Change: of Occupation, of Direction, of Life

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Ordinary Time 5
February 6, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary : Jesus calls Simon Peter from fishing for fish to fishing for people. This remarkable exchange illuminates how there is hope for everyone, especially those who, hailing from the margins of society, see themselves as sinful and worthless. Jesus is looking for exactly them ... and he's still looking today.

On a website dealing with occupations and change, we find out that ...

Contrast that with your parents or grandparents, many of whom stayed with the same employer for all or most of their working years.

And contrast that with Jesus' day, when almost everyone knew as a child what they would be doing for the rest of their lives: whatever their parents did, they were almost sure to be doing the same thing. Take Simon Peter for example ...


Luke first mentions Simon and how he got to know Jesus in the previous chapter. Luke tells us that after Jesus healed a man with an unclean spirit,2 he went to Simon's house. Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever. Jesus "stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them."3 Jesus apparently spent the night at Simon's house and left the next morning for a deserted place. The crowds looked for him and found him, begging him to stay with them. Jesus said to the crowd, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose."4

Now we don't know how Simon reacted to this, but at the very least, he must have realized that Jesus was not like other men.

Simon Peter and Jesus

In our text today, Luke gives us a clearer picture of these early days as Simon learned more about Jesus and got to know him better. Once again, the crowd was pressing in on Jesus, anxious to hear the word of God from him. Jesus saw two boats at the shore of the lake. The fishermen were out washing their nets. It's interesting they were not joining with the crowd pressing in to hear Jesus speak; they had a job to do and had no time for such a leisurely activity! But Jesus had other ideas for Simon.

Jesus got into Simon's boat and "asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat." Did Simon listen to Jesus teach? Or did he continue washing his nets, not happy with the interruption? We assume Simon listened. Then, when Jesus finished speaking to the crowd, he turned to Simon and gave him fishing advice! Jesus said to him, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."

We know from other situations in Simon's life that he could be quick with his replies, often without thinking about what he was about to say. In this instance, however, he simply spoke the obvious. "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. (Was he really thinking, "And I really don't need advice from a carpenter to tell me how to fish!") Yet if you say so, I will let down the (freshly washed) nets."

By doing what Jesus asked of him, Simon's life took a dramatic turn. The nets caught so many fish they were at the point of breaking. Simon had to call out to James and John, his partners in the other boat, to help haul in the catch.

Simon could have rejoiced and been happy. No doubt this was his best day ever as a fisherman. He, along with his partners, could have made more money on a single day than ever before. Thank you, Jesus!

But Luke tells us about an entirely different reaction by Simon Peter. "But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!'"

Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." And when they brought their boats to shore, Simon and his partners left everything and followed him."

In a world setting where every child knew their life's course would be just like their parents, Simon Peter changed his career and his life. He walked away from his business and his identity as a fisherman, and he took a giant leap of faith to follow Jesus. He had a change of occupation, a change of direction and a change of life. With that change began a course of events that would eventually help change the world.

Change in your life

Alice grew up in the church. Active in Sunday school, youth group and as an adult in worship as part of the choir, she also served on various boards and committees throughout the church. Over the years, the pastors valued her as a helpful member of the church.

For her part, Alice liked the church and knew it as an important piece of her life. She loved Jesus, but ... she knew she was holding back from full commitment to Jesus. Why? She knew exactly: She always believed that if she gave her life completely to Jesus, she would have to leave her job at the bank and leave her community (both of which she loved) and go into full-time mission work overseas.

The day came when she did commit to Jesus completely. She waited with some fear and trepidation to see how the mission field would open for her. It never did. But there was a significant change in her walk with God. She made herself available for whatever change God wanted for her and found out that God used her right where she was. What Alice discovered was that when Christ comes into your life, he affects everything.

When Jesus Christ comes into your life, he affects not only your private life but every part of your life including your vocation. Jesus becomes the priority, and your relationship with him becomes an important thing in every area of your life.

So, what does it look like when that happens?

Change that makes a difference

For Simon Peter, it changed everything. He left everything and followed Jesus. The gospels record much of what Peter did during Jesus' remaining time on earth. He was brash and pushy at times. Jesus had to teach him many things. Even after declaring his unswerving dedication to Jesus, Peter denied Jesus three times the day Jesus was arrested. But from the day of Pentecost onward Peter took on the main leadership role in the early church. He helped the early church navigate rough waters. Truly, he was the rock Jesus spoke of when he said, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."5

In today's text, when Simon saw the great catch of fish, he fell at Jesus' knees and told Jesus to go away from him because he, Simon, was a sinful man. John tells us that after the resurrection, when Jesus appeared on the shore and Peter realized who it was, he jumped out of the boat and headed for shore to see his Lord.6 Simon soon learned firsthand that Jesus was a carrier of grace and a dispenser of forgiveness and second chances.

For Alice, fully committing to Jesus changed everything inside her heart and mind, but did not lead her into the mission field. Where it led her was to an obedient life following Jesus in all she did. She stayed at the bank and met a godly man and they married. Alice is quick to say that none of that would have happened if she had not first committed herself to Jesus.

Next steps

In Luke 18, we read about a man who had much to offer Jesus and the coming church. Usually referred to as the "Rich Young Ruler" he came to Jesus asking how to inherit eternal life. Jesus' reply, as you probably recall, was that he should sell all he had and give it to the poor and then follow Jesus. That was too much to ask, the man thought, and he left very sad. The difference between him and Simon Peter, was that Simon recognized his own sinfulness and realized that Jesus, not riches, was his only hope.

For you and me? God knows, and you may have some idea about what God wants you to be, where God wants you to go and of what God wants you to let go. It may be challenging, but there's likely also a sense of fulfillment ahead for all who would follow Jesus.


COVID-19 and Proclaim Sermons : We are very aware of the innovations pastors are making to bring their preaching directly into homes. We want to help in every way we can. Please feel free to use Proclaim Sermons in any way you need to in your efforts. This includes copying it into emails, using it in video broadcasts or on your website ... frankly, please use it however you think will best serve your congregation.