The Miraculous Catch of Fish

3He 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. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:3-5).

Imagine what it was like for Peter. He had been fishing all night (v. 5), and now after cleaning their nets of all weed, he was exhausted and wanted to go home. I suspect, also, that he was discouraged and disappointed with catching nothing, and that they were cleaning their nets because they were finished with them for that time.

When a fisherman comes back to port, it is such a disappointment to him to have caught no fish and admit to a failed fishing expedition, but this was exactly the situation with Peter. The very last thing he wanted to do was to go out into the boat again! He must have been tired after fishing all night, but since Jesus had healed his mother-in-law, he had no option but to respond graciously and obediently. He got into the boat with Jesus and pushed the boat out from the shore, threw down the anchor, and began to listen to Jesus’ talk. They were about to witness a miracle. While living in Israel for a year and a half, I got the opportunity to go out with the local Galilee fishermen from Tiberius, and I asked them why they fished during the night. They replied that it was impossible to catch anything during the day due to the clear water, the fish would see and avoid their nets. During the night the fish couldn’t see the net and could be caught easier.

God has a way of getting our attention. With Peter, it was a huge amount of fish just when he had begun to think that they had overfished the Sea of Galilee to such an extent that now nothing could be caught at the best time of the night. There was a progression of things that he had witnessed, e.g. the demon being cast out in the synagogue, his mother-in-law being healed in front of him, a full evening of amazing healings and deliverances of many people from sicknesses and demons, and now an amazing, impossible event that showed him the reality that Jesus really can do remarkable things when people will walk in obedience to Him. The Lord told Peter to go out into the deep water. The Sea of Galilee measures a depth of 200 feet. There’s no way, Peter probably thought, that his nets would go anywhere near down to those depths, and during the hot part of the day, that would be where the fish would be keeping cool. Because Jesus had said so, though, he stepped out in obedience. Jesus was a builder/carpenter, what did He know about where the fish were and how to catch them? Peter was the expert when it came to fishing, and he was not expecting to catch one fish. What would this carpenter-come-rabbi, know about fishing? It was a good thing that Peter obeyed, despite his doubts.

6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So 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. 8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. 11Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him (Luke 5:6-11).

That day Jesus was after catching more than fish. He wanted to catch men. He caught them bit by bit. First, He asked if He could sit in their boat and talk to the people. Then, He asked Peter to put out a little from shore. Then, He asked them to row out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch (v. 4). He involved them in a miracle. Jesus didn’t have to catch fish. He had much bigger things on His mind. We need to be involved with Him in His enterprise to win the lost. Keith Thomas

The Messiah Enters Jerusalem

28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 32“Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:28-40).

As Jesus prepared to enter Jerusalem, it is very likely that the city was abuzz with Messianic fervor and excitement, because the fulfillment of Daniel’s timeline prophecy that the Messiah would come, was to be that very day. Daniel the prophet had a visit from an angel that revealed to him the exact date that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem:

25Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven “sevens,” and sixty-two “sevens.” It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble (Daniel 9:25).

Seven and sixty-two makes sixty-nine weeks of years. Several people have taken this prophecy and calculated that, from the decree of Artaxerxes the Persian king to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:1-8) in 444 B.C., to the day when Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s foal, the sixty-nine weeks of years was completed. The sixty-nine weeks of years amounts to 483 years with 360 days to a year.  (Jews reckoned time according to a lunar calendar, i.e. thirty days to a month and twelve months to a year.) In his excellent work, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell has gone into detail on this.[1] We don’t know how many people were aware that Daniel’s timeline for the appearing of the Messiah was at hand. There was an expectation among the Jews that this was the time when the Messiah would destroy the Romans and deliver the Jewish people from the occupation of the Romans. Of course, as Christians, we believe that He will come as a conquering warrior, but that is for a time to come. First, He was to come as a suffering servant and a sacrificial lamb to pay for our sins.

The arrival of Jesus on this fulfillment day of Daniel’s prophecy was planned to the last detail. Jesus would not come into the city riding a white horse, a symbol of war, but on a humble donkey. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3), yet he had to borrow someone else’s donkey. The password to borrow it was, “The Lord needs it.” Notice that there was no further explanation required once the owners knew that the Lord needed it. That settled it. They were happy to see their resources used by the Lord. What a lesson that is for us. Is everything we have available for the Lord to use? The donkey had never been ridden before (Luke 19:30), yet it carries our Lord without protest.

Three years into His ministry, the Lord now had a price on His head, a price that Judas cashed in on, but we don’t find Him stealing into the city secretly. How bravely He approached the city on the very day about which the prophet Daniel had written. There was rapturous applause by the crowds as Jesus began the descent from the Mount of Olives with the beautiful city of Jerusalem before and below Him. What glorious defiance of the religious rulers who had tried to intimidate Him again and again. He came to Jerusalem as the promised King spoken of by Zechariah the prophet, fulfilling exactly the prophetic Scripture that He would come having salvation and riding on a donkey:

9Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

[1] Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Published by Nelson, Page 200

Preparing for Death 6 (Scroll Down for Part 5)

We are thinking on the rewards that a believer in Christ will receive when Jesus comes and this evil age is at an end. The Lord said for us to not store up treasure on earth, but store up our treasure in heaven. What do you think are things that you can store up and take with you to heaven? I am sure this is not a comprehensive list, but there are three things that come to mind.

  1. Other people, as in the lives that we have helped along the way.
  2. The things we have learned, e.g. the Word of God that is imprinted in our hearts.
  3. The character of Christ that’s been molded by the Holy Spirit into your inner being.

Spiritual Investment

Now, back to thinking through what we are building with our time, energy, talents, and money. There is an interesting parable that Jesus teaches in Luke 19:11-27. It’s a story about a nobleman who goes on a far journey to receive for himself a kingdom. Before he goes, knowing that it will be sometime before he gets back, he gives his ten servants an amount of money each, a mina, which equaled about 3 months’ wages for a laborer. He tells them to each engage in business, to put the money to work, or invest spiritually, until the nobleman returns. The Greek word that is translated by the phrase “put this money to work” (NIV) or “occupy” (KJV) is pragmateuomai. It means to do business, to invest, or trade with a view to bringing a return on the investment. It is interesting that we get the word pragmatic from this Greek word. Pragmatic means to deal sensibly and realistically with something. We are to sit down and think through ways that we can pragmatically invest our resources in such a way as to get a maximum return for the kingdom of God.

Knowing the character of our Nobleman, King Jesus, we should labor and invest in the things that He has on His heart. That which He cares most about is people—we must have a heart for people if we are to build with gold, silver or precious stones. In the parable, the first steward invested and put the master’s money to work and brought a return of ten for his one mina. The response from the Nobleman was for the steward to not only keep the ten minas but also the reward was ten cities. A vast difference between what was invested and the reward for the labor.

Personally, I think the cities are metaphorical language to help us understand that for what we do for Christ in this sinful world, i.e. how we care for the people for whom He cares, there will be a vast difference between what we invest and the awesome reward that He will give on that Day. I don’t know what the reward will be, but I can wait to find out. Your duty and mine for our Noble Master is to put our character, our time, energy, and resources into His Kingdom. As Christians, we are strangers and pilgrims in this world.

Again, if you have truly believed and placed your trust in Christ, you will enter the eternal kingdom. Your entrance into the Kingdom of God does not depend on your works, but by receiving the gift of God—eternal life in Christ, but those who truly believe should invest their resources into people, while we still have time to invest.

Prayer: Father, cause us to be aware that every day is a preparation for eternity. Help us to be open to the ways that You want to teach us and prepare us for that day. Thank You for watching over us until that day comes. Amen.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

Whose Side Are You On?

You are in the midst of a battle that rages all around us. This battle is being fought on two planes of existence, the visible realm and the invisible realm. On earth there are many kingdoms that are at war with one another, each of them trying to gain some kind of upper hand against the other, think China vs. Taiwan, India vs. Pakistan, Arab against Jew, but in reality these struggles on earth are part of a bigger cosmic battle for dominion over the souls of men and women. In the unseen realm there are only two kingdoms that are at war with one another. You are in one of these kingdoms—either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. The kingdom of Satan is using a great deal of deception and ignorance to blind men to the truth. He has been doing this for several thousand years and has become quite expert at it. This division and struggle among nations and people groups is Satan’s plan to deceive you away from the true spiritual battle as to who will rule you—whose side are you on? Jesus put it this way:

30“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30).

Are you with Jesus Christ? How do you know that you have crossed over to the Kingdom of God’s side of this battle? How can you be sure that when you die you will go to be with Him?

13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13).

You might be living under communist rule or under Islamic Sharia Law, but who owns your soul? Have you made a divine transaction with the Living God and crossed over from the dominion of darkness to trusting Christ with your soul? What do I mean by a divine transaction? Jesus said that unless a man is “born again” (John 3:3) he cannot see the kingdom of God. Satan has so deceived the world that until you give your life to Christ and receive the gift of eternal life, you cannot see the things of Christ and live in the power of the Spirit of God. Being born again is receiving the gift of life from the Lord Jesus. It is a gift. Jesus came to give us life:

27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

This gift of eternal life cannot be earned or worked for. It is a gift you are given when you repent of sin (turn the direction of your life over to God) and believe or trust in Christ to live for Him. The apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians also speaks about this gift of life:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In the West, we celebrate Christmas. It is a time when we remember the coming of Christ to give us the gift of eternal life. We celebrate by giving one another gifts. Even if our children do something really bad the day before Christmas, we still give them a gift on Christmas Day—why? Because a gift is not dependent on what a person does, it is dependent on the love and grace of the giver. A gift is not earned; otherwise it is not a gift. God is the giver of this gift and no matter what you have done, how severe your sin is—you can receive this gift from God. Go to Him and with your whole heart, abandon your old life and receive the gift of eternal life from the Lord Jesus—the giver of every good gift! Keith Thomas

The Strategic Parable of the Soil

11“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:4-15).

What I love about God’s Word is that there is often more than one way to interpret it. Often, Jesus speaks on two levels, for example, on the cellular level and the organism level. While we should receive it at the cellular level, we can also look at it from a strategic sowing and harvesting level of area, state or country. We have been commanded by our Lord to preach the Gospel to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and the end will not come until the job has been done (Matthew 24:14). People resources and financial resources should not be spent on trying to raise a harvest on pathway soil, ground that will bring little return on the investment. Strategic thinking is required to find good soil.

Any good farmer will test the pH level of the soil to find out if it will grow what he wishes to plant. Let me illustrate what I mean. When I worked as a commercial fisherman with my father, we wouldn’t go hunting in the summer for the small fish called sprats. There were only certain times of the year that the sprats would school together in huge numbers. It was not strategic or pragmatic to put sprat nets on our gear and try to catch them. The times and the seasons determined the kind of investment to catch the fish. C. Peter Wagner uses the illustration of an apple farm:

“Suppose I have an apple farm with three fields. In the first field the apples are so ripe that one worker can reap five bushels in one hour. In the second field, only a few have ripened and it would take five hours just to reap one bushel. In the third are no ripe apples at all. I have 30 workers to send out to pick apples. Where to send them is not a difficult decision. I would not send all 30 into the first field where the apples are ripe, but I would send 29. I would ask the other worker to go into the second field and pick as many apples as possible, but frequently to travel over to the third field as well. When this worker returns, I do not expect to see a great number of apples. In this case, I am more interested in information than apples. Through this person I will know when the other apples ripen, and on that basis redeploy my work force. The harvest determines the quantity of workers employed.”[1]

Timing and location are important in bringing in the harvest. Countries and regions go through seasons of fruitfulness. Don’t misunderstand me. There are people in all countries ready to receive the Word of God and come to Christ, but revivals are often due to something that God is doing in a region or country. The Church of Christ needs to look strategically as to where God is working, where the field is ripe. Let me give you an example. Argentina was hard pathway soil that was trusting in its leadership council in the early 1980s. All that changed when the military leadership sent an invasion force to capture the Malvinas Islands or Falkland Islands from the British. Maggie Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, sent the British forces down to the South Atlantic, and after several battles, recaptured the Falklands with the loss of many lives.

The Argentine national pride was humbled, and with it, a loss of trust in their leaders. God said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The humbling of the Argentine people was used of the Lord to turn hard pathway soil to good, rich growing soil. A huge turning to Evangelical Christianity and a massive revival took place! Political situations are used by the Lord to create conditions of a ripening of the soil. God is working by His Spirit everywhere, and history shows us vast moves of the Spirit at different times and places, changing the spiritual climate of those countries.

Some people and countries are tested not by trials, but prosperity. They are lulled to sleep by pursuit of pleasure and do not see their need of Christ, so they do not give Him place in their heart. The Word of God is forgotten, replaced by worldly perspectives. For the most part here in the United States, our soil condition is one of weeds. Fruitfulness is in the soil, but the weeds choke out growth. Our adversary, the devil, pushes hard to transform the culture into one of deception and evil, but I sense that God, out of His mercy, will not allow our complacency to continue! I believe that there will be conditions, situations, and events that will turn the spiritual tide for these United States in order to create the right conditions for a massive harvest among people today, especially our youth.

The USA saw a huge growth in the church during the Jesus movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It is time for another move of God, and we need to be ready to receive new believers by being disciples ourselves in order to disciple others and be those who are fruitful. Let us look at the ground of our own hearts and make sure that there are no weeds of bitterness or unforgiveness and deal with any hardness or unbelief.

Keith Thomas. Taken from the Luke studies in the middle column, Number 16, The Parable of the Soil.

[1] Strategies for Church Growth, C. Peter Wagner, Published by Regal Books. Page 65.