Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses seventeen through thirty-nine of the fifth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will find Jesus having met Simon, Peter and John at the lake of Genessaret where He taught from the midst of Simon’s ship before instruction Simon to launch out into the deep. Before I attempt to get into that which is written and recorded in the passage at hand, I can’t help but find myself once more captivated with and by the account of Jesus entering into Simon’s boat—first to teach the people as He was safely removed from the shoreline, and second to encounter Simon in the place of work. I previously wrote concerning this particular encounter with Simon how it is a truly wonderful and remarkable picture of Jesus encountering His disciples—not in the place of house of worship, but rather in the place of work. Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities that I can’t help but notice within this passage of Scripture is that when Jesus encountered Simon, He did not encounter him in the Temple as he was engaged in worship with sacrifices and offerings, nor did He encounter Simon in the Temple as he was offering his tithes and offerings. When we find Jesus the Christ encountering Simon for the very first time we find him encountering outside the four walls of what would have been the church at that time, and by a lake within the region of Galilee. This is actually quite unique, astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to consider it, for so many times and far too often we think and believe that Jesus desires to encounter us in the house of worship as we ourselves are engaging in worship of the living God—and while this is true to a certain degree, we would be incredibly naïve and foolish to think and believe even for one moment that Jesus only encounters us in the house of worship as we gather together with others worshipping the Lord. If there is one thing that I can’t help but see within this passage is that Jesus didn’t merely encounter Simon in the place of work, but there was another ship there at the lake with Simon. What’s more, is that if you read the account of Jesus at the lake of Genessaret, you will find that there was a ship which belonged to Simon, however there was another ship that was also present there at the lake. THERE WAS ANOTHER SHIP! I am truly and wonderfully convinced that there is something truly remarkable and astounding about the fact that there was another ship, for this second did not belong to Simon, but rather to a set of brothers who also earned their living and had there livelihood out upon the waters of the sea.
It would be very easy to get caught up in the fact that Jesus encounter Simon on this particular day there at the lake, and yet to do so would be to miss the incredible fact that Simon wasn’t the only one at the lake on this particular day. Please note that I am aware of the fact that there was a great crowd and multitude of people which were present on this day at the lake, however, I am not speaking of or referencing the crowds and multitude of people at the lake on this day. What I am speaking of and what I am referencing is the fact that James and John were also present at the lake on this particular day. What’s more, is that perhaps James and John were cleaning their nets just as much as Simon was cleaning his net. In fact, this is implied and suggested—not only with Peter’s response to Jesus after instructing Him to launch out into the deep and let down the net, but also in how Luke describes these two brothers in relationship to Simon Peter. When Simon Peter heard the instruction of Jesus to launch out into the deep and to let down his net, he quickly responded to Jesus by declaring unto Him, saying, “Master, WE have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.” Please don’t miss the use of the word “we” in this passage of Scripture, for this word we suggests and implies that there were others who were a part of the labor and toil which Simon Peter expressed and spoke of the night before. In all reality, Simon Peter wasn’t alone on the waters of the lake of Genessaret, but was in fact on the lake with others. It isn’t until verse seven when we begin learning about Simon Peter’s partners in fishing, for when Simon Peter realized that he had enclosed a great multitude of fish and his net began breaking, he and what was perhaps his brother beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. Ultimately the fish filled both ships, so that each boat began to sink because of the great catch of fish that was present within them. This particular account of Simon Peter at the lake would continue and come to a head when Simon was astonished at what had taken place, knelt down at the feet of Jesus, and asked Jesus to depart from him, for he was a sinful man. What we go on to read in this passage is that it wasn’t simply Simon who was astonished at what had taken place upon the waters of the lake, but so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee astonished as well, for they were partners together with Simon. Within this passage of Scripture we come face to face with the awesome and incredible fact that Simon and perhaps his own brother Andrew had partners in the fishing industry, and it’s within this passage—together with other passages within the four gospels—that we learn that the partners of Simon were in fact James and John, the sons of Zebedee.
The more I sit here and read this passage of Scripture, the more I am confronted with the fact that it is a wonderful and powerful illustrate how Jesus the Christ finds us not in the house of God as we engage ourselves in worship, but how Jesus can and may very well encounter us in our place of work. We have become so naïve and so bias in our thinking, for we think and believe that Jesus can only encounter us in the house of God as we engage ourselves in worship of the true and living God. The truth of the matter is that just as easily as Jesus can encounter us in the house of the living God, so also can Jesus encounter us in our places of work. What’s more, is that more often than not we enter into the house of the Lord and gather together with other individuals whom we join together in worshipping of the living God. I happen to love this passage of Scripture within the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke, for Simon wasn’t alone at the lake with his ship, nor was he alone at the lake with his net(s). There was another ship there at the lake, there were two other individuals who are named in this passage of Scripture, and there were two others who were found cleaning their nets on the shoreline. What’s more, is that it is absolutely unmistakeable that James and John were with Simon Peter on the waters of the sea the night before, and how James and John were part of that same labor and toil throughout the night, and yet returned to the shore empty-handed. We dare not read this passage and think about it in terms of Simon Peter alone, for to do so would be to miss the absolutely wonderful and remarkable truth that is contained within it. What I so love and appreciate about this passage of Scripture is that while it is true that Jesus found and encountered Simon in his place of work. Jesus didn’t merely encounter Simon alone in this place of work. This particular account reveals that in that place of work, Simon was on the shoreline cleaning his nets together with his partners James and John who were also cleaning their nets. In other words, Jesus didn’t merely encounter Simon in the place of His work, but Jesus encountered Simon while he was in the place of work working together with others. Please note the incredible contrast between Jesus encountering us in the house of God as we worship together with other individuals, and how Jesus can encounter us in our place of work as we work together with others. That which took place, and that which occurred on the lake on this particular day wasn’t merely Jesus encountering Simon alone in this place of work, but Jesus encountering Simon, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and perhaps even Simon’s brother Andrew. Please mark and note this, for when Jesus encountered Simon by the lake on this particular day, Jesus encountered Simon while he was working together with his partners who had also spent the night on the open waters with him laboring and toiling, and who had also returned to the sea empty-handed, and who were also cleaning their nets.
I feel compelled to rest on this area of partners in the place of work, for there is something to be said about partners together in work, and even being able to work together. There is not a doubt in my mind that this passage not only speaks to and suggests the reality of Simon laboring and toiling on the open waters of the sea throughout the night, but it also speaks to Simon, James and John together on the shore cleaning their nets after working with them all night. What’s more, is that this passage also suggests the fact that it wasn’t merely Simon who labored and toiled all night and came up empty-handed, and returned to the shore without any fish. This particular passage also suggests that James and John had also experienced what was perhaps the frustration and disappointment of laboring and toiling all night to draw forth fish from the sea, and yet coming up empty-handed. It might even be said that as surely as Simon, James and John were partners together in work, they also shared in the frustration, the disappointment, and perhaps even in the discontentment with what they were doing. As I sit here this morning I can’t help but ask myself who am writing this, and you who are reading this how well you work with those around you. Are you able to correctly and properly work together with those who are around you? Are you able to work cordially and civilly with those at your place of work, or do you find it difficult to work with certain people? There is something to be said about Simon being partners together with James and John on this particular occasion, for it suggests a certain work ethic and partnership that existed between these two ships. There is not a doubt in my mind that both ships were out upon the open waters during the night, and both Simon, as well as James and John labored and toiled all night in order to earn their living and make their livelihood. What we find in this passage of Scripture is a wonderful and incredible sense of partnership together in the place of work, for when Simon realized that his net began to break, he was able to beckon unto James and John to come and help him enclose the great multitude of fish which they had caught. It’s worth noting that the instruction to launch out into the deep was given unto Simon Peter, and the instruction to let down the net was given unto Simon Peter, and yet when the great multitude of fish was caught, it wasn’t Simon alone who participated in the work of hauling in the fish. If you read this passage of Scripture you will find that it was Simon who was given the instruction of the Lord, yet it wasn’t Simon alone who participated in the work of drawing in the fish which had been caught, for James and John came with their ship to provide assistance.
What I so absolutely love and appreciate about this passage of Scripture is not only that Jesus found and encountered Simon Peter in the place of work, but Jesus also encountered Simon working together with others. This encounter at the lake of Genessaret wasn’t merely about Simon in the place of work, but it was also about Simon in the place of work working together with others. There is something to be said about our ability to worship together with others in the house of the Lord, but there is something to be said about our ability to work together with others in the place of work. In all reality, I am convinced that within our lives it is not only about our ability to worship together with others in the house of the Lord, but it is also about our ability to work together with others in the place of work. In fact, I would dare say that it is easy to worship together with others in the house of the Lord, but it is something else altogether to be able to work together with others in the place of work. There is a lot of emphasis on worshipping together with brothers and sisters in the house of the Lord, however, I would dare say that there is very little that is said about being able to work together with others in our places of employment and in our jobs. This particular passage found within the New Testament gospel of Luke is not only about Jesus encountering us in our places of work, but it is also about Jesus encountering us as we work together with others in that very place. Simon Peter wasn’t alone at the lake, for he wasn’t alone during the night laboring and toiling upon the waters of the open sea, nor was he alone at the shore cleaning his nets. Simon was at the shore together with James and John as they were each cleaning their nets after spending an entire night laboring and toiling, and yet coming up empty-handed. There is something to be said within this passage about being able to work together with others in the place of work, and perhaps even sharing in the frustrations, disappointments and discontentment in the place of work. There is something to be said about laboring and toiling for an extended period of time, and yet coming up empty-handed and having nothing to show for it. Permit me to declare and say unto you that you might feel discontent, dissatisfied, frustrated and disappointed with and at your job, but do you really think you’re the only one who is feeling that way? Do you really think and feel that you are the only one in your place of work who feels as though they are laboring and have labored and toiled, and yet have absolutely nothing to show for it? Do you really believe that you are alone in this struggle, and that you are alone at the shoreline (figuratively speaking) cleaning your net after having catching nothing? I am thoroughly convinced that there is not only something to be said about being able to work together with others, but there is also something to be said about our ability to experience and participate with others in the struggles that are associated with work.
I love this particular passage, for not only do we find within this passage of Scripture Jesus the Christ encountering Simon in the place of work, but we really find Jesus encountering James and John as well. When the passage draws to a close, it doesn’t just draw to a close with Simon forsaking all to follow Jesus, but it closes and concludes with James and John forsaking all and following Jesus. Oh, please don’t miss this, for it wasn’t simply about Simon encountering Jesus in the place of work, but it was also about Jesus encountering James and John. What if Jesus encountered you in such a profound way in your place of work while you were working together with others, and as a result of Him getting into your boat, and as a result of Him speaking to and instructing you concerning your job that something supernatural and miraculous happens in that place—something so supernatural and miraculous that it requires assistance of others to join in and participate in it? What if Jesus not only desires to get into your boat, but also desires to speak to you concerning your work and instruct you to launch out into the deep? What would that look like for you? I firmly believe that Jesus getting into your boat means Jesus getting into your particular office, your particular cubicle, and your particular role and function within the company you are working for. When it comes to launching out into the deep and letting down your net, however, I am convinced that that is and can most likely be different for each individual. Launching out into the deep and letting down your net might be different from launching out into the deep and letting down my net. With that being said, however, the end result is and should universally be the same, for as a result of our launching out into the deep and letting down our nets, something supernatural and miraculous takes place—something that not only captures the attention of others, but also requires their help and assistance. It was into Simon Peter’s boat Jesus got into, and it was unto Simon Peter the instruction was given to launch out into the deep and to let down his net, however, the ultimate and end result of the encounter was so great a catch of fish being drawn from the sea that it required assistance from James and John. Ultimately James and John needed to get into their boat and join Simon Peter in the open water to help with the catch. What a truly incredible picture of Jesus doing something truly supernatural and miraculous in our places of work—something to supernatural and miraculous that it ends up impacting and affecting others around us who we work with.
What we must recognize and realize about what takes place in this passage is that this encounter with Jesus in the place of work doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Jesus encountering us in the place of work doesn’t happen isolated and apart from those around us, but actually takes place in the open in order that others might see and participate in the miraculous with us. Ultimately it wasn’t simply Simon who encountered Jesus at the lake, it wasn’t just Simon who participated in hauling in the fish, and it wasn’t simply Simon who forsook all to follow Jesus. It was Simon alone who launched out into the deep, and it was Simon who let down the net, however, the ultimate and end result was James and John coming to help him with their ship, James and John enclosing fish in their ship, and ultimately James and John who forsook all to follow Jesus. What a tremendous picture this was to have two ships there by the lake—perhaps still filled with fish—and yet the ships were left behind, the nets were left behind, and even the fish were left behind, as Simon, James and John left it all to follow and walk with Jesus. Pause for a moment and consider the scene as it unfolded on this particular day as Simon, James and John started off cleaning their nets after laboring and toiling all night and coming up empty, and yet how it would conclude with Simon, James and John forsaking all in order that they might follow Jesus. What if in the process of working together with others in your place of work you not only find yourself face to face with Jesus and encountering Him there at the lake, but you also find your calling and your purpose in the midst of that encounter? What if in the place of work as a result of working together with others, as a result of experiencing some frustration, discontentment and dissatisfaction, and as a result of allowing Jesus to get into your boat, you not only experience something supernatural, but those around you also experience the supernatural? What if as a result of Jesus encountering you in your place of work you find yourself together with others forsaking all to walk with and follow Jesus? I absolutely love that Simon Peter, James and John didn’t find their purpose, their calling, and their assignment while worshipping together in the house of the Lord, but rather while they were working together at the lake. What’s more, is that I absolutely love how they didn’t find their purpose and their calling until after they had labored and toiled all night and came up empty. I love how they didn’t find their purpose until after they worked together in the supernatural miracle of the presence of God there by the lake and eventually made it back to shore. I am convinced that there are men and women among us who are looking to find their purpose, who are looking to find their calling, who are looking to find that which they are supposed to do in the house of the Lord as they are worshipping together with others—and while I do believe that happens and there is a place for that, I am convinced that there are others who won’t find and haven’t found their purpose or calling except within their place of work.
As you continue reading the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find that not only did Jesus find and encounter Simon, James and John together in the place of work, but Jesus also found Matthew in the place of work as well. Within the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find Jesus encountering and calling His disciples—not in the house of the Lord, but in their places of work. When we find Jesus encountering and calling His disciples we find Him going to where they are, and engaging them on their own turf so to speak as they are going about their daily lives. Oh, there is something to be said about a God who encounters and finds us in our every day lives, and while we are engaged in ordinary tasks and responsibilities. There is something to be said about a God who will come to us and doesn’t expect us to come to the house of the Lord in order to experience Him. Think about this for a minute—there was not a single disciple whom Jesus found in the Temple of God in the city of Jerusalem, but each disciple was found in the real world as they were engaged in their every day tasks and responsibilities. What’s more, is that Jesus found some of His disciples in the very places where they worked. Within the fifth chapter of this New Testament gospel of Luke we find Jesus finding and encountering Simon, James and John in the place of their work by the lake of Genessaret, and if you continue reading you will find Him encountering Matthew in the place of his work as well. If you begin reading with and from the twenty-seventh verse of this chapter you will find that after Jesus healed the man with palsy, and after Jesus had declared unto him that his sins were forgiven—and even after He rebuked and corrected the Pharisees and scribes for their error in thinking—He went forth and saw a publican named Levi sitting at the receipt of custom. Upon seeing Levi sitting there at the receipt of custom, we read how Jesus declared and spoke unto Him, saying, “Follow me.” The beloved physician Luke writes and records how Levi left all, rose up and followed Him. Oh, please don’t miss the incredible significance of what is found in this particular portion of the fifth chapter, for again we find Jesus not encountering His disciples in the Temple of God which stood in the city of Jerusalem, but rather in the real world as they were engaged in their normal, every day tasks. Isn’t it kind of interesting that when Jesus went to find His disciples—those who would walk with and follow Him—he didn’t go into the Temple to find them, but He went about Galilee and the surrounding region to find and call his disciples. Within the four gospels found in the New Testament you will not find Jesus going to the Temple once to find and call those who would walk with and follow Him as His disciples. Not once will you find Jesus entering into the courts of the Temple to find and call His disciples, but rather we find Jesus going to places of work to find and call His disciples. Oh how there is something to be said about a God who doesn’t go to His own house where men and women worship, but a God who goes to the places where men and women work and finds and calls them while they are engaged in work.
I fully realize and recognize that within this particular chapter there are accounts of Jesus healing those who were brought unto Him, and even His direct confrontation of the Pharisees and scribes who were present during that time, however, I am convinced that we must come face to face with this reality of Jesus encountering His disciples in the place(s) of work rather than in the place of worship. Within this chapter we don’t find Simon worshipping God in the Temple, nor do we find James and John going up together to the Temple to worship the living God. We don’t’ find Levi sitting in the courts of the Temple when Jesus found Him—perhaps preparing to present an offering and sacrifice before the living God. What we find in this passage of Scripture is Jesus showing up in the place where you work, speaking directly to you, and calling you to follow Him. WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP TO WORK! WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP AT YOUR JOB! It’s interesting and worth noting that in the account of Simon, Jesus simply instructed Simon to launch out into the deep and to let down his net, and only after he obeyed the words and command of Jesus did he enclose such a great multitude of fishes and would eventually and ultimately hear Jesus declare unto him that he would catch men. When we read of Levi sitting at the receipt of custom, we don’t find any grandiose encounter with Jesus, nor any manifestation of the supernatural or miraculous. When we read the account of Levi who was sitting at the receipt of custom, we find Jesus simply looking at him and calling him to follow Him. There was no pomp and circumstance. There was no fanfare. There was nothing supernatural or miraculous about the encounter. There was no sign from heaven, nor was there anything extraordinary or out of the ordinary that took place within the life of Levi. All it was was as simple call and command of Jesus Christ to follow Him. This is actually quite astounding and remarkable when you think about it, for there will be those who will encounter Jesus in the place of work, and yet there won’t be anything supernatural or miraculous about the encounter. It will simply be Jesus showing up on a day just like any other, looking you square in the eyes, and calling you to follow Him. There are those among us who would think and even expect there to be something supernatural and miraculous about Jesus showing up to our place of work and calling us to follow Him, however, that isn’t always the case. In fact, if we aren’t careful, we can miss the simple call of Jesus to follow Him because we are looking for and expecting the supernatural. With that being said, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if each and every day we went to work and engaged ourselves on the job we firmly expected to encounter Jesus, and expected to hear His voice speaking unto us.
When Levi encountered Jesus at the receipt of the custom, there is absolutely no indication that Levi was looking for or expecting anything out of the ordinary. Undoubtedly Levi sat down at the receipt of the custom just as he had done every other day, and engaged himself in the business of collecting taxes as he had always done. On this particular day, however, something dramatic would take place, for Jesus would show up to his place of work and would call him to follow Him. All Levi was doing was doing what he had always done, and engaging himself in the same tasks and responsibilities he had always done, and yet it was in the place of the ordinary and routine that Jesus shows up and simply calls him to follow Him. There was nothing spectacular about this particular day, and I would dare say there weren’t any signs which pointed to Jesus showing up at the receipt of the custom and calling him to follow Him. Levi showed up to the receipt of custom just as he had done every other day, and yet it was on this particular day of showing up when Jesus showed up to and called him to follow Him. SOMETIMES ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SHOW UP! Did you know that sometimes the only thing that is needed from us is simply showing up for work? Would it shock and surprise you to think about and know that sometimes the only thing Jesus requires from us is simply to show up to work just as we have every other day? What’s more—would it shock and surprise you if I told you that Jesus might not even want you showing up and expecting and/or anticipating anything? Levi showed up for work just as he had every other day, and there was no expectation or anticipation within his heart to forsake all and follow Jesus, but when Jesus showed up at his place of work and called him to follow him, he forsook all, rose up and followed Jesus. If there is one thing that we must and should learn from the account of Jesus encountering Levi at the receipt of custom it’s that more often than not what is needed and required of us is simply to show up as we always have. Would it surprise you if I suggested that sometimes the most spiritual, and sometimes the most important thing you could do is simply show up and do what you have always done? Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that sometimes the Lord asks for nothing more than faithfulness in showing up where you are supposed to show up and where you are supposed to show up? What if you began viewing days off from work as potentially missed opportunities to encounter and experience Jesus in the work place? We spend so much time looking forward to taking that next day off, and even looking forward to the weekends when we don’t have to work, and yet, what if by doing so we are missing out on opportunities for Jesus to experience and encounter us as we simply show up? What if we began viewing missing work as potentially doing more than simply missing work, but possibly also missing out on encountering and hearing the voice of Jesus calling us to follow Him, thus giving our lives purpose? If there is one thing I would leave you with at the conclusion of this writing it’s simply to show up, and simply to be faithful in showing up. Sometimes the most important and most spiritual thing you can do is simply show up to world when you are supposed to, and by doing so, you might find yourself experiencing and encountering Jesus in your life as He calls you to follow Him, thus giving your life an even greater purpose than you have ever known.