Read Luke 5 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Simon Peter hauls his boat in from the lake of Gennesaret. A long night of fishing with no success. He begins to clean his nets, hoping for better luck tomorrow. Before he even finishes washing the nets, Jesus – THE Jesus, the traveling teacher everyone is talking about – climbs into his boat and asks him to put it out a bit from the land. With a front-row seat next to Jesus, Peter listens as Jesus teaches.
As Jesus wraps up His lesson, He tells Peter to put the boat in the deep and let down the nets for a catch. “Um…okay…but, you know we fished all night with no luck. The conditions haven’t changed. And you’re a carpenter, right??...what do you know about fishing?” Peter might have been thinking. But Peter does as instructed, and he is rewarded with more fish than the boat can handle. Peter could have called it a day, made excuses, even argued with Jesus, but he would have missed out on this beautiful invitation. “From now on, you will be catching men.” Jesus meets Peter in his place of work and weaves it into his calling.
Jesus heals and teaches. People are amazed. Masses follow Him, hoping or a word or a miracle. Levi (Matthew) watches it all from a distance. He has learned to keep his head down; to avoid the inevitable stares and rebukes from the religious people. He long ago traded his reputation for riches, knowing full well how his profession would isolate and ostracize him.
From his tax collector booth, he hears the noises of the crowd growing louder and louder, coming closer and closer. When he finally looks up, he is face to face with Jesus. “Here we go…another finger-pointing and annoying lecture on what a terrible sinner and person I am…been there, done that,” he was probably thinking. Instead, Jesus says simply, “Follow me.” His entire life he has felt shunned by God and religion, but now the greatest teacher is seeking him out and inviting him to tag along. Instantly Matthew trades riches for relationship.
Matthew fills his big house with his people – the other outcasts, sinners, tax collectors, unbelievers. There are no rules, rituals, or requirements to come to this party. Matthew wants all of his tribe to experience what he did earlier that day. The religious elite are outraged that Jesus would fit in so comfortably with this gang of misfits. But Jesus is exactly where He is most accepted, with those who know they don’t have it all figured out or neatly together. Tonight, He dines with those who know they need a Savior. Jesus meets Matthew in his place of work and weaves it into his calling.
Jesus meets us where we are too. In the ordinary, busy, messy, and mundane. He says, “follow me.” We can keep our heads down, make excuses, try to tidy things up first, or we can follow Him and be radically changed. “If the Gospel announces anything, it announces a God who meets us where we are, not where we ought to be.” (Robert Capon)
The religious elite are never far behind… lurking, challenging, questioning. They ask why the disciples of John (and of the Pharisees) fast, while the disciples of Jesus eat and drink. Jesus responds that a day is coming when the bridegroom will be taken away…then they will fast. He hints of something new to come with a parable about wineskins. New wine won’t work in old wineskins…it will only burst, spill, and be destroyed. New wine must be put in new wineskins. Jesus has come to usher in something new.
Jesus teaches in boats, along the dusty roads, in homes, on the mountainside, and even in the synagogues. He wants everyone to have the opportunity to hear the good news. He meets His disciples – the ones to carry on His ministry – where they are working, in the ordinary course of doing their jobs. And He radically changes their lives. He meets them where they are, in their mess and monotony, but He doesn’t leave them where they are. New wine doesn’t work in old wineskins. He has good news to share with them, so they, in turn, can share the good news with others.
Why do you think it was so radical for Jesus to hang out with the sick, poor, sinners, and outcasts? What message is He sending to those who are watching?
In one of the healing stories in this chapter, we find a group of men bringing their paralytic friend to Jesus to be healed. The crowds are crazy and they can’t get to Jesus, so they climb the roof and lower him down with his bed through the tiles to get to Jesus. Do you have friends who will go to these lengths to bring you to Jesus? Are you this kind of friend?
Think about the wine and wineskin parable? What do you think this means? Practically, what does it mean in your life?