The bible is amazing. If you stop to read Luke Chapter 5 right now you’ll get even more out of this blog post, there is so much power in the word of God.
Luke Chapter 5 begins with the story of the miraculous catch of fish, includes healing, forgiveness of sins, the making of disciples and alludes to the cross. Then it finishes with the parable of new vs old wineskins.
As I read it today. I saw a pattern in Peter’s experience that paralleled my own. When I realised that I thought, hey, I might not be the only one. So I’m sharing with you!
The chapter begins with Jesus getting into Simon Peter’s boat and asking him to put out a little from the shore. Next, Jesus spends a little while teaching crowds of people still on the shore from the boat.
Is Jesus in your boat?
When Jesus first got into my boat, it was like this picture. He was there, he was close, he asked me to push off from the shore. I did. I was out in the water, but only where I could easily swim back to shore. People knew Jesus was speaking from my boat though, and to me, it felt like his focus was on all the people around me who were still ‘on shore’. They were hearing Jesus from my boat. All the while I was listening, learning, soaking it all in.
Then Jesus’ focus shifted.
Luke 5:4-5 says,
…..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 if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Suddenly Jesus’ laser-beam gaze was focused on Simon. He wanted to show Simon that, with Jesus in his boat, he could be the very best fisherman that ever was! Simon admitted that, particularly that day, he wasn’t much of a fisherman. Lot’s of hard work, zero to show for it. Ever felt like Simon; like you’re treading water, spinning your wheels? I have.
But Jesus, in Simon’s boat, explodes Simon’s productivity to breaking point. The nets start to break, so Simon calls for back up nets, but then the ship starts to sink. At that point, when everything was out of his control, Simon fell at Jesus’ feet.
We often think of being out of control, as a bad thing. But being out of control is not a bad thing, it is imperative, vital, to our walk with God. We must be out of control, and Jesus‘ must be in control.
Like Simon, when I accepted Jesus into my boat and put out to deeper water, my productivity exploded in my career. As a teacher my students won national competitions, as a writer I produced dramatic masterpieces for my students to perform, yet at the same time I began to break, and my boat began to sink. It was beyond my capacity, and I was losing control. So, I too fell at Jesus’ feet.
If our boat sinks we will be, by default, fully immersed. But Jesus, beautiful, kind Jesus, prefers it when we choose to be baptised, before it is forced on us. He wants us not just to die to ourselves, drowning. He doesn’t even want us to jump in and swim with him. He wants us to walk on the water by his side, free and unafraid.
Simon’s response, and my response, to reaching the limit of our capacity was to fall at Jesus’ feet, saying “I am a sinner”. Paraphrased, we meant, “I have no power without you. None of this miraculous achievement I deserve. It is all your doing.”
Jesus’ response is, “Don’t be afraid, let go control.”
Luke 5:10 says,
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid: from now on you will fish for people.”
Then, and this is the bit that always gets left out of sermons, comes verse 11.
Luke 5:11 says,
So they pulled their boats up on the shore, left everything and followed him.
They walked away from it all, the miraculous catch, the broken nets and the sinking boats. They moved on and remained completely out of control.
Jesus told me I would teach but I would do it by writing.
So, I too walked away, left my illustrious teaching career, left my brokenness and my sinking ship and followed Jesus to be a teacher who writes.
But there is more to Simon’s story, that doesn’t often get mentioned in sermons either. And that is, nothing really obvious happened for Simon Peter for ages after that. He simply hung out with Jesus. He was there. He was there while Jesus healed a man with leprosy, he was there when the crowds surrounded Jesus wanting their own healing.
He was there when Jesus forgave a man’s sins and told him to get up and walk. He was there when Jesus made a disciple out of a tax collector and proceeded to party with him, like the angels who party in heaven when we arrive. He was there when Jesus was accused of too much partying, and not enough sobriety. He was there when Jesus warned, this time would not last.
Simon was there, as an apprentice to the One who was catching men, and more than that. Simon was there as Jesus’ friend.
I left classroom teaching at the end of 2000. It has been 18 years of hanging out with Jesus, being his apprentice, living as his friend. I have been there when Jesus did many things. I have learned God’s ways, I have watched miracles, I have celebrated, and I have learned to teach by reading not writing, I am still completely out of control.
In 2003 I returned to teaching for a little while, because things weren’t moving as fast as I’d like. Like I imagine, Simon may have dabbled again in fishing, but eventually, I gave up all aspirations of being a teacher and went into relative professional obscurity. I did not, however, give up on Jesus, or on being his friend and apprentice. I went all in, and out of control.
The final words of Luke Chapter 5, are the parable of new and old wineskins. Honestly, I used to find this parable impossible to understand. I wondered if it was because I’m not much of a wine connoisseur.
Luke 5:37-39 says,
And no-one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking the old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’
The parable is the perfect end to this chapter about Simon letting Jesus into his boat, losing control to Jesus and then living as an apprentice and friend in God’s waiting room.
Wine used to be left in sewn up goat, or sheep skins, to mature. These days it’s barrels. With wine, sometimes a short maturation is enough. Other wines are left for decades before they are released. Being in God’s waiting room is all about becoming mature, like a good wine.
When we give up our sinking ships and breaking nets, when we give Jesus control, he gives us new skins to live in. His skin. A new wine skin so to speak. Then comes the waiting game. Over time the wine maker, will test the wine in the waiting room, “Is it ready yet?”
Simon Peter was sent out on little mission trips, I was given mini church plays and scripts to write (among other things). What tests have you been given in your waiting room? The tasks we are given are specific to our calling, so is our experience, our circumstance, even our rate of maturation in Christ. No other wine, or person, without our experience or skill set, or perfect level of maturity can fulfil our calling.
Also we cannot try to be a new wine, or mix in new wine, because we have grown, changed, fermented to be exact, in our old wineskin, we fit Jesus. If we, in our frustration at not being mature yet, decide to stop waiting, give up our calling and start again, or try a new way of life, then we burst our Christ skin right open and we are spilled and wasted.
The parable encourages us, “The old wine is better” anyway. We must wait to mature so that when we are released, we can fulfil our calling.
Simon was maturing. I am maturing. You are maturing in God’s waiting room.
It wasn’t until Jesus’ death that Simon Peter was released from his wine skin, bottled and ready, to fish for men. God’s timing, the wine maker’s timing, is very purposeful and very clear. Peter had no power to fulfil his calling before God was ready, and neither do we.
What a powerful chapter is Luke Chapter 5! What a call to get God in our boat. What motivation to put out to deeper water when we’re asked. What assurance not to panic, when we are pushed to the limit of our capacity, but instead to lose all control to Jesus. What encouragement to be patient, to persevere.
James 1:4 (in the King James Version) says,
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
James 1:4 (in the New International Version) says,
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Be blessed today, be encouraged, you are God’s wine made new by the blood of Christ and matured by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose and promises of your Father God.
You are loved and watched over and planned. Your testing is for a purpose. God’s timing is perfect. Your patience and perseverance is so that you may be mature and complete. The Lord is your Shepherd. You lack nothing.
Lots of love,