1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 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.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 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.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 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.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 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.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
A filter is an important item for your home. It’s supposed to catch all the pollen, spores, bacteria, and garbage that is invisible to your eyes but bad for your body. The filter catches all that stuff so you breathe in only what is good for you. If you forget about the filter, then the good and the bad can both find their way into your body.
The same is true for your soul. There’s a lot of invisible stuff floating around out there – ideas, beliefs, thoughts, opinions, world views. Some are good for you heart and soul and some are toxic, but these things are everywhere. They are in homes, at school, at work, in churches, at the mall, the coffee shop, the Y, the park, on TV, online, and even originating in your own head. And these things that are floating cover every single topic imaginable from politics to sports to relationships to race to religion to family to friends to work to money to sex to crime to society and on and on.
We all have these things floating around us. Some of it makes it into our hearts and some doesn’t. So, my question is what’s your filter? What stops certain things and lets others through? The reason you and your neighbor and your cousin and your coworkers and the politician and the guy on the news and the famous athlete don’t say or like the same things is because you all have different filters. So, what’s yours?
Maybe you’ve never thought of that before, but this thought came to mind as I studied the Gospel from Luke 5. What do you listen to? What are you devoted to? What’s that one voice that will make you, like Peter, go fishing?
A couple years ago I heard a pastor talk about a few of these filters that people use. Some people have a “father filter.” What they heard growing up seems right because mom and dad said so. Your dad was a big baseball fan, particularly a Brewers fan, so you are a Brewers fan, too, not because you have spent time research the teams and see who you like, but because that’s all the baseball you watched as a kid. Maybe you grew up going to a Lutheran church, so that’s why you are here, not because you’ve tried out a bunch of churches but because that’s just what mom and dad did. You have a “father filter.”
Some have a “famous filter.” Famous people are so talented, and they have a voice and thousands of followers on twitter. They got famous because of what they do and say so there must be something to it. If they say it, it must be right. If someone at the Grammys or Academy Awards says something, if Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, or Stephen Colbert, if Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi, if LeBron James or Aaron Rodgers says something, they’re popular and it must be important or valuable. You have a “famous filter.”
Then, other people have “a religious filter.” They have their church and their pastor and that’s that. A pastor studies a lot and reads a lot and he must be right about religion. And the church would never veer off and lose sight of its overall mission to build on the solid foundation of Jesus and his Word. The church would never become more interested in being a social club or a political power. You have a “religious filter.”
And maybe the most famous is a “feelings filter.” “I just feel it. I know it in my heart. I sense it. I’ve experienced things. It doesn’t matter what they say on the news, what mom and dad say, what the church says, I know what’s right for me. My feelings have never misled me.” You have a “feelings filter.”
But there’s a problem with all these filters. They’re flawed. You know they are. Look back in history. Study what famous people have said. Recall what mom and dad said. Think about things that pastors and churches have said. It’s not all stuff that’s good for you. How did slavery exist? How was segregation ok? Why does racism and sexism still live on? Famous people, church people, moms and dads let it through the filter. Think about your own feelings. Anyone remember some of the feelings they had when they were a kid, a teenager, a fresh college graduate? A lot of those things we don’t even remember or care about anymore. So, why would we think our feelings are flawless now?
Peter had filters, too. He grew up in Galilee. He learned from mom and dad, likely. He spent time on the water, figuring out the fishing techniques, maybe from dad, like his dad before him. Who knows? He heard from Jewish religious teachers in the synagogue. He experienced the influence of the Roman government from the soldiers and tax collectors. He developed some of his own boisterous and outspoken ideas. It doesn’t really matter what time or place you grow up or live, the filters are there.
And then this day arrived. Peter is cleaning his nets with his brother and some buddies. Maybe he’s muttering to himself, like a fisherman does who has just been shut out. He might be thinking that dad’s advice didn’t really pay off too well. He might be thinking there were using the wrong casting technique. He might be thinking about what his wife will say when there’s nothing to eat or their finances get tight. (This is what he did for a living.) These are all the different things that might be floating around.
And there’s another thing floating around. It’s Peter’s boat, just off the shore, because Jesus is in town preaching. He’s powerful and poignant and penetrating. Peter had heard and seen him before. He was introduced a while back by his brother with help from another man who spent time around the water, John the Baptizer.
And Jesus isn’t like anyone else. No, Jesus is different. His teachings, his voice, his viewpoints have authority. He heals the sick, the diseased, and the demon-possessed. He changes water to wine. With Jesus none of those filters are needed. You don’t need what mom and dad said. You don’t need what the famous people were saying. You don’t need what the religious leaders are teaching from their own ideas or interpretations. You don’t need what your heart and feelings are coming up with.
Peter had all those filters. His own feelings, the common knowledge of fisherman, the things he likely learned from dad and his dad before him were saying, “No more fishing today.” But there is another filter here. It’s a filter that Peter cannot come up with and cannot find from a sinful world. It’s right there in verse 5. (pg. 9) “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so…” “Jesus, all these other reasons, all these other ideas seem like they should work all the time, but they are flawed compared you. If you say it, Lord, I don’t need any of them.”
And look what happens. Moments later, Peter, his brother, and his buddies are out in deep water fishing. And they catch such a large number of fish that their nets begin to break. So, Peter and his brother, Andrew, signal their business partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they fill both boats so full that they begin to sink. It’s astonishing. It shouldn’t have worked out this way. You don’t go out in the middle of the daytime. Other fishermen, the lessons from dad, his own experiences and feelings knew that. But none of that mattered now, because of what Jesus says. His Word is the best filter.
When Peter sees all this going on, there is one thing on his mind. He falls in front of Jesus with this request, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Peter knows that all of his filters are letting in some of that toxic stuff. His family, his own feelings, even being really religious can’t save him. In fact, sometimes those things can hurt, because they leave you all alone. They leave you with nothing but your sin.
And that’s a tough realization. It’s hard when you recognize that all your best efforts and ideas, all the popular trends and cultural norms, all the traditions and lessons learned from mom and dad, even devotion to some churches and religious teachings won’t be able to get rid of my sin. All these things that we make so important to our existence, in the end, cannot keep out what is toxic for life. And that’s not a good place to be. Peter says, “I am a sinful man. My filters are all off base. My ways aren’t working.”
Jesus’ response to Peter doesn’t make a lot of sense. He says, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” He says, “Simon Peter, don’t let your sins deter you. I want you. I have you. And I have work for you to do.” Amazing, isn’t it? A man who realizes that there is so much wrong with him, that acknowledges he doesn’t have anything good to offer, that admits he hasn’t always used the right filter, the Lord Jesus loves him and wants him.
So guess what Peter, his brother and their buddies do? They started fishing again. No, they didn’t get back in the boat. In fact, “they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Why? Because they had this other filter, the best filter. They had Jesus and his Word. They had a life and a purpose with Jesus. The boats and fish couldn’t give them that. Their own ideas, the popular trends, and the family traditions couldn’t give them that. Peter went out fishing because Jesus said so, and he caught an astonishing amount of fish. And when Peter was getting dragged down by his feelings filter, Jesus gave him his Word again to filter out all the fears and the faults so that Peter would follow him for more fishing.
The question that comes to mind is: what’s your filter? If it’s the father filer, the famous filter, the religious filter, or the feelings filter, then I’m not surprised if you sound like Simon Peter saying, “Go away from me, Jesus.” Those filters are flawed. They want nothing to do with Jesus. They want you to stumble and fall in sin.
But in steps Jesus with a different filter. One that actually works to get rid of guilt. One that actually works to remove the sin that is so toxic to us. He says, “Don’t be afraid. I love you. I forgive you. I want you.” See, Jesus gives us his Word so that our feelings won’t drown us. He gives us his Word so that popular ideas and famous people tweeting won’t deter us. Jesus gives us his Word so that religious ideas and teachings that are floating around won’t clog up our hearts. He gives us his Word so that family experiences and tradition won’t determine what is most important to us. He gives us his Word so that we can go fishing.
Ask any fisherman. They don’t have just one bait for one fish in one spot. And they don’t just go out one time. Not a chance. They have a whole arsenal. They have different poles, lines, setups, baits, techniques, and all that stuff. They go out in the morning, the evening. They go to this lake, that river.
That really is what ministry is all about, and that’s what devoted disciples do. We use what Jesus says. We go fishing for people who are snagged by their feelings filter, their father filter, their famous filter, or their religious filter. We use the gospel in lots of different ways like worship services, Bible basics classes, outreach events, camps, community service. You use it here, in your home, at work, at school, on the world wide web. And you use the gospel with all kinds of people – friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors.
And why do we do all of this fishing? It’s certainly not because of my feelings, my family experiences, my religion, or all sorts of famous people. It’s because of a filter that has no flaws. Remember Peter fishing in the boat and then going fishing for people? It’s because Jesus says so. And that’s the only filter needed for fishing. Amen.