Arise and Shine (Luke 5:1-11)

Do you ever think about how much fish the disciples left behind on those boats in Luke 5? Really, think about it.

They’ve fished all night and caught nothing. They are cleaning their nets, maybe wondering where the next meal is going to come from. There were no fish; there won’t be anything to sell in the marketplace and definitely nothing to eat.

Then, miraculously at the command of Jesus, their nets are overflowing.

Actually, scratch that, their nets are tearing. They need another boat to come and help them load all the fish they’ve caught. Then, the boats start to sink.

We aren’t talking about a few fish; we are talking about thousands and thousands of fish. We are talking a fortune for the marketplace. It is an unfathomable abundance.

And the disciples leave it all behind.

Let me modernize the story, for you:

You’ve been playing the Powerball for years and never even won the minimum prize. You are about to give up when you meet Jesus, and He tells you to give it one more shot with six specific numbers. Later that evening, all the numbers hit. You are a multi-millionaire. Then, you get a knock on the door.

It is Jesus, and He is smiling – and He asks you to follow Him. But first, you need to set that lottery ticket down on the floor of you apartment and walk away.

How difficult would that be? Can you imagine the feeling that James, John, and Peter had looking at the once-in-a-lifetime catch before walking away? In front of them is Jesus and a very uncertain future, but behind them is financial security and wealth. What would you choose? Do you cash that lottery ticket?

The only way that the disciples could walk away is if they knew and believed something better was ahead of them. That catch of fish was nothing compared to what Jesus offered.

Youth ministry isn’t a career path that people equate with luxury and wealth. There are plenty of jokes about the car youth ministers drives, the diet youth ministers eats, and the kind of places a youth minister lives. We aren’t in this for the money, but sometimes it can be tempting. I’ve asked myself plenty of times, “Why didn’t you just go into medicine like you planned?” After all, I could still be a youth ministry volunteer, right?

All of us are called to different places and careers. Some make more money than others. Jesus doesn’t give us a salary description with a call – Jesus just promises that if we follow Him, He will provide. For some of us, that call means leaving behind a lot of wealth, seeming financial security, and our decision may appear crazy to people around us.

This Sunday’s Gospel is a gut-check, but not in the traditional, “Peter follows Jesus,” kind of way. Peter didn’t follow Jesus because he was a bad fisherman and had nothing better to do. Peter leaves behind…a lot. Later on, Peter tells Jesus that they’ve left everything to follow Him, then asks what they’ve gained (Matthew 19:28). Jesus promises something beyond the wealth of the world; He promises greatness in the next.

Maybe you’ve left something behind to be a youth minister. Maybe it was that nice 9-5 job or a large paycheck. Maybe it is the prospect of living in that big house or driving that dream car. Maybe it is job security as your parish faces cutbacks, or maybe it is living as a missionary with no paycheck at all. Whatever you’ve left behind, Jesus leads us toward something greater. It simply begins with trust.

For some of us, it may mean letting go of something today we are still holding onto. It may mean being willing to set that lottery ticket down and leave it behind so we can follow Jesus. We may still be looking over our shoulder and wondering if we are making the right choice.

Fear not, my friends. Wealth and glory are not what you have left behind – they are what you are walking toward, as long as you are walking behind Christ.


Image via FlickrCC 2.0 Logo added

About the Author

Joel Stepanek

I spent most of my 8th grade year in detention because there wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t accept. But in high school, my youth minister dared me to follow Christ and I haven’t looked back. I love all things Wisconsin, especially the Green Bay Packers. I can probably eat more cheese than you. (Please don’t dare me to prove it.) Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @ChasingHumility.

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