What We Leave Behind to Follow Christ
Reflections from Luke 5:1-11
It would be a day that Simon Peter and his companions would never forget. This is probably not their first encounter with Jesus. Here, once again, they listen to the wise and powerful words of this Rabbi. Then something happens that will change the course of their lives forever. A futile night of fishing turns into an astounding catch of fish at the command of Jesus; nothing can possibly explain this phenomenon in natural terms.
Peter’s astonishment at the miracle causes him to respond in a peculiar way: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Encounters with the divine tend to have a sobering effect on people. Jesus responds with these words: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” Somehow, whatever shortcomings Peter and his companions felt did not disqualify them in the eyes of Jesus. He calls them to a life of greater purpose and meaning. What happens? After their best catch and the potential of a great profit, these men leave their nets and boats and follow Jesus.
Though the call of Jesus proved irresistible, you have to wonder what these men sacrificed beyond the monetary value of their fishing gear. How much of their identity was wrapped up in learning a skill that they could do comparatively well? How much of their self-worth was tied to providing for themselves and their families? There are indications in the Gospels that this was more than subsistence fishing. Peter and Andrew were business partners with James and John (see v. 10) and there were hired men who assisted them (see Mark 1:20). Leaving their boats and nets entailed leaving the top positions of a small business venture. Later, Peter would remind Jesus of the tremendous sacrifices he and his companions made (Luke 18:28). Jesus acknowledged these and encouraged him that such sacrifices would find great reward.
A new identity: No longer Galilean fishermen, but followers of Jesus. A new calling: Instead of netting fish, Jesus tells them they will now transform the lives and eternal destinies of people.
What about you? Have you encountered Jesus in such a way that makes everything else in life seem secondary? Have you experienced his forgiveness and has he given your life meaning and purpose? Have you truly put away things of the past that are inconsistent with whom you are now? Have you left these behind knowing the call of Jesus supersedes anything the world has to offer? Only in laying aside the things of old can we embrace the path of Jesus. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Father, I come to you with empty hands, laying aside all that pertains to my old way of living before encountering your Son, Jesus Christ. I embrace my identity as a follower of Jesus and my calling to serve your greater purposes in this world. Amen.