WHEN THE GOSPEL PUTS US AT OUR BEST
A sermon preached on Luke 5:1-7 by Pastor Jonathan Werre at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD on October 27, 2019.
- At Our Best When We Trust the Word Over Everything Else
This is Peter at his best—“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets for a catch.” Peter was a professional fisherman and he knew that Jesus’ fishing advice was foolish, both in terms of the time of day for fishing and the water depth, and besides, Peter was tired. But Peter had been listening to Jesus’ preach as they washed their nets. And by the power of the Holy Spirit he knew he could trust what this Jesus said. So that when Jesus says, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch,” Peter shows confidence that Jesus knows what he’s talking about, even if his professional opinion said otherwise. This is Peter at his best—“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets for a catch.”
This is a church at its best—“Jesus, we’ve worked hard to continue to preach all the teachings of your Word, including the unpopular ones like the roles of men and women, member communion, money, and we sometimes have had visitors leave, we still struggle to pay the bills. Yet, because you say so, “…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” (Matt. 28:20) we’ll keep on teaching everything.” That is a church at its best.
This is parents at their best, “Jesus, we’re working hard to raise our children in the teaching and instruction of the Lord and it doesn’t seem to make any difference. All the negative influences around them have made them sassy, naughty, sexually active, substance abusers, narcissistic, the kind of children we cannot rouse from bed on Sunday morning to come to church. But because you say so, because you say, ‘Fathers do not exasperate your children, but raise them in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) we’ll keep trying to raise our children in your training and instruction.” That is parents at their best.
This is a Christian steward at his/her best, “Jesus, I’ve worked hard at giving you the firstfruits of my income and I am still struggling with all my other financial responsibilities. But because you say so, I will continue to give you the firstfruits of my income.” That is a Christian steward at his/her best.
- The Struggle To Be At Our Best
“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” Who of us has not felt that way? “Lord, I’ve really, really tried, but it all seems in vain.” You work hard at finding a job, but no decent jobs are offered. You work hard at doing quality work every single day, but the reward is skimpy. You are generous to your relatives/your employees/your friends, but all you get in return is to be taken advantage of, maybe even criticized. You struggle against your most difficult temptation and actually win, but the temptation comes right back at you 45 minutes later. “Lord, we’ve really tried, really tried, but it all seems in vain.”
But this we must remember, this our Lord would have us call to mind: Jesus has not instructed us to judge things by what our eyes see or our feelings feel or what our professional opinion might indicate, but rather to be faithful in following what his Word says and patient as we wait for him to do what he has promised in that Word.
That we fail in this, is just further evidence of our own sinful pride that deep down is convinced that I know better than Jesus. That we fail in this, is just further evidence of my own internal mess and disorder. That we fail in this, is just further evidence that we need Jesus to be our Forgiver not just on Sunday’s, but every day. And he is. That is why he died, and rose again. And why he had us baptized into his name—so that we may know with certainty that thro those baptismal waters he is washing away our sin 24/7 (like Jack Cotter will know).
- The Victory of the Gospel to Put Us At Our Best
But, but, but…we do not always fail in this, do we. Sometimes we do remember his promise, “Know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15:58) and we keep trying. Sometimes we do remember his promise, “Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9) And sure enough, we do not give up. We keep looking for a job, keep doing good work, keep trying to get our kids to church, keep struggling against our pet sins, keep giving our firstfruits to the Lord in our offerings, and even sometimes giving over-and-above gifts for special offerings.
What greater proof could there be of the power of the gospel to create trust in Jesus’ Word than this—that we actually have confidence in what the Bible says even when all of what we see and feel appears to contradict it. Like it did for Peter. Everything he felt and knew about fishing said that Jesus’ instruction was just plain wrong, ““Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Really? And yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he had confidence in the words of Jesus. “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets for a catch.” We might think, it would be easier if Jesus actually spoke his words to me like he did to Peter. But actually, it wouldn’t. It would be much cooler, but not easier, because it is the same thing either way—words, Jesus words that he wants us to trust.
And look what happens. When least expected, the Lord blesses. It may not be in the way we thought the blessing would come. It may, in fact, be a very different kind of blessing than what we were hoping for. But of this you can be sure—it is exactly the kind of blessing that will fill the desires not just of your belly but also the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) For he knows what your heart truly desires better than you do.
And he is a generous Lord. For Peter, a few dozen fish would have been enough and certainly more than expected. But Jesus gave him not just dozens and dozens of fish, enough to fill one boat-full, but he gave him a second boat full of fish as well.
This is one of the blessings of getting older—the older you get, the easier it ought to be to see this. To see that what I have praying for and working for so hard, that when I reflect, I see that what God actually has given me is so much better. To see that, at those times when I was in need and God didn’t seem to do a blessed thing to help me, those times did not harm me at all, in fact, they did a great thing—made me realize even more my total dependence on him and his Word…and what a incredibly safe position to be in! And when he finally did give his blessing, how much sweeter it was. Because God is generous. And the old saying is true, that the longer you wait for a blessing, the more you enabled to enjoy it.
And most of all, through it all, Christ never gave up on me. Though I gave him reason to, he never did. He always kept working to keep me close to his Word, his Sacraments, his worship. Because he wants to one day take me to glory. Wants it so badly. That’s why he did not make heaven a possibility, not even a good deal, but made it a certainty by his own life, death and resurrection. Those who think they will get into heaven by their own merits will surely be damned. But he who believes and is baptized will surely be saved.
This is Peter at his best—“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets for a catch.”
This is a Christian steward at his/her best, “Jesus, I’ve worked hard at giving you the firstfruits of my income each week and I am still struggling with all my other financial responsibilities. But because you say so, I will continue to give you the firstfruits of my income. And sometimes maybe, even an over-and-above gift.” That is a Christian steward at his/her best.
May we be that kind of Christian, that kind of steward. Because we have a God who gave us his best when he gave us his Son. And every day, when you open your eyes, he’s ready to keep on giving you his best, all day long. Amen.