoke as one having authority, a moral authority. The Jews depended upon the synagogue lessons for the Word. However, this was the Word standing or seated before them. Their hearts recognized the Word of God. One could not listen to Jesus without feeling loved and comforted or we could feel challenged like the religious leaders.

The Word of God is present in our world. The Word is present in the Bible and the heart. Furthermore, God speaks through the events and circumstances of life. We learn the powerful truth and remarkable comfort and assurance of God as we walk through pleasant and difficult times. It is important to remember that the Bible as the Word doesn’t just speak through our reading the words with little concentration, without purpose and lacking respect for it. The person that reads this inspired holy book with an earnest, seeking heart is richly blessed. Think of spiritually kneeling, taking off your shoes, for you are stand on holy ground. What is the major difference between our word and the Word of God? Yes, our words have creative power. When we speak, the words set forth a course of action. However, our words are shrouded with our egocentrism. As those who need humility, instruction, and repentance it is difficult for us to keep our own desires from the words we speak. For example, can I speak caring and helping words to an individual without a personal motive? Yes, it is very possible. However, in some circumstances it remains difficult. The Word of God in action is redeeming and holy.

Do you recognize the presence of the Word in your life? Can you share the places and experiences in which you were very aware you were being blessed by the Word? If you did not possess the Bible (remember, many in the world are not allowed to read Scripture) would you still hear the Word? Through what vehicles would you experience Jesus, the Word make flesh, if you didn’t own a Bible?

Jesus taught from a boat

At this time, crowds continued to flock to and surround Jesus. Thus, a boat a few feet from shore was convenient. Jesus didn’t board the boat for distance from the crowd, he did it to accommodate the crowd. The boat belonged to his disciple Simon. Some believe casting into the deep water is part of a contrast between shallow and deep. While the difference between the shallow and the deep is true, I personally do not believe it to be a part of what Luke wanted us to recognize.

Boats would become a symbol of safe harbor for some early Christians. Most scholars believed the symbol of the boat was tied to the story of Noah and the story of Peter and the other disciples on the boat with Jesus during a storm.

A boat, almost certainly the type of boat from which Jesus preached and taught, was unearthed and has become a great archeological find. The boat was mostly used for fishing, for Simon was a fisherman. What a great pulpit to preach and teach evangelism! The boat was used to harvest the fish. Tangible items can often make eternal truth more personal and understandable. Thus, Jesus’ use of parables, stories of everyday life in Judah. The fish would become an object lesson. The fish were a metaphor for lost men and women.

After Jesus finished, he spoke to Simon and asked him to cast his nets deeper. This was not a word that Simon wanted to hear. He was very tired and frustrated; he was ready to rest. He had fished all night for little harvest. Simon’s response to Jesus’ request is remarkable, “because you say so.” The call of God isn’t always couched in joy. As a matter of fact, the call often comes in the midst of difficulty. In obeying Jesus, Simon would have to go against the grain of his personal experience. Simon knew about fishing! Now, the mason who professes to be Messiah is instructing him on how to better his catch. When it was time for a decision, Simon chose Jesus’ Word over his reason and experience. He is going to cast the nets deeper because it was what Jesus asked; there was no other reason.

This type of obedience occurs during special events and experiences in the Bible. For our purposes, and because it is Advent, we recall the call upon Mary. After learning the news she was with child, Mary responded to the angel, “Let it be.” How much contentment we would we experience if we learned to give people, things, and circumstances to God and then, let it be. If we asked someone to go against their experience and reason, we would encounter argument. However, Simon understood this request was coming from a special person who spoke from a special place, the Messiah.

Can you remember an occasion in which you acted in obedience to God in spite of what experiences, your reason, and even others said? When is the last time you said, “Let it be” to God? Have there been moments when you were physically and emotionally fatigued and were then called to help another in Jesus’ name? Did answering God’s call enrich your faith? How?

Get away from me

A great harvest of fish was collected in the nets. The nets would need repairing, for the catch was large! Upon seeing the catch Simon fell at Jesus’ feet and cried, “Get away from me, I am a sinful man!” On the surface this response appears strange. Miracles usually drew people to Jesus, not away. Remember that John would not use the word miracle, but only signs and wonders. The net of fish served as a greater sign that created wonder in the observers. James and John were also overtaken by wonder. On occasion, the light is so bright we cannot look upon its brilliance. When Moses had been in the presence of God, he had to veil his face. The Israelites could not look upon the brilliance of the light that radiated from his face. It is a light that fills us with so much wonder we drop to our knees. I read the best definition of wonder years ago on a calendar. It stated: wonder is involuntary praise. It is also a light that exposes the darkness that indwells us. Simon falls to his knees for both reasons. Recall that in the Old Testament people did not dare enter the realm of the divine without invitation. One was not even allowed to speak God’s name. Simon’s act reveals his belief that Jesus is the Son of God. In the nativity narrative we find occasions in which Mary and Joseph and the shepherds were initially filled with fear when the angel visited. Simon is doing the same. However, God is not using an angel to speak, he is using Jesus of Nazareth!

Jesus responded with words that should fill us with wonder, “Be not afraid.” Jesus is inviting us to draw near to God, without fear. He will forgive us our sins and empower us to live a new abundant life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. This message was revealed in an intense manner when the curtain of the temple ripped down the middle over Jesus’ resurrection. The curtain was proclaiming, “Enter the holy place! Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, invites you!” The divine and human were perfectly united in Jesus. They are both present in us. However, there remains far more of our humanity.

The call of Jesus should fill us with even greater wonder: “From now on you will fish for people.” So, this is the sign! Jesus’ miracle wasn’t about fishing; it was about God redeeming the world through us. Evangelism isn’t a method; it isn’t something you can only learn in a manual. It is our personal response to Jesus and the ensuing call to share the good news that has liberated us! Manuals help us to hone skills. But even the best skills are powerless without love for Christ.

Can you think of individuals or groups you have invited to Christ? Evangelism isn’t just about words and methods. Evangelism is God using your personal gifts and graces to speak through you. Can you name the gifts you have for evangelism? Can you remember an occasion when you were overwhelmed over what God did? What was your response? Can you recall a time when you witnessed do an incredible work upon, in and through another? What effect did it have upon you?

Prayer

Almighty God, the fields are ripe for harvest. Hearts long to know you. In these troubled times may we hear your Word of comfort and hope. Empower our gift and graces to serve Jesus and redeem the world about us. We bow in wonder that you have chosen to join us, speak to us, and save us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at craigrikard169@yahoo.com.

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