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Back to School, Part 2

Jesus cuts through our manmade spiritual grading system and makes it clear that He invites students that are much different than who we might choose as we saw in the last post. How freeing is it to have a God who isn’t looking for only the straight A students and the Teacher’s pets?!

I love when Jesus collides with Simon and says “come and follow me”  in Luke 5.

This story starts out with Jesus being stalked by crowds of people gathering around Him. Jesus, the Rabbi, spoke with authority and His teachings were enthralling and met with miracles. His teaching changed lives, causing people to turn from one direction and go in an entirely opposite direction. Jesus the Teacher taught about the Divine in a way that made get around girls want to live chaste lives. His teaching made greedy men, who hoarded their wealth, want to throw their resources towards helping others. This Teacher allured blind men who couldn’t see Him but could sense His presence; they came begging for what He had for them.

Here in Luke, the Teacher spots two boats on the water’s edge and very intentionally hopped into Simon’s. Jesus who clearly had a direct line to the Big Man upstairs, Jesus who was supremely spiritual, all knowing, a professor of God, if you will, jumped into the boat of a spiritually unschooled man! This is how the religious people in the culture of that day would have graded Simon. And Simon most likely identified himself as a spiritual flunky in comparison to the kids on God’s honor roll.

It wasn’t that Simon wasn’t intelligent, more than that he was just not respected in his religious knowledge, experience and understanding of God. He didn’t have the inside scoop, nor all the answers and none of the cool stories. He was just an ordinary fisherman. So what would Jesus want with the likes of Simon?

Jesus asked him to put out from shore and then taught from the boat. We don’t know if there was a lecture or sermon, but we do know there was a lesson. When He was done speaking, Jesus said “put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” Simon is frustrated because he has done everything within his capabilities, expertise and knowledge to catch some fish and has come up short. The last thing a fisherman wants is a carpenter telling him how to do his job. This is like my husband telling me how to cook, an illiterate person telling you how to read faster, or a blind person teaching you how to drive.

Keep in mind, it is a known fact that fishing on this lake is better at night, and nets will do nothing for you in daylight because the fish go deep at daylight. This seems to be bad advice from a supposed Teacher. Simon most likely felt more like a teacher than a student in this area of fishing. He probably didn’t want some Jewish hippy with no job showing up telling him how to do his! I can only imagine this student who was too cool for school thinking, “Did I ask for your help?”  Yet Simon was doing what he knows to do best and his best wasn’t working.

Notice Jesus didn’t whisper, “You’re stupid.” No, those kind of still, small voices are not the voice of the Teacher, but some other nasty kid in class, an enemy who is trying to trip you up. The Teacher teaches and words of condemnation and negativity teach nothing. This Teacher whispered words of direction and guidance. Simon responds: “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. This was unreal!

It is clear this Teacher has lines to a place our cast doesn’t reach.

I don’t know about you but I need a Teacher right now whose line casts to a place mine doesn’t reach. Both boats began to sink because of all the fish! Instead of being stoked about all the fish, Simon fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” The God who made Simon was calling him to a purpose beyond what he could imagine for his own life. I often think recognizing the living God in our midst scares us more than having faith in a God who wants nothing to do with us.

Simon recognized that Jesus had done something that only God could do! If He is God, why would He take the time to hop into this guy’s dinghy? One thing is for sure, only Love would leave a throne and hop in a stinky fish-scaled boat to be with someone in their failure and unworthiness and call them toward something greater.

Could it be that God loves His kids that much? Simon goes from the student who is failing the subjects of Fishing and Religion, to the student who God chooses to use to do big, amazing things. Whaaaaat? I can imagine Simon saying: You’ve got the wrong guy. I suck at school. I can’t even catch a trout.

We are continually tempted to identify ourselves by the grades we or others give us, but that’s not how the Teacher sees His students. He sees beyond our capabilities, limitations, mistakes, and attempts at perfection. He sees past our own dreams and plans. He sees past our performance and what we can and can’t do. God takes our report cards, shreds them up and calls us beyond a letter grade. He wrote the alphabet; He doesn’t need our grades. He doesn’t need our names for ourselves either. He has his own names for us. He is Lord and He will tell us who we are because the last thing this Teacher wants to see are His kids holding themselves back from Him and the life they are made to live!

So He beckons us like He did Simon, Come. Simon would keep making mistakes and getting sad grades and yet Jesus continued to invite him unto Himself. Jesus hops in our boat, He steps into our break up, He walks into our bankruptcy, He runs into our shame, He enters our plans and very simply says, “Come… Just come.”

In the same way that Jesus hands you more than a report card, He is more than a Teacher. He is God in the flesh. God with meat and bones and an adam’s apple. He is what God looks like. He is God who loves and weeps and touches the sick. This Jesus is brilliant and all-knowing. Yet His knowledge doesn’t keep Him from loving you, knowing your in’s and your out’s. He loves you despite mistakes, grades, and brown nosing. This Jesus is Healer, counselor, wise one. He is supreme, from on high, perfect, good, and able and capable to do more than all we could ask or imagine.

This Jesus, He is your Rescuer. He is your Savior. He is the sacrifice that you need so you don’t have to keep torturing yourself. He is your promise of freedom from the generational sin that follows you that has followed your parents and their parents and their parents. He is the Hope in your depression. He is the light in your darkness.

He is the Way when you have no way. He is the truth when you are surrounded by lies. He is the life, when you are giving up on yours. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He was present in the beginning and even now, He is here. He is the only thing that never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Jesus is the Gate. He is the way in and the way out. He is the Shepherd- the One who will guide you so you don’t get lost. He is the Bread that will fill you when you are hungry and nothing else satisfies. He is the water you can drink that will quench your thirst when everything else has left you parched. He is your friend, the one who can laugh and cry with and wear your holey sweatpants around. He is your Lord, the One in whom you belong to. He is your King and though He be royal, He leaves His throne and comes down to be with you, as small as you might feel.

Jesus is your Redeemer. He is the One who promises to make all things right. He makes all things new, Revelations says. God is in the business of making the things you have seen die, get old and sick be made brand spanking new. Jesus is all these things, and He too, is your teacher. And this Teacher knows you, and rather than handing you a report card, He hands you an invitation. Like most, this invitation requires a response.

Jesus invited Simon into something bigger, better, more powerful, more purposeful, yet something unseen, unimaginable, scary, risky and unknown. Simon could have stayed in that boat. He could kept fishing. The choice was up to Him as it is up to us whether it be with our whole lives or parts of our lives. Jesus hands us this invitation over and over again. Day in and day out. Moment by moment, decision by decision, in valleys and on top of mountains, in class and out.

We can tell ourselves all the reasons why Jesus shouldn’t call us. We can call ourselves all the names we usually do. We can list off all the things we have tried and failed at like Simon did. We can fight the Teacher. We can tell Him with our attitude that we already get all that He has to offer. Or we can trust that He sees us in our weakness and our frailty, our disabilities and our failures, and the perfection in which we strive and fake, and yet He still says, come.

This I know: Jesus wants us to come after Him despite the grades we give ourselves. Let us say yes.

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