The scriptural basis for this message, as requested, was Luke 5: 1-11. Inexhaustible, I love this text as I have preached many times on this passage in various context. One of the provocative titles I used is Rock the Boat in two separate occasions but both city churches. One needed a reminder on a change of perspective in order to go deeper towards productive endeavors. This was exemplified by Jesus in the story when he transformed the boat into a pulpit which eventually resulted to paradigm shift of fishermen to fishers of men. The other one was beset with conflict including legal battle that needed more rocking in order to go back to their senses.
As I prepare for this message, another enlightening took place. Hence, I want to emphasize the transformation of Peter and his company after enjoying the fruits of their adventure. Daring to challenge their own knowledge, ability and skills, even their own belief and reservations in order to respond to the needs, they experienced the life-changing encounter.
Using the acronym of the seminary –NETS, I have organized my points in the context of the story, as follows:
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] 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.
The first two verses present the needs of people and Jesus, as well as that of the fishermen. Jesus needs a pulpit to satisfy the cravings of the people for God’s words. In finding a boat, Jesus ably meet the needs both of the people and the owner of the resources. For Jesus also knows the needs of Simon and company. He understands that Peter and his coworkers are capable of bringing in a huge catch. But the problem is that they are absolutely convinced nothing is there to catch, having spent the whole night. There’s a need to overcome their pride.
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.
Such is the encounter of Jesus with the veteran fishermen. After the paradigm shift of using the boat as pulpit, Jesus moves on to the next level of change. In the guise of gratitude for the favor, he encouraged Simon to resume fishing for a compensated catch. With reservation grounded on experience and expertise, Simon dared to risk another attempt. Surprisingly, the cycle has been broken by such paradigm shift. An overwhelming catch rocked their boats.
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.”
Humbled by the encounter, the veteran fisherman bowed to the carpenter’s son. It is safe to presume that Simon might have under estimated Jesus. A transformation takes place in Simon’s heart. But it was just a prelude of the real transformation in the lives of the fishermen. Thereafter they become fishers of men.
11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
This seals off the transformation process. Instead of savoring the gains of their catch, they forsake all and follow Jesus. Rather than advancing their needs and interests, they serve the interests of Christ – advancing the Kingdom of God.
True service is a by- product of transformation, resulting from a personal encounter with the One who knows our needs.
It unfortunate that there are some who see the need without any attempt to respond. Hence, they deprive themselves of the personal encounter. Some have encounters but without transformation. While others experience transformation but fail to actualize this through service.
You are privileged to be part of the history, having been honored as the pioneer graduates. You have an obligation to spread the word of the NETS based on your actual experiences. You joined the NETS because of particular needs. Such needs have been met by personal encounter which have transformed your perspectives and lives. It is your turn to translate this transformation into true service. Congratulations and God bless you in your mission to spread the NETS story.
*Excerpts of my recorded video message during the First Commencement Exercise of the Negros Theology Seminary (NETS) held at Balay Kauswagan Sagay City, Negros Occidental on April 8, 2011. Photo credit: Maemeh De-maala Salvador