12 March 2013

Luke 5:1-11

"Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." (v. 5)


The story in Luke's Gospel's of Jesus calling the first disciples differs in a number of ways from the similar accounts of Matthew and Mark. Luke's is longer as it includes the miracle of the large catch of fish, together with the subsequent dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter. This is absent from Matthew (Matthew 4:18-22) and Mark's (Mark 1:16-20) accounts, but is very similar to the post resurrection story in John 21.1-11.

The other interesting difference is that in Luke's Gospel, this is not the first time Jesus has met Simon (Jesus had already healed Simon's mother-in-law). And rather than the instant response to Jesus' call to follow him that we are told about in the other Gospels, Luke's Gospel describes a more gradual and questioning response before Simon finally makes a commitment.

Jesus had moved to Capernaum from Nazareth (Matthew 4:13) and it is clear from the story of Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39) that the two men knew each other. Simon would have had an opportunity to hear Jesus teaching in the synagogue (Luke 4:31) and even witnessed something remarkable happening in his own home and yet he is not in the crowd listening to Jesus (verse 1) but working in his boat on the lake. He was not yet a committed disciple.

Simon responds to Jesus in stages, which is signalled by the use of the name Peter towards the end of the story. Firstly he allows him to get in to his boat (verse 3). Then he is prepared to listen to Jesus, ignore his own experience and do what Jesus asks (verses 4-5). He witnesses another miraculous event but still questions whether he is good enough to be associated with this man (verse 8). However finally, after Jesus reassures him and promises him a new and very different future (verse 10), Simon Peter is convinced. It is then that he feels able to leave everything and follow Jesus (verse 11).

Whilst strange and unexplained events were taking place, it was the conversations with Jesus that enabled Simon Peter to take the next steps. He was willing to take a step of faith after listening to Jesus even against his better judgement (verses 4-5) and he was reassured that he was worthy, regardless of his own sense of sinfulness, by the words of Jesus.

To Ponder

  • Are there times when you don't feel good enough to follow Jesus? Listen to God's word offering you his reassurance and love.
  • Think about the different stages of your own faith journey, including the times of questioning and doubt. Give thanks for those who have helped you along the way.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.