Pastor Scott Andrews | January 28, 2024
Years ago, I read a book that rocked me a bit. It was written by Kyle Idleman, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a mega church with thousands attending weekend services. The book, titled Not A Fan, was quite popular.
Idleman’s premise in the book is that Jesus is calling people to be followers, not fans. What’s the difference? Well, he says, the definition of a fan is “An enthusiastic admirer.” Like the guy who goes to the football game with no shirt and a painted chest. He sits in the stands and cheers for his team. He’s got bumper stickers on the back of his car and a team jersey he wears on casual day at the office. But…he’s never in the game. He never breaks a sweat or takes a hit. He just watches. Admires. Even cheers. His only sacrifice? Too many beers.
Now, he does know all about the players – their stats, strengths, weaknesses. He knows where they went to college, in what round they were drafted. But he doesn’t actually know them. He’s just a fan. Here’s the question – are you a follower of Jesus, or just a fan? Idleman goes on, I asked if you were a follower – I didn’t ask any of the following questions:
- Do you go to church?
- Are your parents Christians?
- Did you raise your hand at the end of a service?
- Did you repeat a prayer after a preacher?
- Did you walk forward during the twelve-minute version of “Just as I Am?”
- Do you own more than three Bibles?
- Is your ringtone a worship song?
- When you pray are you able to use five or more synonyms for God?
- Have you ever kissed dating goodbye?
- Under religious views, does your Facebook page say, “Christ Follower”?
- Did you dog Harry Potter and rave about Lord of the Rings?
- Did you get a purpose-driven life in 40 days or less?
- Do you say “Bless their heart” when speaking badly about someone?
- Do you understand phrases like “traveling mercies” and “hedge of protection”?
There have always been fans of Jesus, even when He walked the earth. People liked Him for what He did for them: healing them, feeding them. For a time, He was quite popular, gathered lots of fans, people who came to watch the show – applaud – pass the popcorn.
But then, there was His teaching – His call to not be merely fans, but followers. We find often when Jesus gathered a big crowd by healing diseases and filling stomachs, He often drove them away with His words. For example, once He gathered a large crowd by feeding 5,000 men at one time. Then He left, and they jumped in boats and went across the Sea of Galilee to get more. They had become big-time fans. And so Jesus had some hard things to say, “you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled…I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst [suddenly, Jesus is the only thing on the menu]…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”
To which the fans said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it.” Jesus, we’re hungry – we were hoping for an encore performance. Where’s the Golden Chorale you set up yesterday? The text goes on, “As a result of this many of His disciples [read, fans] withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” You see, fans are fickle – we call them fair weather fans. The teams loses too many times, just switch allegiances. What’s interesting is, when they left, Jesus didn’t go after them. He doesn’t water down His message. He doesn’t make it more inviting. He let them leave. He even turned to the disciples who stayed and asked, “Are you going to leave, too?”
And yet today, we try to make Jesus as attractive as possible. Pretty hair, white robe, blue sash, smiling, holding children, kissing babies, healing people, driving out demons, filling stomachs. So, here’s the question – are you a fan or are you a follower of Jesus? Fans politely applaud on the sidelines, enjoy the show, memorize the stats, pass the popcorn. Most of us can quote John 3:16 – but what about Luke 9:23? “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
If a fan is just an enthusiastic admirer, what then is a follower? Very simply, a follower is someone who knows Jesus – not knows about Him – but knows Him, and follows Him, no matter the cost, and does what He says. You see, you can’t call yourself a follower if you’re not following. Showing up once a week for the show, to sing a couple songs and applaud, doesn’t count. Oh, the gathering of the church is part of it, but included in the idea of following are words like commitment, sacrifice, surrender, obedience. James said it this way, “Don’t merely listen to the word, do what it says.” Listen to these words of Pastor Idleman:
“Jesus was never interested in having fans. When He defines what kind of relationship He wants, ‘Enthusiastic Admirer” isn’t an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following Him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything of them.”
Are you a fan, or are you a follower? We are in a study of the gospel of Luke. To this point, Jesus has done some amazing things. He was becoming quite the sensation – gathering lots of fans. Now yes, we saw His hometown wasn’t impressed – they didn’t like it when this hometown boy suggested they were poor and blind and captive and needy. They tried to throw Him off a cliff. So, He made His way to Capernaum. As I’ve said, it became His base of operations in Galilee.
On a sabbath, He healed a demon-possessed man in the synagogue. Very impressive play, Jesus, the cheerleaders applaud. Then He went to Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. That evening, after the sabbath ended, people brought all their sick – and He healed them all. And the people of Capernaum wanted Him to stay – they were fans. You see, they liked what Jesus could do for them. But they weren’t so much followers.
Bringing us to our text today in Luke 5. In this passage, we watch as Jesus moves Peter, and others, from being fans, to followers. And my prayer this week has been that He would do that for some of us today. Read it with me – Luke 5:1-11.
Peter began this day as a fan, but finished it as a follower. You see, Jesus has enough fans – sitting in the stands, filling churches, watching, listening, cheering. And yes, it may start there. That’s what Luke intends. But if it ends there, you’ll simply remain a fan. And fans don’t really know Jesus.
This text is significant for the foundation of the church. That’s not an overstatement. In Ephesians 2, we read that God’s household, His church, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus here begins the process of calling disciples to Himself, twelve of whom He will call apostles. And the leader of that band is Peter.
We actually need to rewind a few months. Remember, Eastern historians were not as fastidiously concerned about chronology. They had a purpose, and Luke’s purpose as an able historian and credible theologian was to prove Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that you can have confidence in what you have believed – so that you will followers, and not fans.
But for western thinkers, putting things in proper order is important to us. So, we’ve talked about this. Jesus went to the Jordan to be baptized by John, which served as His introduction – the Spirit of God descended on Him, the voice of the Father came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” The apostle John tells us soon thereafter, perhaps the next day, John the baptizer saw Jesus coming and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Let’s go ahead and read the text – John 1:29-34 says:
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
30 “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
31 “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.”
32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.
33 “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’
34 “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
So, they’re by the Jordan where John is baptizing. Jesus came to be baptized, and John saw the Spirit descend on Jesus. This is the one who will baptize you with the Spirit; this is the One for whom I was sent as the forerunner. The text goes on – stay with me:
35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples,
36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?”
39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
41 He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ).
42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
So, we see here Peter and Andrew were first introduced to Jesus at the Jordan River – like months ago. But, we know Jesus did not immediately go back to Galilee. He seems to stay south in Judea for up to six months. At some point, after the temptation, He goes with His disciples to Cana for the wedding – turning water into wine. Then, He goes back to Jerusalem because the Passover was approaching. There, He had that famous conversation with Nicodemus. Then, He made His way north to Galilee, stopping at Jacob’s well, where He revealed Himself to the Samaritan woman. On they go to Galilee.
And the ministry in Galilee then begins in earnest. Yes, He eventually goes to Nazareth, but didn’t receive a hero’s welcome. So, on to Capernaum, where Peter was living with his wife and mother-in-law. It seems, while Peter had hung out with Jesus down in Judea, at some point he returned to his home and his vocation – fishing. In Capernaum, after that synagogue miracle, Peter invited Jesus over for the Sabbath meal. That’s when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and later that evening, many sick people in the area, also driving out demons.
It’s sometime later – we don’t know exactly when. The first few words of Luke 5 are indeterminate – now it happened. It came about later. Which brings us to our text. I share all that to show how Peter knew Jesus – at least, he was familiar with Him. It seems they hung out in Judea. But by now, Peter is back to the family business of fishing. The business includes at least his brother Andrew and seems to also have James and John as partners. Let me give you the outline of the text:
- Jesus’ Teaching (1-3)
- Peter’s Fishing (4-7)
- Peter’s Journey from Fan to Follower (8-11)
At some point after that amazing Sabbath when Jesus delivered a demon-possessed man, healed Peter’s mother-in-law; after preaching the gospel of the kingdom throughout Galilee, Jesus finds Himself back in Capernaum. He’s well-known by now with lots of fans. So much so they were pressing in around Him to hear Him share the word of God by the lake of Gennesaret. Luke alone calls it Gennesaret, which refers to a fertile plain to the west of the Sea. Some call it the Sea of Galilee, others the Sea of Tiberias, and Luke alone calls it a lake. Which is appropriate, it’s 13 miles long and 7 miles across at its widest point – not really a sea, more a lake.
But the people are pressing in around Him – like when the home team pulls an upset, and all the fans rush the players on the field or the court. Now, He was teaching the word of God. Most agree this means, what Jesus said was indeed the God’s word, since He only said those things God told Him to – besides, He was God in the flesh. His teaching would have been amazing – with authority.
So, as people are pressing in, Jesus saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake. The fishermen had gotten out of them and were cleaning the nets. Several thoughts here. First, night fishing on the lake was the best time to fish. During the day, the fish dive down deeper to avoid the light and heat of the sun. Second, the fact the fishermen were cleaning their nets indicates it was probably morning. Third, the nets were called trammel nets – very long nets weighted on one side to be used as drag net – and it typically took two boats to operate. Finally, since they could drag the bottom, they would pull up seaweed and mud and had to be cleaned to preserve them. They would then be laid out in the sun to dry, prepared for the next night of fishing. I know, you are amazed at how much I know about fishing.
As the crowd pressed in around Him, He got in Peter’s boat and asked Peter to push off a few yards so He could preach. The bay would have acted as a natural amphitheater. So, He sat down to teach the people.
Now listen – this is where discipleship – followership – begins: hearing truth about the gospel of the kingdom. Hearing the truth about Jesus. Paul said, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of or about Christ. Christianity starts with propositional truth – the truth of the gospel. Hearing of the perfect life of Jesus – that’s called Christ’s active righteousness when He lived a life we could not live because we were born sinners – sinners by nature and by behavior; and therefore, hearing of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus – that’s called His passive righteousness. And by faith in that work – two imputations happen. First, our sins are imputed to Him – He bore them on the cross – dying in our place – a substitutionary atonement – the just dying for the unjust. So, He gets our sins imputed to Him – and then second, we get His righteousness imputed to us. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. That is the gospel – and by God’s unmerited grace through faith, this great exchange, this new life, eternal life, begins.
So don’t miss it – the gospel is propositional truth. You were born a sinner, you lived as a sinner, and then by His Spirit you were regenerated – you were born again and came from death to life. Meaning, no one has been a Christian all their lives. If that is your testimony – I’ve always been a Christian – then you need to be saved. You are still dead in your sins. Because, new life, a new creation comes by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone.
But is that it? Does it end there? That brings us to our second point. You see, Jesus was up to something when He picked Peter’s boat. Peter, and others – enthusiastic admirers – are in the boat. It was time to move Peter from fan to follower. So, He looked at Peter and said, put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. You know, the nets you’ve just finished cleaning. Simon protested. Master – don’t miss that word. Remember, he’d been with Jesus off and on for a few months now. He was gathering a following. He called Him Master – other gospels call Him rabbi – same idea. He’s the master others are following. You’re in charge.
Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. Remember, these were professional fishermen. They knew the best time and the best places to fish. They’d fished all night, and caught nothing. Not highly unusual – but they’d struck out. They were tired, nets cleaned – it was time for a meal and some sleep. Besides, Jesus was a carpenter – what do You know about fishing. Peter could have become irritable – you’ve just stepped over the line. What do You know about what I do. I’m the professional here.
But, to his credit, Peter said, I will do as you say – You’re the master, You’re the boss – besides, You healed my mother-in-law, so I owe you one. I’ll let down the nets. You know the story – they – probably Peter and Andrew – let down the nets and something amazing happened. With that long dragnet, they caught so many fish, the nets began to break.
Now, last week I suggested the story this week contains a nature miracle. Yes, He will later walk on water, calm storms. But in this miracle, they caught many fish – during the day – miracle. They’d never seen anything like it. Now here’s a question – what was the miracle, or were there several? Was it that Jesus kept the fish away all night? Was it that Jesus called the fish in the lake to make beeline for the nets? Was it simply His omniscience that He knew where to cast the nets? Who knows – the point is, this was miraculous, and we’ll see in a moment they knew it.
As the nets began to break, Peter and Andrew signaled for their partners to come – verse 10 tells us they were James and John. Remember, it usually takes two boats to work this large net. Further, when they brought the nets up and got the fish in the two boats – they began to sink. Too many fish. Now, we know from history, these boats were large enough for about 8 men or so. A few years ago, they discovered a boat from this time period buried in the mud off the coast of Capernaum. Not Peter’s boat, but probably much like it. They were about 25 feet long, 7 feet wide, 4 feet deep. Meaning, to sink two boats of this size – it was a lot of fish. Undoubtedly, more than they had ever seen. This was miraculous, and they knew it.
Bringing us to our third point, as Jesus focused His attention on Peter, who will be the leader of the apostolic band. Suddenly, Peter realizes something significant has just happened. Verse 9 says amazement had seized all of them because of this catch of fish. He realized he was in the presence of Someone different, other. Someone holy. One author suggests if Jesus could see into the depths of the sea, He could see into the depths of His heart. He falls at Jesus feet – literally, knees – and cried out, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
There is so much here. First, notice Peter went from master to Lord. Is it a declaration of deity? Maybe not in the fullest sense. Peter is just a fisherman; he’s been hanging around Jesus for a little while now. He’s been impressed – dare I call Him an enthusiastic admirer. But something just happened that rocked his world. Only Someone other – different – divine could do what Jesus just did. How much Peter understood – figured out – at this time – who knows. I do think the expression Lord means more than sir, as some suggest. Else why would he fall to His knees. Why would he cry out, depart from me? He knew something.
But notice second, Peter’s response was, go away from me. He knew he was a sinner, and he was in the presence of Someone other – holy – perhaps divine. He had the same experience as Job eventually had when God confronted him and Job covered his mouth and repented in dust and ashes. It was the same response when Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, and he cried out, woe is me, for I am undone. It is the same response as his partner John will later have – after believing in Jesus, but seeing Him is His glory in Revelation 1 – he falls on his face like a dead man. A proper vision of Christ will cause you to see your own sinfulness and unworthiness, and His infinite worth. And we repent.
You see, admirers sit in the stands and applaud. Those who move from fan to follower realize who Jesus is, and they repent. They see themselves for who they are and see Jesus for who He is. They put their hands over their mouths – meaning they offer no defense – and they repent in dust and ashes. They bow in His glorious presence. Where would be without Him.
But notice thirdly, Jesus’ response when Peter cried out, Go away from me. Verse 10, Jesus said, Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men. Think about it. Nazareth wanted to kill Him. They would not receive Him, so He left. Capernaum wanted Him to stay, because they liked what He could do for them, so He left. Peter wanted Him to leave – because he understood His otherness – His holiness – and his own sin. And Jesus said – you’re exactly where I want you to be. You’ve moved from fan to follower, Peter. Listen, Jesus does not cast away sinners – He calls the sinners to Himself.
Jesus is not interested in fans. He’s interested in those who know who He is, who call Him Lord, and surrender to His Lordship. Those who obey Him. To be clear, it is not your obedience that makes you a Christian, but it does prove you are one.
So, Jesus said, You will no longer fish for fish, but you will fish for men – you will be catching men. Interesting word – when you fish for fish, you catch them to kill them. These weren’t sport fishermen, these weren’t catch and release guys – they were fishermen who fished for commerce and for food. They fished to kill the fish so they or others could eat them.
But Jesus uses an interesting word at the end of verse 10 – you will be catching men – the word catching is literally catching alive. You will catch men alive – for life, to life. You will be catching people to bring them to the gospel of life.
Verse 11 – when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything – apparently even the great catch of fish, the boats, the nets – everything – and followed Him. Three things we see of true followers. First, they hear the truth. Second, they repent. And third, they follow. They are willing to forsake all to follow Him. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.
One suggested they left career ambitions behind. They left their old sins behind. They left safety and security, the way they’d always lived. They left behind their right to call their lives their own.
So that’s the question this morning – which one are you – a fan or a follower? I could ask it this way – has Jesus changed your life in any demonstrable way? Are you different because you know Jesus? Would your life be any different than it is now, if you didn’t know Jesus – you know, besides getting a couple extra hours on Sunday morning? Are you an enthusiastic admirer, or do you know Him? Do you know the gospel, have you understood your sin and repented, and do you follow Him?