Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.
February 10, 2019
Text: Luke 5:4, Old Testament: Isaiah 6:1-8, New Testament: Luke 5:1-11
If you fish off a pier with a line, or off a boat with bait, you’re not even close to what the disciples were doing on the Sea of Galilee. Using a fishing line isn’t the same as casting nets.
Casting nets is tiring work that requires great strength and endurance.
Without patience it seems like Aa lot of energy wasted. Without perseverance, casting nets is fruitless.
On sunny days, you burn under the heat. On cloudy days, you sweat from the shear ordeal of throwing the nets into the waves and hauling them back. If you hit a school of fish, it’s exhilarating. But the weight of the fish is back-breaking work.
Dragging any amount of fish up from the water’s depths in your nets takes fortitude. It’s not for the casual fisherman. It’s not for the man or the woman who fishes for a hobby – who thinks fishing is what I do in my spare time as relaxation from what I really do for a living.
When you don’t find any fish, it’s a lot of wasted effort with nothing to show for it. Sometimes you can go for days with very little to show for your efforts. You endure heat, rain, wind, storms. Try white caps whipping around you with lighting crossing overhead while you fish.
Do you have the mental picture?
It’s only a mental picture. It’s not the real thing. You really haven’t been tested by a mental picture. It’s just in your imagination.
Imagining fishing was not where the disciples mentally were when they returned to shore to find Jesus telling them to go back out.
You spend a whole day out there on the sea for nothing. You begin to believe there aren’t any fish out there. Anywhere. You’re dog tired. Sweaty. Hot. Your muscles ache. You have a headache from the sun beating down on you all day. You’re irritated with each other like people get when they’re tired.
You’re frustrated and thinking about another line of work. You’ve given up and are convinced it’s the right thing to do. There’s got to be an easier way to make a living than fishing. There’s got to be a better way to find happiness than throwing nets into the water for the thousandth time only to come away with nothing for the nine hundred and ninetieth time.
And there’s Jesus standing there on the shore, clean, quiet, dignified. He hasn’t been working out on the sea all day. He hasn’t been sweating it out, grinding it out, working for a living. All he does is talk to a few people and gives them His opinion about what they could do better.
He has the gall to tell us to go back out there on the water and start all over. He has the hutzpah to say we haven’t done enough.
We know what the fishing conditions are out there. He doesn’t know a thing. We’ve been fishing these waters. He hasn’t.
Go back out there – right.
Do you have the mental picture?
So why go out there again – at night – and do what you’ve failed to do for the umpteenth time?
Is it because He’s Jesus?
Is it because He told them to do and they didn’t think they had a choice?
Probably not. They probably went back out because the disciples wanted to prove Jesus wrong. They knew the Sea better than He did and they would show Him what was what.
Isn’t that why people usually follow orders they think are ridiculous?
Either they’re afraid something bad will happen to them if they don’t. Or, they’re going to show the boss they know better.
So off the disciples went into the night. Exhausted, sweaty, achy, half-heartedly they go back out onto the Sea of Galilee.
You know the rest of the story.
It’s a story you’ve heard since your childhood.
It’s a story you’ve read about for most of your life.
It’s one of those sweet Bible stories for children.
Well, it is . . . and it’s not. It’s not just a child’s Bible story you tell them when they go to bed.
It’s an adult story about adult Christian men and Christian women. It’s a Bible story about you – and me. Right now, here, in Bellevue, Pennsylvania.
I often hear adult Christians say the Bible is hard to apply to their lives. They complain about how it’s hard to understand what it means to them.
After listening to various versions of this over 39 years I’ve come to think the reason the Bible is hard to apply to adults is because they don’t want it to. It says too much to us about who we are and what are our motives for being Christians – and we just don’t want to hear it.
We want to think Jesus was talking to 12 sweaty men He had chosen to follow Him almost 2,000 years ago who happened to be fishing one day.
We don’t want to think Jesus is talking to 35 people He has chosen to follow Him who are in a church above the Ohio River in a borough north of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania.
We’re exhausted from being so few trying to attract the people in this borough to join us on a Sunday morning. Just one Sunday morning.
We’ve tried a lot of things to attract them to join us. Some of us have been doing this for decades. Some a lifetime. We’ve been on committees and boards. We’ve been friendly to visitors Sunday after Sunday, week after week, year after year. We’ve put offerings in collection baskets and prayed for intervention.
We’ve tried to vary our worship – our music – the way we present worship – inside – outside – at night and in the day. We’ve offered food and topics for Bible study.
We’ve done all we can think to do – for results that have disappointed us.
It’s easy to let all of this discourage us. We know Bellevue. We know how young it is. How few of Bellevue’s families go to church. How Bellevue’s churches are a lot like ours, with tiny congregations.
We are certain that we know what the “fishing” conditions are on the Sea of Bellevue. And we’re ready to come to shore and admit there are no fish to be found.
Do you really think Jesus is satisfied with our conclusion?
Do you really think Jesus agrees with our assessment of the fishing conditions in Bellevue?
Do you think Jesus is saying to us, “You’re right. Retire from fishing. It’s too fruitless. There no one out there to be found for me.”
No. He’s going to respond to us like He did to the disciples in another Bible story when they were terrified of the storm that hit them on the Sea of Galilee. He’s going to say we’re people of little faith.
He’s going to challenge our manhood, or womanhood to rise up and go back out there again and starting fishing again. You can’t catch any fish if you just sit in a boat and think about it. You’ve got to cast your nets again.
You’ve got to use more energy, more strength, more patience, more endurance. You’re to go fishing when you think you don’t have any more energy. When your strength is gone and your patience has vanished.
When you’re sure no one is out there in the sea of Bellevue’s homes who wants to hear about Jesus Christ, or join with others to sing praises to Jesus Christ, or to be part of a Bible study to learn about Jesus Christ . . . when you’re convinced there’s no fish to be caught and another expenditure of energy is going to change a thing — that’s when Jesus says go back out there and fish for men, for women, for children.
Get back out there when you’re tired, discouraged, and ready to do something other than to fish for Jesus. Get back out there and invite your skeptical neighbor to join you in Church. Get back out there and offer to help your neighbor come with you to worship. Get back out there and listen to what your neighbor needs to encourage them and offer them not just a sympathetic ear but a story – a personal story – about how Jesus Christ helped you through the same problem, once upon a time, a long time ago.
Jesus Christ will be there for them. He will bless them. And He will bless you for going out and casting His nets when you’re exhausted!