Sunday, November 13, 2016

Following Jesus

We see that Jesus had become a popular preacher in Galilee. He came to the Lake of Gennesaret, or the Sea of Galilee. Gennesaret is part of Galilee, on the western shore of the lake. It is an area between Capernaum and Magdala.. We would call it an inland lake. Remember that Capernaum is on the north shore of the lake. Jesus is likely just outside of town on the shore.

People gathered on the shore to hear him teach the word of God. As the crowd grew, they pressed upon Jesus.

Some of these people were disciples already. They had heard Jesus preach elsewhere and believed his message. They believed in him. Having believed, they wanted to know more. The essence of being a disciple is to be a learner. That is why, when Jesus told us to make disciples, he told us to teach them to observe all that he had commanded. (Matthew 28:18-20)

We learn from Jesus by reading his word. We also learn from Jesus by listening to preachers and teachers teach his word. Disciples of Jesus want to learn from Jesus.

Some of the crowd were there because the Spirit had drawn them there to hear to word of God about salvation. Paul wrote “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. (Romans 10:17)

It was likely difficult to hear in the back of the large crowd, so they pressed forward. Jesus got into a boat and asked the owner of the boat to take him a little way out in the lake so all of the crowd could hear him.

The owner of the boat was a man named Simon, a fisherman.  I love it when God orchestrates an event to accomplish more than one thing.

After speaking to the crowd, Jesus focused on Simon. He told him to row out to the deep part of the lake and cast his net to catch some fish. That led to an interesting exchange between Peter and Jesus.

Simon objected. He said “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” (5) Simon’s position is actually reasonable. He had fished all night. It was common to fish at night, especially in hot weather, because the fish go deeper during the day. Additionally, they had already washed their nets and laid them out to dry during the day. (2)

Yet, Simon obeyed. Maybe hearing the word taught by Jesus had already warmed his heart and he believed in Jesus. Or maybe, he was close to believing. At any rate, he did what Jesus commanded. Although Simon was the master of the boat, he called Jesus “master”, indicating respect for and submission to his authority.

Then came the miracle. Simon’s net caught more fish than it could hold. He could not pull it up without breaking it. He signaled to his business partners, James and John, and they managed to get the net in and divided the catch between the two boats. However, the catch was still too big for both boats and they were in danger of sinking. (7) It was probably the biggest haul they had ever made.

Why did Jesus do this miracle? There are two reasons. First, he wanted to demonstrate his deity to Simon. The fish were caught not by Simon’s skill, but at the direction of the Lord who controls all of nature.

And Simon understood. He “got it”. He fell down at Jesus’ knees, a position of supplication and humility. He called Jesus “Lord”.  He confessed his sin. When men and women are in the presence of God, they are struck with their sinfulness in comparison to His holiness.

Second, Jesus was telling Simon he wanted all of him. He wanted more than his worship, he wanted Simon’s whole life, even his work.

Simon responded to this call from Jesus. So did James and John. They left everything: their boats, their nets, their business, even the large catch of fish, all to follow Jesus. They did not know where he was going or what the end result would be. They simply believed he was the Son of God and followed him, forsaking all else.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” These men denied themselves and followed Jesus.

This story gives us a picture of what is needed for salvation. A man or woman hears the word of God, believes that Jesus is the Son of God, repents of his sin and follows Jesus as a disciple from that moment on.

The one thing Jesus told Simon about his future life of a disciple was “…from now on you will be catching men”. (10) He used a metaphor that Simon would understand: fishing. Simon formerly caught fish for money. From that point on, he would catch men and women for Christ. The verb literally means you will be continually fishing for men. This shows us that disciples are not only followers and learners, but those who tell and teach others about Jesus.

Simon did what Jesus said he would do. He became an evangelist. He preached the gospel and won people to Christ. Interestingly, his first catch of fish for Jesus was a massive haul. He first sermon for Jesus, recorded by Luke in Acts 2:14-41, resulted in 3,000 people being saved and baptized.

Healing A Leper

This man Jesus encountered was “full of leprosy”. (12) Leprosy was a term used for many different skin diseases, not only Hanson’s disease as we now call it. The man had an advanced case. He was probably covered in some kind of sores. If he did have actual leprosy, he may well have been disfigured because it causes nerve damage.

It is shocking that the man was in the city. Lepers were forbidden to come into town. They were outcasts. Leviticus 13:46 says “He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.” The people around Jesus would have been shocked to see the man in town and dismayed that he had gotten close to them.

The man asked Jesus to heal him. He also demonstrated belief in Jesus’ ability to do so. He said “If you will, you can make me clean”. (13) In other words, he said “I know you can heal me if you determine to do so”. He used the words “make me clean” instead of “heal’, because a person with a skin disease was ceremonially unclean. He could not participate in any of the Jewish ceremonies or even come into contact with people.

Jesus said “I will; be clean”. He literally commanded the man’s body to become clean. And, as with all of Jesus’ healing, the man was immediately and completely healed. Again, Jesus accomplished more than one thing. He helped the man out of compassion. Notice that he touched him, something no one else had done since he contracted the disease. (13) He also demonstrated his authority over the human body and its illnesses. He will demonstrate this in the ultimate fashion on the Last Day, when he raises all believers and gives them glorified bodies.

After healing the man, Jesus showed respect for the law. He told the man to show himself to the priest and make the required offerings “as Moses commanded”. (14) The law required a person to show him or herself to the priest. Only the priest could declare them clean, or healed. If the priest did so, the man offered sacrifices and then was able to rejoin the community. All of these requirements are set out in Leviticus 14. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law and did not even slight the law by suggestion. He told the man to fulfill the requirements of the law. In order to be fully righteous and become the perfect sacrifice, Jesus had to obey the law of the covenant.

Although Jesus told the man not to tell anyone, people had to notice his healing and ask him about it. Others around probably witnessed the event also. And so more news got around about Jesus and more people came to hear him and to be healed by him.

Almost as a footnote to the story, Luke tells us Jesus would withdraw from the crowds to desolate places to pray. (16)  He stayed connected to the Father.

Leprosy has often been used as a metaphor for our sinful state. As leprosy alienated the Jew from the covenant community and the worship ceremonies, sin separates us from God and from the new covenant community.

Only Jesus can make us clean from sin. When we believe in him and repent of our sin, he declares us clean, just as he declared the leper clean.

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