John T. Willis

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Engrossment--Luke 5:1-11

The kind of life God calls all of his genuine people to live is a life of engrossment. We may use terms life riveted, totally committed, obsessed, captivated, enamored, passionate, focused, concentrated, absorbed, and other synonyms. But perhaps the most correct term is engrossed. The Bible makes clear the content of this engrossment: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

All of us can tell many stories of engrossment.
*In the 1960s, I was asked to preach a sermon at the Smith Springs Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee. In order to get into the pulpit, one had to step one step up to the side behind the pulpit, then turn to the right and step up another step into the pulpit. I preached the sermon, and approximately thirty minutes later, I turned around assuming I would walk back to my place on the stage forgetting that I needed to step down first. A resounding thud rang throughout the building as I reached out to to the wall behind the pulpit to keep myself from falling on my face. I had been so engrossed in the thoughts in the sermon that I forgot where I was.
*Quite often, I went fishing. One time, I caught a large fish. It took me approximately thirty minutes to land the fish. Later, I weighed it at eleven pounds. During those thirty minutes, I was oblivious to everything else what was happening around me. I was engrossed./
*You may share similar stories about being engrossed.

The Bible presents numerous stories of the importance of engrossment. One of these appears in Luke 5:1-11. [Similar passages appear in Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20]. This falls into four scenes.

I. The Background--Jesus taught crowds from a boat in the Lake of Gennesaret. Luke 5:1-3.
a. Luke relates an unknown time when Jesus was standing beside the Lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God. Gennesaret was a small, fertile, heavily populated region west of the lake, which the Hebrew Bible calls the Sea of Galilee. 5:1.
b. Jesus saw two boats at the shore, where the fishermen had gotten out of their boats and were washing their nets after they had fished all night in vain. 5:2.
c. Jesus got into the boat of Simon, asked Peter to put out a little from the shore, sat down, and taught the crowds from the shore. 5:3.

II. Jesus commands Peter to lower the nets into the deep water of the lake. Luke
a. When Jesus finished teaching the crowds, told Peter to put out into the deep water and let down his nets for a draught of fish. This was very odd, because fishermen usually fished at night. 5:4.
b. Simon snapped back at Jesus: "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing!" Peter and his companions were very tired. Undoubtedly, they were very dejected because they had caught nothing. Their nerves were on edge. They were irritable, complaining, critical. And when they got home, they would have to tell their wives and their families that they worked very hard, but had nothing to bring home so they could have food and clothing and shelter for that day and the days ahead. And now, they have to take the time and effort to wash and repair their nets to get ready to fish again the next night. And on top of all this, along comes this CARPENTER, Jesus, who knows nothing about fishing, and has the audacity of telling them to go back into the lake and try to catch fish again. Peter's negative response to Jesus was very logical and understandable.
But suddenly, Simon stops and realizes WHO JESUS IS. He is my MASTER. So, Peter changes his tone and says permissively: "Yet if YOU say so, I will let down the nets." 5:5.

III. Peter and his companions catch numerous fish. Luke 5:6-10a.
a. As soon as Peter and his companions put into into the deep part of the lake and dropped their nets, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 5:6.
Wait right there!!! Stop for a moment!!!What happened to those fishermen when they followed Jesus' simple instructions? Their weariness vanished. Their headaches ceased. Their irritability stopped. Their hard feelings toward one another disappeared. Their self-absorption fled.
b. Simon and his companions signaled their partners in the other boat (see 5:2) to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so they began to sink. 5:7.
NOTE: TOGETHER, these fishermen were engrossed in a COMMON GOAL AND A COMMON ACTIVITY--TO CATCH FISH. No one yelled out: This is MY BOAT, so I am the one who gets the credit for catching all these fish. Noe one bargained about who would win and who would lose. No one boasted about being the most important individual on either boat. No one faced the day with fear to explain to his family and friends that he had failed. These fishermen wer focused=ENGROSSED on ONE COMMON PURPOSE--to catch fish.
c. After the fishermen successfully landed the fish on the shore, Simon realized how he had felt and what he had said and done, and so he turned to Jesus in repentance: "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" Peter and all who were with him were AMAZED at the catch of fish. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were partners with Simon. 5:8-10a.
Often, we doubt that Jesus can do anything to help us. But he is there to perform miracles to change our hearts and lives.

IV. Jesus told Simon to catch people. Luke 5:10b-11.
a. Jesus responded to Simon and his companions: "Do not be afraid." This command occurs often in scripture, and this is true in Luke-Acts: Luke 1:13, 30; 8:50;
12:32; Acts 18:9; 27:24. Jesus capitalizes on this occasion, and challenges Simon: "From now on you (singular) will be catching people." This example is for all followers of Jesus. Jesus alone has the power to catch people, just as he alone has the power to enable people to catch fish. God the Father through Jesus wants all his followers to catch people. 5:10b.
b. When Simon and his companions brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus. 5:11.
Often, it is necessary for each of us to have a sobering experience to realize that the most important thing in life is to "let go, let God." We must abandon our families, our friends, our possessions, in order to follow Jesus alone.

Share YOUR experiences and feelings and desires with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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