The fact that a person could be wrongly called and chosen is possible to happen in this modern world as it happened recently in a beauty pageant in Sri Lanka. After a winner was called and crowned as the beauty queen, suddenly the previous queen came forward and pulled the crown off the winner’s head, claiming she could not hold the title as she was divorced—transgressing the rule.
Unfortunately, there are some Christians who felt they were “wrongly called or chosen” then leave their Christianity to convert their faith to another religion. Is it true that our calling and our choice to be a Christian was a mistake?
How did Jesus call and choose His disciples and what were the criteria? Luke 5:1-11 wrote, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
From the verses above, there are two things that need our attention:
1. Jesus Himself called the disciples (and us) → verses 1–7.
In choosing the disciples (and us), Jesus didn’t make an audition or selection phase as the world usually does in the entertainment field.
As a proficient leader, Jesus was doing a recruitment to make His work more effective. Weirdly, when Jesus went to the temple of God in Nazareth, people rejected Him and even wanted to throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:28-29). Then He left for Capernaum (v. 31) and taught in the synagogues in Judea (v. 44), but did not yet get the candidates of His disciples until one day He came to the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret where Simon and other fishermen were washing their nets. So, in carrying out His ministry, not only did Jesus go through every city and village (Luke 8:1) , but also to the shore. This’s considered odd by the philosophers and leadership experts because the shore isn’t an ideal place to recruit the disciples or candidates who will be influential in the world.
What happened on that shore? The multitudes were surrounding Jesus to listen to the Word of God. Jesus then stepped into Simon’s boat and told him to take the boat a little farther away from the shore and He taught them from there. It was one-of-a-kind crusade in the history of the world as it didn’t need any advertising campaign to attract a multitude of people to come. Moreover, the crusade was held in a place that was not usually used for sharing the word of God. It was contrary to the condition in Luke 4 where Jesus was rejected in the synagogue.
Talking about calling, we know that it’s merely the gift of God because He is the One who has the initiative to call and choose a person. The calling should be God-centered (theocentrical) in order to break man’s pride when succeeding in their ministry. The proof is Jesus called not-highly-educated Peter who had only fisherman background. The important thing is he was willing to be educated.
What criteria did Jesus require in calling and choosing His disciples?
- He asks for our willingness as He did to Simon who willingly let his boat be used by Jesus to teach the multitude.
Illustration: As a marriage needs a commitment, so does the calling of the Lord in our lives. It needs our commitment to follow and serve Him.
Simon received a special calling because the godly eyes of Jesus were directed to him who was washing the net. So, the process of Jesus’ calling to him started at the “pulpit” of his boat.
What is the relation between the boat and the willingness? For some people, their cars are their second home where they put their clothes, shoes, snacks, etc. For a fisherman, his boat is his second home since he can be on the water for days to earn a living. He might even consider his boat part of his life that he doesn’t easily let others use his boat unless he purposely rents the boat or he has a joint-venture fishing business with the user. However, Simon was sincerely willing to let Jesus use his boat.
How was Simon’s condition when he was chosen by Jesus? He failed in his job when Jesus involved him in holding the great crusade and Jesus was using his boat as the pulpit. Simon could have complained in his heart, “I’ve been unlucky for getting no fish, now this person wants to use my boat and I don’t know whether or not he’ll pay me. He’s like a pastor who wants to hold a crusade but has no money.”
But what was his response when Jesus told him to take his boat farther away from the beach? He was willing although he didn’t know that later he would be asked to become the disciple of Jesus. His heart had already been touched by the Spirit of the Lord and was touched even more while listening to Jesus’ preaching. He was joyful because he joined the crusade at the right moment although he might have been anxious thinking of his family at home who were expecting him to bring some fish home. His failure in fishing was used by Jesus as a means of being a more useful person. His faith started to grow. It was proven that Jesus didn’t call and choose a successful and smart person with a great background but a person who was willing to listen to His command.
Application: A failure is not always a disaster. If we are experiencing failure, come and listen to the word of God so that your faith can be strengthened. Failure could be the way used by the Lord to make us successful in His way. To listen to the Word of God doesn’t mean to look for a crusade with a great preacher. Doesn’t our church already have the services schedule and all we need to do is to attend diligently? Do you remember how God first called you to get to know Him? Did he do it because you had been successful? Or when you were a failure? What important is that although we are now in failure or setback, we should give our ears and hearts to the Lord to be used according to His way.
- Jesus asks for our obedience as He tested Simon’s obedience.
The test of obedience toward Jesus is related to both logical and illogical matters. There were two commands that Jesus said to Simon, they are: go to the deep (it was logical because fish would be more to be found in the deep) and spread the net to catch the fish (this was illogical because Simon had toiled all night, yet didn’t find any fish).
Although it’s common for fishermen to go fishing at night, Simon and his fellow fishermen at the Lake of Gennesaret had experiential knowledge that it wasn’t the fishing season at the time. Nevertheless, in response to Jesus’ command, Simon said, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” The word ‘but’ shows the contrast between what was inside Simon’s head and heart and his faith.
It’s apparent that Jesus doesn’t work supernaturally only but He also does wonderful works that have logical explanation. In our journey of following Him, these two seemingly contradictory ways should be balanced. If we believe only in logical matters, we will become scientific Christians. And if we only hold on to our spiritual experiences with Him, we become mystical Christians. Example: Two congregations have a conversation after church service. One says he doesn’t get the blessing because he felt no anointing that could make him cry. The other claims he doesn’t feel blessed either because he couldn’t grasp the pastor’s sermon since that pastor didn’t use adequate technology to explain. Don’t measure the truth using our logic, feeling, or experience! To have faith or not is not determined by the speaker’s high education or eloquence, or the church’s nice music, but by our willingness to believe in and say amen to the word of God.
Application: Because of the Word of God we can forgive an annoying husband or wife, stop doing corruption, live uprightly, be a good pastor not because the synod’s rule compels us to do so. As Peter was willing to surender himself and opened his heart for Jesus, so should us when called and chosen by Him.
2. Jesus Himself equipped the disciples (including us) → verses 8-11.
In the synoptic gospel of Matthew 4:22 there is an additional information: “immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” The disciples’ father used to be the teacher who taught and equipped them as a family of fishermen. Now Jesus would like to take over the role to be their Teacher who equipped them, and as a result, their job shifted from fishermen to fishers of men.
What lesson does “Teacher” Jesus teach?
- Knowing ourselves.
Simon Peter learnt his first lesson when he “saw this”—the previously unseen thing: the plentiful fish, causing his knees to tremble and he fell at Jesus’ knees for feeling greatly amazed at what He did. At the time Simon’s friends were euphoric about the huge catch (blessing). As they were busy filling the two boats with fish, they ignored Jesus, the blessing giver. Unlike them, Simon saw what happened from different point of view as he saw himself as a sinful man.
There were two groups of people who were called: Simon’s friends who received general calling, and Simon who received special calling. It didn’t take fiery discourse to touch Simon’s heart. Seeing a large number of fish was enough to remind him of his true self. The Bible scholars perceive Peter as a sanguine person, but on this occasion we can see his melancholic side as he also had gentle and sensitive heart.
Peter then said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” Peter confessed that he was a sinner and a failure too. Self justification is part of sinful character. Honestly, sin always forces us to justify ourselves and blame others. If it had not been the Lord’s grace toward Simon, he wouldn’t have realized of his sins. This is the right attitude in following Jesus. Seeing Simon’s fear (phobeomai), Jesus told him not to be [overly] afraid. Then a rapid transformation took place as Jesus changed his name from Simon (= to see) to be Simon Peter (= the solid rock).
Illustration: In order to touch the congregations’ hearts, a pastor often has to put much effort in preparing his sermon. He uses a supporting tool such as Power Point to give clearer explanation. He sometimes even dramatizes his intonation to get more attention. Unfortunately, the congregations are still not responsive. Wonderfully, fish could make Peter kneel down before Jesus. He immediately recognized the Lord and realized who he was. Jesus didn’t say much, but as soon as Peter saw the plentiful fish (the blessing), his heart was touched.
Application: The best attitude we should have every time we come to the Lord is realizing our shortcomings. With our spiritual eyes we can see Jesus so glorious and we are so lowly; He is the Creator and we need Him.
- Knowing our task.
This moment is the turning point of Peter’s life. It wasn’t because of Simon’s background as a fisherman that Jesus chose Him to fish for people to serve Him. This verse is talking about value.
Fisherman has temporal value, while fisher of men has eternal value. Fisherman works to gain profit while fisher of men works out of compassion for the lost souls.
Jesus gave the task in a short sentence “to fish for the people” yet has a deep meaning. This message is very clear: although the world shakes and the condition changes, Peter’s task and purpose of life should not change.
Introspection: What is our purpose of becoming the followers of the Lord? Is our ministry motivated by the desire of wealth, popularity and position? Have this in mind: the people whom we fish are not supposed to be treated as commodity objects, but as the flock who needs to be shepherded.
Do we know that by His grace, the Lord Himself is the One who calls and chooses us to be His followers? However, He asks for our willingness (not reluctance) and our obedience to be recruited as His disciples. If He calls and chooses us, He will also equip us to do the noble task that is to fish for people so that the souls who are lost because of sin could be saved; and one day we will all live together with Him forever in the New Jerusalem. Amen.