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ENCOUNTERING JESUS: If You Say So    Luke 5:1-11

You may not know the name — Charlie Taylor.  If you were to ask his friends, they would have described him as a fairly quiet man who enjoyed a good cigar and had a propensity for being mechanically inclined.  Some would have considered him to be a mechanical genius.  Like many geniuses, he dropped out of school at the age of 12, sort of disinterested, and he went to work for the Nebraska State Journal.  After a few years working in their processing department, he got a job in their binding department because of his propensity for mechanics.  After working there for a number of years, he met two men who recruited him to be a part of their company.   They recruited him and paid him $18.00 per week.  In the late 1800’s that went further than it does today certainly, but it wasn’t exactly a stellar paycheck even back then.  The two men who recruited Charlie Taylor you’ve probably have heard of.  Their names are Orville and Wilbur Wright.  They recruited Charlie because of his mechanical inclination.  They gave him and task of developing an engine that was light enough and powerful enough to actually fly.  A few years later after beginning to work with the Wright Brothers, Charlie Taylor designed the engine that the Wright Brothers eventually used on December 17, 1903, to fly 120 feet in the air. That wasn’t all that unique, because other people were flying at the time; the thing that was unique was that they could actually steer and not die when they did fly!  Charlie Taylor’s relationship with Wilbur and Orville Wright changed the course of history.

If we go back in the course of history, we’ll see that history is defined and changed and the courses are charted by encounters.  By interactions that people have.  By happenstance meetings that some people engage in, whether it’s Charlie Taylor or the Wright Brothers….  Or in 1874, Alexander Graham Bell met Thomas Watson and soon together developed the telephone.  Or in 1898, Henry Ford met Thomas Edison; Thomas Edison poured into Henry Ford’s life in a way where Ford would stand before us (if he were here today) and say, “I would have never started the Ford Motor Company if I had not met Thomas Edison.”  Steve Jobs encounters Steve Wozniak in 1970 and begins Apple Computers.  Or in 1973, Edwin Paulson met Christina Hughes…..and in 1980 Ryan Paulson was born because of that encounter!  In 2000, Ryan Paulson met Kelly Hester on a backpacking trail and it changed the course of, at least my, history.  We could go back and see the definitive movements in history and we could trace them back to encounters.  We could trace them back to people meeting a person that changes their life.  We could trace it back to people partnering together in a way that would change the course of history.  It may have been a sergeant in the army who had somebody put their arm around them.  It may have been an inventor who was ready to give up and somebody came along and said, “Listen, there’s something on the horizon, keep going.”  Encounters have the ability to change the course of history.

Throughout the gospels, we read about people encountering this man, Jesus.  Some of them walk away sad. Some of them walk away discouraged.  Some of them walk away wondering, “How could we ever follow this man and what he calls us to.”  But others walk away with the unique and new ability to walk.  Some walk away with the ability to see for the first time in their life.  Some walk away free from the demons that possessed them and they have a new outlook on life.  If you were to go back through the course of history, certainly you would see encounters that changed the course and the direction that things go.  But you will never encounter a man who has changed more people than Jesus of Nazareth.  Over the last 2000 years, people have been encountering this man, Jesus, and for many of those people, their lives have never been the same.

Today I want to tell you the story of a man named Simon, or Peter as we’ve grown to know him, and his encounter with Jesus.  Simon was a fisherman.  It was what he did.  It was what his family did.  It was his lot in life.  It was the family business.  They lived right next to the lake of Gennesaret, or the Sea of Galilee.  Peter didn’t have to pray or think about what he was going to do on a given day.  He knew exactly what his day would hold when he woke up in the morning.  It was in the morning after an entire night of fishing that he would get ready and prepare, and then later in the evening he would push back out to sea.  We pick up this encounter in Luke 5:1, after Peter has fished all night and he’s come back to shore.  On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him (Jesus) to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee), and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  If this is a movie…..Scene 1.  Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, teaching….we’re not exactly sure what.  But people from this town—the population was around 15,000 people at that point of time in history—are pressing in around Jesus.

In the Greek, you get this picture of this word of Jesus being almost claustrophobic because there is so many people hanging on his words.  Notice who isn’t hanging on Jesus’ words.  It’s Peter.  It’s Simon, the star of the show.  It’s who this entire passage is about.  He begins this time disinterested.  It’s not that he doesn’t care about what Jesus is saying, but he’s more interested in what he’s doing.  He’s got a task list in front of him, right?  Peter is unwilling to say, “Okay, the nets can wait.  I want to hear what Jesus has to say.”  So, I’m just going to timeout and jump into your world a little bit today.  My guess is there’s some people here that are distracted.  There’s some people here that are disinterested.  There’s some people here that re preoccupied. Be careful!  That’s exactly where Peter was at when he encountered his Messiah.  Peter just wants to live a normal life.  Peter wants to get his job done.  He’s got a family, he’s got a solid job, he’s got a plan, and Jesus is about to mess it all up and change it dramatically.

Peter’s not interested in what Jesus is saying, but Jesus highjacks his boat.  Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land.  And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.  Jesus just highjacks Peter’s boat.  Peter has this plan, Peter has this process, Peter has his tasks….Jesus steals his boat!  He gets in it and says, “Hey, let’s turn this into a floating pulpit so I can teach the people on the shore.”  A number of years ago, 1986, they discovered a boat along the Sea of Galilee that they believe is from the first century.  They call it The Jesus Boat, not because they think Jesus sat in it or taught from it, but primarily because these were the types of boats he would have sat in and would have taught from.  Twenty-seven feet long, 7-1/2 feet wide.  Picture Jesus floating along the shore; people clambering, hanging on every word, longing to hear what he would say, and Peter reluctantly rowing Him along or hoisting his sail. He’s obedient.  He does it, but you better believe he’s saying under his breath, “I cannot believe you’re asking me to do this after an entire night of fishing, where I caught nothing.  I’m washing my nets.  I’m ready to go home.  I want nothing more than sleep, and you want me to turn my office into your pulpit!  No, thank you.”  I think one of the reasons Peter says yes to Jesus is that, if you read back in chapter 4, Jesus has just healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  So he sort of owes him one, right?

Jesus gets done teaching — And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”   I mean, this is the itinerant rabbi saying to the professional fisherman, “Let me teach you how to fish.  I’ve just highjacked your boat, I’ve just ruined your day, I’ve just stolen your sleep, and now let me teach you how to do your job.”  Can you feel the offense that must have been in Peter?  Not only that….put out into the deep.  So, Peter, let’s get away from the shore, which is normally where we fish because that’s where the fish are.  Let’s do it in the middle of the day, which is the time of day where nobody is fishing.  It’s why they were done, because the fish aren’t biting at that point in time.  And then, let’s put into the deep, so, I want to get you away from the other people, Peter, I want you to get you into the middle of this lake, which is 13 miles long and 8.1 miles wide.  Peter, here’s what I want to do.  I want to get you to the quiet. I want to get you to the place where you’re away from the people and away from the crowds.  Have you ever just sat in a boat in the middle of a lake?  There’s a piercing quiet about that, isn’t there?  You start to hear the wind and the birds.  We know the end of the story.  Here’s what Jesus is doing and it might be what Jesus is doing in your life.  Jesus is taking Peter away from the noise, away from the busy.  He’s isolating him so He can speak to him.  Isolation is often the place of preparation.  Isolation is often the place where we meet Jesus or where He takes us deeper into relationship with Him.

This picture is Jesus taking Peter out of the world so that He can start to take the world out of Peter.  Maybe for the first time in weeks or months, he is quiet.  But make no mistake about it, here’s Peter’s profile right now.  At this moment in the story, Peter is exhausted.  Peter is disappointed from not having caught any fish. Peter’s frustrated that Jesus is telling him to do something that he knows, in his rational mind, isn’t going to work.  If you’re to make an equation out of it:  Isolation + exhaustion + disappointment = Encounter   Every mom in the room just went, “Praise Jesus!  Isolation plus exhaustion….I can meet Jesus in that place?!”  Isn’t it comforting to know that you don’t have to go to the top of a mountain on a spiritual retreat with a spiritual guru in order to meet Jesus?  That sometimes you just need to be exhausted, at the end of your rope, and taken away from everything else, in order to hear His voice and sense His call.  Is that good news for anyone else other than me?

Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.  What did Peter just finish doing with these nets? Washing them.  Jesus is really pushing it here.  You have to sense the weight of this….if you’re going to sense the weight of His invitation, you’ve got to sense the weight of Peter’s frustration.  I just got done washing these nets!  I’m depleted.  I’m at the end of my rope.  But….put the nets down.  Here’s the way Peter responds: Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! {Embedded in this, could there be this jabbing at Jesus, “Come on!  We know how to do our job.  We do this every single day!”  But then Peter responds with four words that change his life….}  But at your word I will let down the nets.”   Or, “if you say so.”  I don’t get it.  I don’t agree.  I’ve got major doubts that this is going to do anything fruitful in my life; in fact, I just washed these nets and now I’m going to have to wash them again.  So, it’s going to do something in my life — it’s going to cost me time, it’s going to cost me sleep.  All my fishermen friends are standing on the shore wondering what in the world I’m doing out here!  But at your word, or if you so.

If. You. Say. So.  Four words that changed the course of Peter’s life.  They’re the same four words that could change the course of our lives too.  We could go around and tell stories that THAT was the fork in the road, that was the moment for many of us, where we said, “If you say so….” back to God.  It redirected where we walked and redirected the way that we lived and redirected the course of our life.  From the parents in this room — Aren’t these the words we long to hear?   If you say so or at your word?  Please come the first time I call you! After I present a scenario, will you please repeat back to me “if you say so.”  I just need to hear somebody say it, okay?  Will you please come the first time I call you?  If you say so. Will you stop screaming for no reason at dinner?   If you say so.  Will you stop hitting your sister?  If you say so.  I just needed to hear somebody say it, because my kids aren’t saying it right now!

You know what’s interesting?  This is not for Peter. This is not a moment of clarity, this is a step of faith.  This isn’t….well, “if you say so” and I believe you’re saying so because there’s a massive amount of fish just ready to jump into these nets.  And I trust you and I think you’re right.  It’s reluctant obedience.  If you say so…..  This moment of truth, built not around a moment of clarity but around a step of faith, changes the course of Peter’s life.  And it could change ours too.  Because the life you and I long to live is found in the obedience God calls us to give.  The life we long to live—that dream that’s within our heart, the deepest longings of our soul—are found in obedience to the One who wove our soul together.  If Peter says no, we never read about his story.  If Peter says no, he doesn’t become a disciple.  He walks away like the rich young man who’s sad because he can’t bring himself to give up the things, the stuff, that he loves so much.  Peter’s response is different.  His response is if you say so, I’ll do it.

One of my favorite movies growing up as a kid was Princess Bride.  In that movie, Wesley says to Princess Buttercup, “As you wish.”  Whatever you want.  If you say so, I will do it.  Those are words of love, aren’t they? But “if you say so” are words of discipleship.  I don’t see it.  I don’t agree.  I don’t have clarity, but I’ll trust. Friends, while this type of an interaction with Jesus is certainly not the norm today, it is the norm to read things in the Scriptures and think, “I’m not sure I agree with that. I’m not sure I like that and I’m not sure what the end game is there.”

So what’s your response when you read something like that?  When you read “Don’t just forgive one time, but forgive seven times seventy-seven,” is our response, “Well, if you say so.”  When we read that the invitation to the life we really want is through giving our life away, is our response, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” or is it, “If you say so.”   That the path to greatness is actually through servanthood, through washing feet…..is our response, “That’s insane, that would never work,” or is it, “If you say so.”  The call to love our enemies; to release our anger; to live free from anxiety, trusting Jesus not only holds our today but our tomorrow and our next year.  Is our response to Him, “You don’t get the burdens I’m under,” or “If you say so.”  What’s our response when we read something that just feels crazy?  Here’s the thing—If we only hear Jesus inviting us to do things we agree with, we may not be listening that well.   Herman Melville in his great book Moby Dick, includes a chapter in it where there’s this pastor preaching in a church that’s designed for sailors.  The pastor says, “All things that God would have us do are hard for us,” reminding them of the obedience God calls for and the cost of discipleship.  He goes on to say, “If we obey God, we must first disobey ourselves.”  We’ve got to give a piece of the control away.  We’ve got to release the ownership.  We’ve got to come to the place where we say, “I don’t get it, but if you say so.”  Friends, trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. Say back to Him, “If you say so.”  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and His promise to you is I will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)  This is the journey that Peter is on in his encounter with Jesus.

Here’s the way the story continues in verse 6:  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  {Follow the nets in this story, right?  First he’s cleaning them, disinterested. Then he puts them down reluctantly.  Now he brings them in and he’s like, “Thanks a lot.  These were perfectly good nets before you blessed me.”  Which is the way Jesus works often.  His blessings tend to wreck our lives….for the good!  It’s this place where we’re going, “The life that I now have can’t fit into the structure that I had maintained.  You’re changing me.”  We love the thought of change, but when it actually comes down to it sometimes it breaks our nets.}   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.  Just like Peter’s life.  Friends, if we are unwilling to do the ridiculous, we will never see the miraculous.  If we’re unwilling to let the nets down after we washed them, in the middle of the day, because we just sense God’s calling us to follow Him into this, if we aren’t willing to do the ridiculous, we’ll never see God do the miraculous.

I can remember this moment that Kelly and I got to in our journey with the Lord, when we were deciding whether or not we were going to move back to Colorado.  It didn’t make sense financially.  In some ways, it didn’t make sense in ministry.  It didn’t make a lot of sense vocationally, and yet there was just this something in us where we went, “God, I know that you’re calling and I know that you’re leading.”  My wife said to me, “Ryan, you know it would be disobedience if we said no.”  I’m like, “Thank you, Holy Spirit!”  It was this “if you say so” moment that just sunk our boats in the best possible way.

And this step of blind obedience—I don’t know what that looks like for you today, but I know there is one—leads us to a place of absolute astonishment and abundant blessing. God, I never could have expected this, and I don’t think my life could support it in the way that it’s currently structured.  “If you say so” positions us to step into this place of “I never expected this!”  It’s better than I was ready for!  Apologist Peter Kreeft says it like this, and it’s short and poignant and it’s true:  “‘Thy will be done’ is the infallible road to total joy.”  As long as God gives me breath, my longing is to plead with you to say those words, to surrender your life.  The “if you say so” life is the grace-filled, joy-drenched, abundant life that God longs for every single one of us.

A lot of our call to obedience stops with “if you say so” and it doesn’t lead people to….well, there’s fish under the boat you have absolutely no clue about, and you’ve just got to drop the nets and then you’re going to bring in the catch of your lifetime.  Oftentimes we just stop with “just obey” and it’s obey because God is a good father and he loves you and you are his child and he is ridiculously for you.  With that out there, I need to say, if there’s a step of faith you’re resisting, there is a blessing you are forfeiting.  If there’s a step of faith you are resisting, there is a blessing that you are forfeiting.  If you’re unwilling to forgive.  If you’re unwilling to take the steps that you need to take to get free from pornography.  If you’re unwilling to take the steps you need to take to get free from anger.  If you’re unwilling to reconcile….   There is a blessing you’re forfeiting, because there’s obedience that you’re resisting….and joy that’s waiting.  Peter is being moved by Jesus from this place of rationale to this place of miracle.  This place of “I never expected that!”

Here’s the way it continues.  Verse 8.  When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”    Which is a little bit scary, right?  So Peter sees the blessing after the obedience and he falls on his face in a boatful of fish.  You’ve got to picture it in your mind.  Sometimes we just read over it, right?  Close your eyes for a second and just picture this 27 foot long boat, 7-1/2 feet wide, with live fish flapping all around, screaming for air. Jesus looking at Peter with a look on his face like “I told you so.” And Peter bowing, turning a fish-filled boat into an altar of praise.  {You can open your eyes.}  His statement “Depart from me.  I’m not worthy.  I recognize you are God and Lord and I am unworthy.  I’m a sinner.”  It’s the first time that word “sinner” is used in Luke’s gospel.  It’s the same effect that being in the presence of God had on the prophet Isaiah when he walked into the throne room of God (in a vision).  It says:  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:3-5) 

Whenever we see God clearly, we start to see ourselves accurately, and it leads us to this place of “Woe is me! I’m not worthy!  I don’t deserve to stand in your presence.”  Here’s where obedience leads Peter to, and it’s where it leads us to, also, because we start to see the blessing.  We start to see the face of God.  Blind obedience leads us to a place of recognizing our unworthiness and reorienting our worship.  Genuine repentance…turning from a life that was and stepping into a life that God calls us to, that’s what repentance is. I’m turning from one belief and I’m walking into another.   (Genuine repentance) Always, always, always begins with a renewed awareness of this is who you are, God, and this is who I am in You.  If we never see Jesus clearly, we will never obey Jesus fully.  It’s what Jesus says in John 8:31-32 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, {If you obey me.} you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”    So, if you abide and if you obey, then you will be my disciples and you will know the truth.  The truth has a name.  His name is Jesus.  He claims to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  So if we never obey, we never know the truth.  The truth has a name.  His name is Jesus and it absolutely changes Peter life.  He says, “Get away from me.”  It what all the rabbis had said to Peter.  Get away from me. You’re not worthy.  You didn’t pass the rabbinic test.  You’re not going to be a disciple.  You didn’t make the cut. There were brighter, smarter, better people than you, Peter, so why don’t you go back to fishing.  Get away from me is what the rabbis said to Peter.  But now it’s what Peter says to THE Rabbi.  Aren’t you astounded and grateful that Jesus’s response to Peter is, “I’m not going anywhere?”  Because it’s His same response to you, too. Friends, recognizing our brokenness is not a disqualifier for discipleship, it’s a prerequisite.  Coming to this place of “woe is me” and “get away from me, I am unworthy” is a prerequisite for following God, it’s not a disqualifier.  And that’s where Jesus takes Peter to.  Peter expects condemnation, but he gets grace.  And he receives this calling.  So Jesus is moving Peter from rationale to miracle; he’s moving him from condemnation to confession.

Finally, it says this in verse 10 — And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.  Follow the nets — He’s washing them; he’s dropping them; he’s pulling them up, they’re breaking; and now he’s leaving them. They’re the picture of everything that his life was.  They are his identity.  They are his security.  It his occupation and when he sees Jesus….when he turns his eyes upon Jesus and is full of his wonderful grace, the things of the world grow strangely dim….   And Peter leaves it all and walks and follows.

I read on an app this week about a student at Louisville University who was participating in a half-time contest. The contest was you had to make one layup, one free throw, one 3-pointer, and one half-court shot.  $38,000 rode on the line.  This guy makes the layup, makes the free throw, steps back and drains the 3-pointer.  All he has left is the half-court shot.  He lobs the half-court shot up and it’s just slow-motion…..looks good, looks good, looks good.  Nets it!!  Makes it!  Remarkable!  Except for the fine print in the contest rules.  You could not have played basketball at a high school level or higher within six years of participating in the contest.  He doesn’t get the money, just gets to be an illustration in a sermon!

I think some of us think God’s going to look at the fine print in our life and go, “Oh, I didn’t see there was all that.”  I didn’t know you had that past.  I didn’t know you had that baggage.  I didn’t know you had that addiction.  I didn’t know that that was going on in your life.  And if I had known, I would have never had call… Based on the fine print, now you are disqualified.  That is NOT your God.  He knows it all and he calls you anyway.  And this blind obedience leads us to this place of relinquishing our rights, laying down our nets, our security, our future, our dreams, our family, our whatever, and then receiving his call.  It doesn’t always mean follow Jesus into someplace that’s other than where you are right now.  Your call could be to stay exactly where you are, to keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing, with the renewed awareness that you are in the boat with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  The call isn’t always go somewhere else, do something different. We’d love that adventure piece, but maybe the call is stay exactly where you are with the renewed awareness that the King of kings and the Lord of lords is with you.  But make no mistake about it, Peter’s life from this moment on is definitively different.  It’s changed!  “If you say so” leads him to this place of blessing, leads him to this place of confession, and leads him to this place of calling.  If Peter were to write the script for his life, he could never have written it on his own.  He didn’t know what Jesus was doing.  He just knew that he was going to be faithful to follow that call.  A.W. Tozer, the great author, says it like this:  Salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred Scriptures.  Apart from obedience there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility.”

Here’s my question for you this morning:  Is there anything you’re resisting that you sense God calling you into? What does it look like for you to live an “if you say so” type of life?  Because the life you long for is brought about by the obedience that God calls for.  What are you saying no to that you feel like Jesus is inviting you into?  Jesus moves Peter, in this short story, from control of his life to surrender….he lays down the nets.  From condemnation—woe is me—to confession….You are Lord.  And from rationale—I’ve got to understand it and I’ve got to plan it and it’s got to make sense—to miracle….I’ve never expected that.  And that’s our longing as a community of faith, to step into that kind of life.  It all hinges on “if you say so.”  If you say so, I’m going to do it.  Friends, we serve an “if you say so” God.

On the night Jesus is betrayed, he’s in the garden and he’s pleading with his father, “If there’s another way, Father, to accomplish the redemption of the world, let’s do it that way.  But not my will, but yours be done.”  If you say so, if it has to be this way, I will follow you even to the cross.   Because I love humanity that much. Friends, we follow an “if you say so” savior, and he invites us to be his “if you say so” people.  When we say, “Thy will be done,” our world starts to expand.

So on the night that Jesus was betrayed, he said to his father, “If you say so.”  He broke bread and said, “This bread is my body which is given for you.”  After supper he took the cup and said, “I’m going to shed my blood for the forgiveness of your sins.”  For 2000+ years, followers of Jesus have been gathering around the table to remind themselves that their God said back to his Father, “If you say so,” and purchased the redemption of all mankind.  As we come to this table today, would you here his invitation once again to become an “if you say so” follower, to say, “God, you’ve got my life, wherever you lead, whatever you ask, I will follow, even if I don’t get it, I am yours.”

{Ryan continues with communion instructions.}

Jesus, in light of how far you’ve gone to purchase us back to make a way home, that “woe is me” people like us could step into the presence of a “holy is you God,” we say thank you this morning.  We fall in worship and adoration this morning.  We say back to you, “If you say so,” we’re willing to be obedient.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.