Jesus & Sinners – Luke 5


A. Fishing Galilee

1.  They quietly loaded their gear into the boats.

2.  It was late and they didn’t want to wake those who were asleep in their houses in Capernaum, the little village that stretched along the shore of Galilee.

3.  Once the nets, baskets, torches and other supplies they would need were stowed, they untied the boats from their mooring, and pushed away from shore.

4.  They didn’t have far to go, for the shoals is where the best fishing was.

5.  When they arrived at the place they’d agreed to fish that night, Simon & Andrew pulled alongside James’ & John’s boat & handed them one end of the long dragnet.

a.  Then the two boats began to row in opposite directions, parallel to the shore.

b.  Andrew fed out the net from one boat while John did the same in the other.

c.  Simon & James pulled at the oars as the boats drew further & further apart.

d.  When the net was out, they turned toward open water & began a slow graceful arc back toward one another, forming a circle with the net in the water.

e.  When the boats met again, any fish inside that circle would be their catch.

f.   This spot was their favorite & had yielded a plentiful harvest of fish on many occasions.

g.  But this night was not to be one of them.

h.  They pulled the line that sealed the bottom of the net into a bag, and hauled it in to find -- not a single fish!

6.  So they moved to another favorite spot & went through the difficult task of setting the net again, only to draw it in with no catch.

7.  A few more times in different places they put out their net but caught nothing, and returned to shore tired & disappointed.

8.  Now they would spend the morning mending the net & all the work of cleaning up after a long night of fruitless labor.

9.  That’s what they’re doing when a crowd of people come down to the water’s edge.

II. Text

A. Vs. 1-3

1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

1.  What we call the “Sea of Galilee” is really a freshwater lake in the region of Galilee.

2.  The real name of the lake is “Gennesaret,” which means “harp” because the lake is the shape of one.

3.  Jesus was teaching there on the northwestern shore of the lake when the crowd pressed in so close they backed Him up to the water’s edge.

4.  Simon’s boat was moored there.  Simon, Andrew, James & John were over by the net racks, performing the daily maintenance the nets needed.

5.  So Jesus stepped into Simon’s boat as a way to create a little distance from the pressing crowd.

6.  Simon was keeping a close eye on what was going on and as soon as he saw Jesus get into his boat, he came over.

7.  Jesus then asked him to shove off a bit so He could speak to the people who’d gathered. With the lake as a backdrop, Jesus’ voice carried far.

B. Vs. 4-7

4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

1.  This was an easy thing for Jesus to say, but doing it would be far from easy.

2.  It would mean loading the huge dragnet back into the boat and rowing out into the lake.

3.  Jesus told him to drop the net “in the deep.”  That’s not where they fished, they fished the shallows where the net would touch bottom & trap the fish.

4.  It’s obvious to Simon, a career fisherman, that while Jesus might be a great rabbi, but He’s no fisherman.

5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

5.  Fishing was done at night, when the fish rose from the depths to feed along the shoals close to shore.

6.  A night of fruitless labor meant that conditions in the lake had sent the fish elsewhere and there were simply no fish in that area.

7.  Besides, by now, they would have left the shallows and gone back to the cooler water of the depths, way beyond the reach of their nets.

8.  Simon gives his two-cents of fisherman’s wisdom, but then complies.

9.  You see, rabbis were held in such high regard and their word carried such authority that people would usually do what they said even if it defied common sense.

10.     So Andrew helped his brother load the net back into the boat, and they set out for deep water.

6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

11.     At first, James and John stayed ashore.

a.  Simon & Andrew rowed out into the lake, fixed a buoy to one end of the net, dropped it in the water, then rowed in a circle to close the net.

b.  They hauled in the cinch rope that sealed the bottom of the net, probably feeling very silly,

c.  Then began to draw in the top-line, forming the net into a huge bag.

d.  As they drew it in, they began to feel tension; the net didn’t want to close.

e.  There was a lot of something in the net.

f.   As they peered into the water, they saw the unmistakable flash of silver as the net grew more compact.

g.  it was literally packed with fish – a school of big, fat tilapia that was so huge, the net began to burst.

h.  Simon & Andrew hollered for James & John to bring their boat. They would need all the baskets they could muster.

i.   When they arrived, they began to spill the contents of the net into their boats, which filled with fish and grew so heavy, the sides dipped too low and they began taking on water.

j.   They had to loosen the net and let the remaining fish go.

C. Vs. 8-11

8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”

1.  Try to picture this: There are the 4 fishermen, enjoying the greatest success of their entire careers.

2.  This one haul is going to make them a lot of money and they will become legendary among their fishing peers.

3.  Try to picture them as they haul in the net and the fish flow into the boats.

a.  See them knee deep in silver.

b.  Then see them letting the net loose because there’s just no more room to contain the blessing.

c.  Picture them as they give each other huge grins and high fives all around,

d.  And then as they turn toward Jesus, it hits them like a ton of bricks –

e.  HE is the cause of the blessing!

f.   They see with absolute clarity that they are knee deep in a miracle He is responsible for.

g.  Suddenly, Simon’s whole perspective turns 180 degrees & he goes from a joyous & successful businessman to a disturbed & wretched sinner.

4.  He loses sight of the fish and what they represent, and all he now sees is Jesus.

5.  The reality of Who & What Jesus is overwhelms Simon – He knows he isn’t worthy of Jesus’ presence.

6.  But Jesus has a mission, a purpose, a special call for Simon.

a.  He’s to continue his vocation as a fisherman,

b.  It’s just that he’ll now be going after a different catch – people.

c.  He’ll no longer be filling boats with fish – he’ll be filling the Kingdom of God with men & women.

11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

7.  How ironic.  When they arrived back at the shore, their boats filled to the brim with fish, they just gave it all away.

a.  Earlier in the day as they mended their nets, I imagine they’d wished things were different –

b.  That instead of a night of failure, they’d scored the big-catch.

c.  Well, here it is, bigger even than their wildest imaginations –

d.  And what do they do?  They walk away, not just from the fish, but from their nets, their boats, they entire enterprise.

8.  They have a new career, a new vocation to pursue – disciples of Jesus.

D. Unusual Blessing

1.  If you were here Wednesday night, you know David Guzik shared with us about how God will bring a season of unusual blessing.

2.  His text was Amos 9:13

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it.

3.  Those days are about to come to us – a season when many will come to faith in Christ, a time when those who’ve grown cold & fallen away will return to the Lord.

4.  And what we find in our text today is a vital lesson for us as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.

5.  Like Simon & Andrew, James & John, we’ve been faithfully fishing for years and we’ve done okay – enough to get by.

a.  Calvary Chapel is one of the larger churches in Oxnard.

b.  In 23 years we’ve grown from about a dozen to 1,500

c.  We’ve rowed out to where we’ve been taught it’s good to fish and we’ve cast our nets.

d.  And God has been faithful to send us a catch; nothing spectacular, but enough to show us His favor.

6.  Just as Jesus was teaching the multitude the Word of God that day, we’ve stayed true to our calling to teach the Word.

7.  But last Sunday, Jesus stepped into our boat, the Spirit entered in in a new and fresh way to many of our lives and this church.

8.  In the same way that Jesus used Simon’s boat to continue His ministry of the Word to the people – I know that what the Lord is doing now, here, among us will go on and be done through the faithful ministry of the Word of God.

9.  But, just as Jesus told Simon to launch out into the depths for a catch, so God is now calling us to look to Him for a season of blessing in evangelism unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

a.  It will come as we enter the depths of intimacy with Him.

b.  And it will come in such volume, that it will fill not only CCO but the other boats, the other churches of this City.

10.     When the harvest comes, many of us will realize the call to enter ministry, and will leave successful occupations to serve the Lord.

11.     Others will realize they’re being called, not to leave their career, but to use their career for the Kingdom.

a.  Though successful in their details of their job,

b.  They will come to see true success as making an impact for God in the lives of those they work with.

12.     This Chapter has more for us this morning . . .

E. Vs. 27-32

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

1.  All of this took place at Capernaum, a fishing village on the northwest shore of the lake.

2.  A major road passed right by there on which a lot of goods traveled – a prime location for a tax booth.

a.  And that’s where we find Levi.

b.  Not only did he collect customs from the trade caravans that traveled the highway, he collected a tax on the fish the fishermen brought to market.

3.  Simon and his business partners were salt of the earth kind of people.

a.  They would be perfect examples of the common man;

b.  Hard-working, generally honest, & conservative.

4.  Levi was the kind of person Simon and his freinds would consider the scum of the earth -- low-life, blood-sucking, parasites who never worked an honest day in their miserable lives.

5.  You see, Levi was a Jew who worked for the hated Romans!

6.  He collected taxes that went to fund the presence of foreign troops in Israel.

7.  What made matters worse was that they cheated the people by inflating the taxes and making them pay more than they needed to – but no one could stop them because the Romans protected them.

8.  The only person people like Simon hated more than the Romans were the turn-coat Jews who worked for the Romans – guys like Levi.

9.  So when Jesus invited Levi to join his growing little band of disciples, you can be sure Simon and the others were stunned.

a.  This is like President Bush asking Barbra Streisand to be Secretary of State.

b.  Or like Billy Graham asking High Hefner to head up follow-up for new converts.

10.     What’s even more amazing is what happened next -

29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number – [are you ready for this??] -- there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

11.     Levi threw Jesus a party & invited his friends.

a.  Because all the moral & decent people shunned him,

b.  Levi’s friends were others like himself; tax-collectors, and those the Pharisees called “sinners.”

c.  These were people who’d not lived up to the strict religious code of the Pharisees and so had been branded by them as scum.

d.  Shunned from polite society, they formed a fringe that kept each other’s company.

12.     The point is, no self-respecting Jew would be careless enough to associate with this riff-raff for fear of being identified as one of them.

13.     The religious leaders were shocked when a notable rabbi like Jesus went to a party thrown by a well-known tax-collector, then sat down and ate with him & his friends!

14.     They pointed an accusing finger at those Jesus chose as His followers.

a.  Rabbis selected the best & brightest, those with the greatest promise --

b.  Not crude workingmen like Simon and his pals,

c.  And certainly not the scum of the earth parasites like Levi.

31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

15.     Jesus is not saying that the Pharisees & scribes were righteous and had no need of being saved.

16.     He’s saying that as the Savior, the salvation He brings will only be sought by those who realize their need.

a.  Levi & his friends knew who & what they were; they knew they were sinners.

b.  They’d been reminded of it everyday of their lives by the self-righteous Pharisees.

c.  When Jesus invited Levi to follow Him, Levi had shown his desire to be forgiven by walking away from all that which marked his sorry past.  V. 28

So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

17.     The joy of salvation filled Levi and the first thing he thought of was all his old friends who were still trapped in a life of quiet desperation –

a.  So he opened his home and invited Jesus into it.

b.  Then he invited his friends to come meet the One who’d loved him & given him hope.

F. The Harvest of the “Different”

1.  In the work the Spirit is doing among us, God is going to bring to salvation many who are very different from the people some of us are used to or comfortable with.

2.  They are Levi & his friends.

3.  God is going to save a Levi, and as he then invites Jesus into his home, his family, his life, his friends are going to come face to face with the love & forgiveness of God, and they are going to be saved.

4.  Some, like the Pharisees of old will point the finger and ask – “What are they doing here?”

a.  Those are gang members.

b.  Those dance at that club over there.

c.  Those are hard-core party-animals.

5.  No – they were those things – but now they are lovers & followers of Jesus who’ve been forgiven.

6.  Where do you think Simon, Andrew, James, & John were when Jesus went to Levi’s house?

a.  I’ll tell you where they were – they were there too!

b.  Before, Simon & his pals would not have given Levi and his friends the time of day.

c.  But Jesus changed that.  Jesus changes everything!

d.  While it was no doubt difficult for Simon to overcome his prejudice toward Levi, he did it.

e.  Look at v. 11 again –

So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

f.   Simon left more than a boat full of fish behind – He left Simon behind,

g.  He left the old man, the old way of doing things & thinking about things.

7.  Listen – following Jesus means a whole new way of life.

8.  And that life means being a part of a spiritual family that is color-blind, race-blind, ethnically and socially-oblivious.

9.  We are all gang-members in Christ – We’re His gang!

10.     We’re all dancers for Christ – filled with joy and dancing before Him for His delight!

11.     And we’re all hard-core party-lovers who’ve been invited to the greatest party of all– the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.


A. Repentance

1.  Look at v. 32 as we close.  Jesus said -

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

2.  How sad that the Pharisees there that day did not realize that they were in as great a need to repent as Levi & his friends were.

3.  Salvation came to Levi’s house that day, but only to those who realized their need, repented in honest confession of their sin, and received the forgiveness Jesus offered.

4.  God is doing a marvelous work of conviction in the hearts of many.

5.  As they turn to the Lord in repentance, He is coming to them with sweet revival and renewal.

6.  Don’t miss out. If you’re convicted of your sin, repent and discover God’s cleansing stream.

7.  If you’re cold and what you see and hear around you baffles and mystifies you – then pray, my friend, pray God would forgive the deadness of your heart and stir you to seek Him.

B. Time Is Short

1.  Time is short & God is doing a work.

2.  Don’t miss out on what He’s doing.