The Marks of Disciples of Jesus
This is a remarkable narrative in the New Testament for our instruction; first, that we may share in the astonishment of those who first observed it, and second, that we may also, in our own lives, respond the way the disciples did and follow Jesus.
From this passage we are going to talk about four marks or characteristics of Disciples of Jesus.
1. They Listen and Teach the Word of God.
Verse 1 - On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
If we look at chapter 4 of the gospel of Luke, Jesus had healed so many people that He withdrew from the multitudes into a remote place. But they pursued him relentlessly, asking Him to stay in their midst and continue His healing ministry among them. He responded,
Luke 4:43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
As we come to chapter 5, we see that the people continued to press around Him. On this occasion, however, they did so not to insist on healings and miracles, but rather that they might hear the Word of God. It is a good thing that the multitudes, instead of just looking for personal gain, came rushing to Jesus when He explained to them that His mission was to proclaim the Word of God. The multitudes still came, and they pressed about Him because they wanted to hear the Word of God.
Oh, how it would be the case that God would cause a revival in our land, that people would press into the kingdom of God and have a flaming desire in their hearts to hear the Word of God.
We live in a society that does not know the true nature of God and the gospel. They don’t know the God-centered nature of what sin is, and what God’s glory and law are, and who Christ is and what happened on the cross and what faith is and what love is and what heaven and hell are. Therefore, to win these people we need to develop structures of teaching.
This seems to be the way Paul did it sometimes. In Acts 19:9-10 Luke said that Paul “reasoned daily in the hall of Tyrannus [that is, he taught]. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” What a great church planting strategy: teach unbelievers daily in a public hall about the Christian worldview for two years!
In any case, Jesus was standing by the lake when He began to teach, and He saw that there were two boats anchored by the lake. The fishermen were gone from them because they were mending their nets.
In this text, these fishermen were sitting by the way, washing their nets. Jesus got into one of the boats, which happened to be Simon Peter’s, and He asked him to put out a little ways from the land so He could get some space from this multitude pressing against Him.
And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
That’s the first mark of the disciples of Jesus. They teach the word of God. The second is that they . . .
2. They Obey the Commands of Jesus.
4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
When Jesus told Simon in verse 4 to push out into the deep, Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets (v. 5).
You know what Peter was thinking. This was impulsive Peter. He was thinking: “Jesus, You know all about theology. We love to hear You teach about the things of God and the kingdom of God, but give us some credit. We’re professional fishermen. We know about how to fish and how not to fish, where to fish and where not to fish. We’ve been out there all night, and our nets were empty.”
When he actually spoke, however, Peter was relatively polite. He said, “Master”—that’s a good way to start—“we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net.” In other words, he was saying, “I don’t want to do this, Master, but since you are the Master, and since You’ve given me the command to do it, I’ll do it, although reluctantly.”
But isn’t it encouraging that the Lord does not scold Peter, but accepts his half-hearted obedience and does the miracle anyway. The time is never perfect. And our hearts are never perfect. But Christ honors simple efforts to obey him.
Luke continues: 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
Before we move any further, we must understand how that happened. Who made those fish? Who is the Lord of those fish? Those were Jesus’ fish. Jesus made those fish. He made the lake. When Jesus told His men to put the net in the water, the fish came to do the bidding of the Master. There was hesitancy on the part of Peter, but no hesitancy on the part of the fish. The fish were jumping to their deaths at the bidding of their Master.
This was the greatest catch of fish these fishermen had ever experienced in all their years of fishing in this lake.
That’s the second mark of a disciple. He obeys Jesus. Here’s the third:
3. They Humble Themselves
8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
How does Peter respond to the miraculous catch of fish?
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter sinks to his knees in awe before this mysterious figure: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In other words: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinner. If you only knew to whom you were speaking! My spirit is dull and my heart is weary. Depart from me!”
Ask the Lord to give you a growing awareness of His presence as well as a keener sense of the depth of your need for His pardon.
When Peter and the others saw the blessing Jesus had given them – the way he had used them to gather the fish in spite of their half-hearted obedience – verse 8 says, “Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Oh, how we need to see this and experience it.
Do you want to know why this church isn’t filled right now? Because there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who want to stay as far away from Jesus as they possibly can. The reason they want to avoid the worship and presence of Jesus is the same reason Peter gave to Jesus: “Please leave. Get out of here. Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”
The reason sinners don’t want to come to church is because they’re sinners, and nothing makes a sinner more uncomfortable than the presence of a holy God. We’ve seen in chapter 4 the response of the demons to Jesus: “Jesus, please leave. Why are You tormenting us here before the time?” The demons couldn’t stand to be in the presence of the holy, and neither could sinners.
It’s the opposite of saying: “Wow, look at the way we get blessed when we follow Jesus! Biggest catch of fish we’ve ever had. We could market this! Let’s get a movement going. Call it, ‘Trust Jesus, get fish!’ No, Peter looked at grace – pure grace – and felt utterly unworthy and said so.
Now we have seen three marks of Jesus’ Disciples: they listen and teach the word of God, they obey Jesus’ commandments, they humble themselves. Now, finally,...
4. They Treasure Christ above all.
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Peter and James and John respond with hearts overflowing with the value of knowing Jesus: “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” This is what it means to follow Jesus: he is more valuable to us than everything (see Luke 14:33). I count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).
Ask the Lord to show you what it is that you value more than Jesus. Is He more valuable to you than your money? Your spouse? Your children? Your career? Prestige? Pleasure? For sure there is something that we must bring and lay down at the feet of Jesus.
What do you need to leave behind to follow the Lord more fully?
“So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” Fame, glory, riches, power—all these things were forsaken because they realized that nothing could compare with this One who just performed that miracle before their eyes. Nothing could compare with this One who was the Treasure of Great Price. They had nothing to trade for the greatness of the benefits from Jesus, so they stopped running from Him. That is what happens at conversion. That is what happens when your life is turned around by God the Holy Spirit. You stop being a fugitive.
The tragedy for me is that the fugitives are not just outside. There are people in this room who are still fugitives, who are still fleeing from Jesus, hiding from Jesus, wearing a mantle or a cloak of respectability by coming to church and so on, but in their hearts, they’re still saying: “Depart from me. I’m not ready to forsake all and to follow You.” However, once you’ve heard the Holy One say to you, “Your sins are forgiven; come, follow Me,” then the Spirit of God changes that rock in your chest that you call a heart and causes it to beat anew under the Spirit’s breath. Then, all you want to do is get as close as you possibly can to Jesus and follow Him the rest of your life. That is what it means to be a Christian.
So here is my prayer for all of us: May the power and authority of Jesus Christ move multitudes of people into eternal kingdom blessings by means of his disciples at New City Imphal who listen and teach the word of God, obey the commands of Jesus, humble ourselves, and treasure Christ above all.