We began a new series at Gateway Church in Austin called A Brush with Greatness.
What would it be like to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus?
This sort of brush with greatness led to great things for people like Simon Peter of the Bible.
For each of us, although possibly challenging, having Jesus step into our ordinary lives could be the best experience we’ve ever had.
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Message Audio from Gateway in South Austin:
Message Notes from Justin McCarty:
Sometimes greatness can be right in front of us and we just miss it! Greatness isn’t always what we think it is. Our world has a picture of what greatness is — fame, celebrity, power, wealth, accomplishment — and when you run into one of the “great ones” in our world (and recognize them!) it tends to highlight a gap. The gap between their greatness and your ordinariness.
But through the scriptures, you see a much different story when it comes to the greatness of God. If anyone can make a case for being truly great, God would certainly qualify. Yet, a brush with God’s greatness doesn’t leave you stuck in the gap, it tends to pull you further into his purposes. His greatness includes you, it doesn’t exclude you. Part of what makes God truly great is that his greatness rubs off on you the more you spend time with him… it changes you.
That is precisely what this series is about. These weeks are meant to be a deeper dive into knowing God through his Son, Jesus. The past several weeks we have been looking at how to Love Everyone: Life by Life. As we seek to love others, we will discover we cannot care, listen, engage, serve, or share without God’s help. In our broken, divided, and angry world, we need to connect more deeply with the God of Love. The goal of this series is to spend time with God, learning who he is, how he ticks, what he values. This is meant to be a 3-week brush with greatness that rubs off on you — leaving you changed, transformed — pulled further into his purposes. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey — just starting or if you’ve logged quite a few laps — Jesus meets each of us right where we are.
Luke 5 records one of Jesus’ early interactions with his most famous disciple. At this point in his life, he goes by the name “Simon” (the name “Peter” would come later through his interactions with Jesus), and Simon is an ordinary fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Blue collar worker, rough around the edges (fisherman/sailor), not an especially religious person. And he’s the one that gets a brush with greatness.
IN THE ORDINARY
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. – Luke 5:1-3 NRSV
Helpful to really get Simon’s mindset — this was the end of his work day.
- He had been out fishing all night long (best time to fish in Israel), not just rod & reel fishing — throwing nets. Labor intensive and Simon is tired.
- Not only that, Simon is probably a little frustrated — in the next verses it’s clear that they caught nothing all night.
- This was not a great day at work for Simon — and it was just one in a long line of nondescript days.
- This is Simon’s life. And that’s where Jesus shows up.
I love that it’s recorded — “Jesus got into one of the boats” — there’s no hint of asking permission. Apparently, that’s the kind of interesting, unapologetic person Jesus is. He just comes aboard Simon’s boat and says, “Can you help me out here?” From the beginning, Jesus is disrupting Simon’s status quo.
In fact, that’s what a brush with God’s greatness does.
A brush with God’s greatness disrupts the status quo.
Out of nowhere, Jesus is staring at Simon in his boat and pulling him into what he’s doing.
Ever had the feeling that Jesus is just showing up in your life? Maybe it’s how you got here, maybe your life was spared from some tragedy and you wonder why, maybe…And that moment, Simon has a decision — “Hey Jesus, dude, get out of my boat.” But he doesn’t, he allows curiosity to move him forward. Where’s this going? Whatever comes next, it’s because Simon chose not to plant himself on the beach, to give into fatigue, dissatisfaction, routine.
Curiosity moves you forward.
Do you have any sense of what “the beach” is for you? What might keep you locked in status quo, doing what you’ve always done — vaguely dissatisfied, safe, comfortable? Jesus might be looking to invade that very place and disrupt things. Will you let curiosity move you forward? What might he be up to?
Followers of Christ: this is a repeated pattern in following Jesus.
- Happened to Simon again and again.
- Jesus just shows up, pulling you into something disruptive.
- If your journey of following Jesus has gotten predictable, you might need to reassess if you’ve been planting yourself on the beach, refusing some invitations?
INTO DEEP WATER
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” – Luke 5:4-5 NRSV
What started as a request, “will you put out from shore a bit?” suddenly amps up –
- “Simon, put out into deep water.” That’s less of an ask, and more of a directive.
- Jesus moves from hanging out with Simon to leading.
- And in fact, Jesus is leading Simon to do something he is naturally set against (doesn’t make sense to him), without a lot of details.
- It would have been perfectly understandable for Simon to say: “Look, Jesus, Rabbi Jesus (not a fisherman), why don’t you leave the sailing and the fishing to the professionals?”
- Ever had someone try to speak into your field of expertise without having a clue as to what they were talking about? Jesus is pushing the envelope here, and Simon has a remarkable response: “If you say so, I will”
Simon’s entire destiny hinged on those 6 words. Would he let his brush with greatness take him away from the shore, out into deeper water, out beyond his own understanding? Simon makes a choice to trust Jesus over himself (even though he knew he knew better) and allows Jesus to stretch him into uncomfortable faith territory. The results are astounding…
When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. – Luke 5:6-7 NRSV
I think a lot of us would like to see God show up in miraculous ways in our lives, but we’re not all up for pushing out into deeper water — into what is stretching and uncomfortable. I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t let Simon experience the supernatural power of God until he was willing to do what was unintuitive and uncomfortable.
Do you realize that Jesus hasn’t changed a bit? This is still what a brush with greatness will lead to. At some point in time, as you get to know Jesus, he will move out of requests and into a leadership role and call you to do something that doesn’t make complete sense to you. It’s a “if you say so, I will” moment. Sometimes we are stuck in our journey with God, waiting for Him to do something, when all the while he’s waiting for our obedience to what He’s already asked.
Obedience moves you forward.
On the other side of obedience there is blessing. The way of God’s kingdom is just by mentally believing, it’s about stepping out in action on what Jesus has said.
FAR BEYOND FISH
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. – Luke 5:8-10a NRSV
Sometimes when God shows up — even beyond your wildest dreams — it can be a bit too real. Simon gets rattled by how real Jesus’ power actually is, and is reminded of how salty of a fisherman he really is.
“Jesus, you shouldn’t be here in my boat. You don’t realize who you’re talking to… I’m not a good guy.”
There comes a point for many of us as we learn to know and follow Jesus that the lights go on about who we really are and the flaws we really have. Many of us want to push Jesus away out of guilt over things we’ve done or shame about who we’ve become.
That’s one of the reasons you want to be here next week — the next brush with greatness is all about how Jesus speaks healing and grace over those places.
While Simon thinks Jesus doesn’t realize who he’s talking to, it’s actually the other way around — Simon doesn’t really understand yet who is talking to him — but he’s getting closer.
It’s right then that Jesus speaks a life-altering vision into Simon’s humbled and obedient heart:
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” – Luke 5:10b-11 NRSV
Jesus looks into Simon’s eyes and says, “I have something for you far beyond fish.” Up until that moment, fish was as big as Simon probably dreamed. Jesus has just brought in this huge catch of fish — everything that Simon spent his energy and strength on everyday — and then says, “There is so much more for you than this, Simon!”
Jesus offered a radically different vision of greatness for Simon’s life. He didn’t just want to make his dreams come true, he wanted to dare him to dream far grander dreams!
What if Jesus’ vision for your life is a different vision of greatness than you have right now? Would you be open to that? Listen to the corresponding words of 1 Corinthians 2:9
This is what the scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV
God has designs on your life for greatness — but it’s His kind of greatness. So many people walk around wanting to know what God’s will is for their lives, but they omit Simon’s lesson — it was a humble and obedient heart that Jesus spoke a life-altering vision into. Humble, obedient hearts are the ones who are ready for Jesus’ vision for their life, and you can always tell by how they respond:
When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:11 NRSV
Surrender is the way forward.
You may not be ready for it right now — maybe you’re just curious. Follow it. Maybe you’re stuck on some issue of obedience, follow it forward. Because to truly come face to face with Jesus’ vision for your life, there’s only one way forward — surrender. Abandon yourself to it. Not just a nice theory. It’s been my personal experience.
What about you? Have you connected with God in a genuine way?
If so, have you wandered away?
I have had many different moments where I restarted my walk with God. Just like any relationship, the more time you invest in your relationship with God, the closer you will be.
There’s no mistaking a brush with Jesus’ greatness. If you haven’t experienced disruption of that status quo, or the stretch of faith into risky territory, or the revolution of having your vision of greatness redefined by Jesus — then perhaps it’s right in front of you, waiting. Simon didn’t see it at first — maybe you just have not recognized it yet.
So here’s my challenge to you — come back; hang out with Jesus and listen to what He’s saying during this series. There could be far more than you have imagined on the other side of a brush with greatness; it’s happened before to Simon — so why couldn’t it happen to you?