How do you react in crowded places? After a sporting event, on a bus, sitting in the middle seat of an airplane? What about in an elevator? If you’re anything like me, you suck in your stomach, hunch your shoulders, and simply stare at the little numbers on the panel and say nothing. It’s as if an official sign reads, “No talking. No smiling. No touching. No exceptions!” Such cramped quarters mirror the greater world: a crowded impersonal place full of isolation, anonymity, and independence.
Jesus understood the pressure of crowds, of people’s demands. In his Gospel Luke told of one such example: “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 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” (Luke 5:1–3).
Though His emotions were spent and His body weary, Jesus stayed at it. When He finished teaching, He told Simon Peter, “Put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” “Master,” Simon said, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (vv. 4–5).
No one can criticize Peter for his reluctance. He had fished all night and caught zilch. But he wisely surrendered to Jesus’ command. And when they let down the nets, “they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both of the boats so full that they began to sink” (vv. 6–7).
When the Master of heaven, earth, sea, and sky calls the shots, things happen, which explains Peter’s explosive reaction: “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ feet, and said,
‘Go away from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man’” (v. 8).
Notice a shift in title there? Earlier Peter had called Jesus “master.” After the miracle he called Him “Lord.” Gripped with the realization that he was in the boat with the living God, Peter responded like Isaiah: “Woe is me!” (Isa. 6:5). Then Jesus said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:10). There the two of them stood hip-deep in fish, and Jesus used the opportunity to give the disciples His real message of deep-water faith: “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him” (v. 11).
Amazing, isn’t it? Once they heard Jesus’ invitation, they literally dropped everything. Their lifelong occupations. Their familiar surroundings. Their goals. Their nets and boats. Businesses and future dreams. Everything! And they got involved—with people. People so hungry to hear God’s word that they crowded the shores and sent Jesus preaching in the “pulpit” of a fishing boat.
Perhaps it’s time for you to set out into the deeper waters of faith. It’s time to leave the isolation, roll up your sleeves, and start caring for others—to look people in the eye and touch them. It’s time to trust Jesus more. To hear Him say, “Follow me.”
Instead of fleeing the crowds, let’s follow Jesus and react like Peter. Let’s drop everything and run toward the people rather than from them—no exceptions!
About the Contributors
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His leadership as president and now Chancellor Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.