Fifth Sunday After Epiphany: “Walking in Faithful Obedience”
1 Corinthians 15:3-11
Wow! Many times this is the only expression we can say when we are with God. God is in the business of continuing to work in our lives, as His people. It is so good that we belong to Him. It is so good that we have a God who is faithful and Almighty, and now, He invites us to walk with Him.
Psalm 138:8 says, "The Lord will accomplish that which concerns me.” In another translation, it says, “God is committed to my fulfillment.” This Sunday, and for the remainder of the Sundays of Epiphany, we are invited by Jesus to walk with Him and become witnesses of the miraculous life which Christ desires and intends for us to walk in.
The Season of Epiphany is the season where the Divine of God is seen so that we are prepared for a miracle. Many times, we have become so desensitized thinking that what we are experiencing is the “normal life.” It is normal to get sick, to be poor, to have a problem, and to have situations in life that we can’t conquer. There is nothing wrong with these because this is what we see each day, but Christ, today, wants to invite us to give us a new “normal”. He wants us to be brought from the natural life to the supernatural life.
Life can become very challenging filled with frustrations and failures. How can we continue to walk when we don’t see the effect? How can we continue to walk when we are not growing or we don’t see the fruit? How can we continue to walk with Jesus when we have done all that we can, and yet, we still fail? Students study hard, making sure that the hard-earned tuition will be worth, yet they fail their exams or their board examination. People work diligently but find no remarkable results like a promotion, and the list goes on and on.
Luke 5:1-11 is an invitation by Jesus to a miracle, which I would define as an experience of transformation. In the gospel, the setting is the by the shores of the Lake Gennesaret or Sea of Galilee. It is a very common place in Galilee and multitudes were gathered around Jesus as He taught them. Among the many who gathered were three men. They were fishermen who were diligent with their profession and trade. These three men just came from a night of work, doing what they always did and who were good at what they were doing - fishing. These three who were singled out, Peter, James, John, played a very significant role in the mission that Christ placed before them. It ushered them to an exciting world.
Today, we call them St. Peter, St. John and St. James, but before, they were ordinary fishermen, and yet, they were called to a mission. Life is a mission, not just a series of activities that go on day to day. Life is not a flurry of things that we do every day, every year, and every month like a cycle. No, life is a mission and God is going to accomplish what concerns us. God is calling us today to witness a miracle, so that when we leave this place, we will never be the same again. We will be transformed, and this is a miracle.
In the gospel, as the day wears on with Jesus and these men and the multitudes, Jesus sees the two boats that they had just used. The story goes, “ Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon. (It was Simon’s boat, not Jesus’.) He asked Simon to push off a little from the shore. Then He sat down in the boat and taught the people on the shore.4 When Jesus finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Take the boat into the deep water. If all of you will put your nets into the water, you will catch some fish.”5 Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night trying to catch fish and caught nothing. But you say I should put the nets into the water, so I will.”
One thought that I would leave for all of us: as Jesus got into the boat belonging to Simon, let Jesus get into your ‘boat’. For a fisherman, the boat was his life. It was not just his present, but his future. It was his source of living. Without a boat, a fisherman is basically impotent or invalid. We have this ‘boat’ in our lives. We have our boats that we depend on. We have our boats that we hold on so preciously and so dearly. It is the consuming factor in our lives. We have the urge to hold on to what we have worked for so hard in our lives. We have difficulty surrendering our most precious possessions. The call today is: let Jesus get into your boat.
The boat belonged to Peter, but Jesus came into the boat. When we let Jesus get into our boat, we position ourselves to a progressive unfolding, to a series of events that will transform our lives from one degree to another and we will never be the same again. Let Jesus into your boat, and when we do this, the first thing that it will bring is that it will bring us the readiness to obey. True obedience is defined as a quick, immediate, and joyful response.
Do you know how hard it was for Peter when Jesus said to him, “Peter, if you put your net into the water, you will catch some fish.” Do you how hard it was for Peter to obey? Jesus was a carpenter and all He knew was wood, hammer, saw and nails. Peter was a professional fisherman, and here was this carpenter telling him how to fish. Imagine the frustration that Peter had because he worked hard all night as a fisherman. It was very humbling for him to obey Jesus, but he did. One of the traits of being obedient is that of humility. Obedience entails humility, and we need to learn to humble ourselves.
Peter obeyed Jesus and he said, “Master, we worked hard all night trying to catch fish and caught nothing, but you say that I should put the nets into the water, so I will.” This action of Peter to obey opened for him the second step of letting Jesus into your boat. After our readiness to obey, we prepare ourselves for a miracle in our lives. We receive more than what we have lost. Peter gained in about half an hour what he was not able to do and worked hard for all night of fishing. He received so much from God that he needed help just to contain the blessings that overflowed.
When we have Jesus in our boat, we now prepare ourselves for a miracle. Many times, we are at that point where we are so tired, so consumed, but miracles are not for yesterday, but for today. Christ is calling us, “Come, walk with Me and live a life that is miraculous.” God is going to take us to this place where Jesus is there. What was the difference at the time Peter was fishing and at that time he let Jesus into his boat? It was the same sea, same nets that they cast, and the same boat that they used. It was the same companions that they had, but what made the difference? Jesus was in the boat. No human effort is able to achieve more than the effort to have Jesus as our partner in life. No intelligence, no skill or talent can surpass Jesus being in our boat because this is where God wants to take us.
When Peter let Jesus into his boat, he let Him take charge over his life. He humbled himself; he obeyed. Jesus prepared him for a miracle, and this brought Peter to the third step of his life with Jesus: he was ready to be brought a higher walk in life. God called him to a greater purpose in life, not just a fisherman. In verse 10b-11 - Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.” Jesus invites us for a miracle, to a higher walk of life.
It was almost twenty years ago when a young girl was in a hospital and was in an extremely critical condition. I was at a Friday service then and a relative of this girl came prodding and pleading for us to go to the hospital. I took a piece of cloth and I asked the congregation to pray over this cloth. We rushed to the ICU late that night and I could not forget the face of the young girl almost to a point of being in a comma. I laid the cloth on her, and within a short time, suddenly there was a turnaround. From this point on, I believed that God is a Healer. I believe God has given me the experience to see a miracle so that I will not turn back anymore. God wants me to walk to a higher level, and He wants all of us to experience the same thing. Every time there is a problem, we know that there will be a solution. Before the problem of sin came, Jesus was already the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He was already the Lamb that was going to be sacrificed, even before the problem of sin came.
God wants to bring us to a higher walk of life. God transformed the experience I had that night into a series in my life that ushered me and many others to realize the life of the miraculous. Last Thursday morning, I got a call from a young businessman and his weak voice said, “Father, isn’t it that God forgives?” I replied, “What is the problem?” As he was talking, he began to cry and said, “Father, I slept last night with a knife on one hand and a Bible on the other hand. I said to myself, ‘What will I do, will I choose the knife or the Bible?’ Right now, Father, I pray that God will forgive me.” When I got the call, I was teaching Physics to the high school men, but I took the risk from going from Paranaque to Quezon City where this man was. I knew it will be a long time for me to get to my destination with the thought, “Will this young man decide to end it all?” I asked my 22 students to pray for me and they laid hands on me. I realized that I had to skip my Physics and Chemistry classes, but the Lord said, “Leave the 99 good sheep, and go to the one lost sheep.” I went to Quezon City and met this young man in a coffee shop and he embraced me. He told me, “After we talked, somebody called me to ask for a quotation, and I was able to share with him my dilemma because I couldn’t wait for you, Father.” I knew he doesn’t know how to pray, but I told him, “I was blessed by what you said. God loves you.” He was taken aback because this man didn’t talk about spiritual things, but he did at that time because God is a God of miracles!
We have to realize that God wants to take us to a higher level. Like Peter, we know life. We have gone through seminars, and graduated from college and so forth, and we think we can do it all. Pride had seeped in and pride is the very first opposition to a miracle in our lives. Let Jesus into our boat! Jesus invites us!
The Master is calling us to a higher calling. How do we see ourselves this year? What goals do we have in our personal lives for us to make a difference? How can we level up our lives? Will we let Jesus into our boat so that we can be ready to obey and experience a miracle and be brought to a higher level of life? Jesus wants to bring us to a greater experience of life just beyond the ordinary, normal, average, mundane, and dreary life that is filled with fear. Jesus wants to break into our present situation, to get into our “boats” and lead us to the exciting, exceptional, and wonderful life of the miraculous where He takes charge.
Isaiah was probably an ordinary prophet, minding his own business, when the Lord appeared to him. Isaiah 6:8 says, “8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” This passage shows three things: one, the awesomeness and holiness of the Almighty God. Second, the shortcoming, inadequacy of the human life, and third, the grace of God to use man despite of man’s weakness.
In Acts 26:15-18 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV), we see Paul (Saul) diligently doing his function as a Pharisee, when Jesus comes into his boat. 15 “I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “The Lord said, ‘I am Jesus. I am the one you are persecuting. 16 Stand up! I have chosen you to be my servant. You will tell people about me—what you have seen today and what I will show you. This is why I have come to you. 17 I will keep you safe from your own people and from the non-Jewish people, the ones I am sending you to. 18 You will make them able to understand the truth. They will turn away from darkness to the light. They will turn away from the power of Satan, and they will turn to God. Then their sins can be forgiven, and they can be given a place among God’s people—those who have been made holy by believing in me.’”
God is sending us because there are people crying out, languishing in their condition. When the Lord says whom will He send, will we say, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” We are the ones God has called. He invites us to see a miracle today.
In 1 Corinthians 15:10 New Living Translation (NLT), Paul says, “10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.”
Jesus wants us to get into our boat. The question for us is: will we allow Him to be so?