He Calls Unworthy Sinners

Text:  Luke 5:1-11

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Peter was face-to-face before Jesus.  He felt his unworthiness.  He knew that he amounted to nothing compared to the one who had authority over the earth, sea, and all created things.  Peter had just witnessed Christ perform an incredible miracle of drawing hundreds of fish into empty nets and then out of a sense of deep fear uttered, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  You see, terror had come over Peter and all who were in the boat, because of the remarkable catch of fish that had ripped the nets and almost sunk the boats.  By this miracle Peter realized Jesus as the Messiah and saw His great, almighty majesty and glory.  He also felt his own insignificance and experienced fear over death and hell in the context of the might Lord Jesus Christ.  He was afraid to be in the presence of the Lord as an unworthy sinner.   

This is the way that it is with the Lord and His disciples though.  The Lord is holy and good and powerful and worthy; whereas, His disciples are sinful, weak, and unworthy.  This is how it was with Peter; it was no different for the Apostle Paul as well.  Indeed, both Peter and Paul – who are championed as heroes of the church – were unworthy.  Paul was a persecutor and an enemy of Christ when the Lord confronted him on the road to Damascus.  Before being called as an apostle, Paul had murdered and imprisoned Christians; he was a terrorist to Christians.  He had nothing that qualified him to be an Apostle; he was not worthy.  On the other hand, Peter was a common man.  He was a rugged, edgy, blue collar fisherman who often spoke and acted first, then thought through the ramifications later.  Peter was a sinner like anyone else, who, despite his Lord’s great love and trust in him, denied Jesus when he was put to the test.  Indeed, both Peter and Paul were unworthy sinners, yet they were both called to be the Lord’s disciples. 

The church has historically understood this, even though it is often misunderstood in today’s day and age.  Yes, the church has historically understood that you do not have to be anyone special to be a Christian.  That is right; Christ’s church does not rest on the superior morals or advanced intelligence of its members.  In other words, the church does not need muscular Christians who have made John Wayne, and not Jesus their hero.  The church does not need academic Christians who have made Einstein, and not Jesus their wisdom.  The church does not rest on the strength of its members and Jesus did not choose His disciples based upon their worthiness.  Jesus chose sinners like Peter the fisherman, Matthew the tax collector, and Paul the persecutor.  He chose sinners to be His Apostles and disciples; He has chosen you and me to be a part of His church.  Indeed, the church is not a museum for saints and it is not a country club for the religious elite, but it is a hospital for sinners.  Christ’s church is a church of sinners; it is a church for sinners.

Simply stated, Zion Lutheran Church is Christ’s church, which means that it is for the scruffy, beat-up, and burnt-out.  This church is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know that they do not have it all together.  It is for the inconsistent and unsteady disciple.  It is for the poor, the weak and sinful persons.  It is for those who are bruised by the bumps and bruises of life.  It is for those who are spiritually bankrupt who have empty hands.  It is for those who weep over their sin hoping to hear a word of forgiveness.  It is for smart people who know they are stupid and it is for honest disciples who admit that they are sinners in need of grace.  It is for those who want to pull the covers over their head in the morning because the pressures of life seem to be just too much.  It is for those who have been soiled by the stains of past sins.  It is for those who have been defeated by the trials of life.  It is for those who have been wounded by the flaming arrows of the devil. The church – this church – is for sinners, for it is a place of forgiveness and grace.  The church is for sinners, because Jesus is for sinners only.

And so we hear in our Gospel reading from today that Jesus calls sinners to be His disciples, sinners like the fishermen at the Sea of Galilee.  He does not go to the religious synagogues to get prim and proper and professionally educated Pharisees, but He goes to the messy fishing port to get untidy and sinful fishermen.  Jesus comes to Peter – a common man – and called Him to be His disciple while Peter was working.  Jesus did not ask him about his faith.  Jesus did not ask him about his strengths.  He did not ask him for his resume.  No, He did none of this.  He just asked Peter to follow Him.  After that it was up to Peter to listen, to learn, and to see – to be a disciple.

Dear friends, the Lord calls sinners to be His disciples – to be His own.  Because He calls sinners, we can know that the Lord is serious when He calls you and me, for we are indeed sinners in thought, word, and deed.  With that said, when we are constantly called unto Christ through the Gospel, you and I have every reason to do as Peter did and ask the Lord to depart from us as well.  Why is this so? Because we know how truly sinful we are as people.  Like Peter we know that we are lost and are people of unclean lips.  However, that is not how it is with the Lord.  Whoever is in sin must not flee from Christ but rather go to Him, fall at His feet and ask for grace.  The reason why?  Jesus does not back away from sinners.  He does not despise the crushed, destroyed, crippled, and wrecked sinner.  Truly, He does not call the righteous, but He calls sinners and then receives them and allows them to stay with Him.  He takes sinners like you and me, and forgives us.  The Lord takes sinners and turns them into fishers of men and allows them to be a blessing to others. 

Dear friends, through the Gospel, God has called you and me to be with Jesus and to learn from Him, to live with Jesus and to receive what only He can give.  We are called to be disciples; we are called to continually believe upon Jesus’ Word and receive His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Now, keep in mind though that you and I might not be able to receive everything right from the beginning.  That is why we usually say that a disciple is someone who listens to God’s Word and prays to come to the faith or remain in the faith.  Otherwise stated, the main thing is to stay with Jesus and follow Him, for He takes care of everything else.  That is to say, you may not understand and comprehend everything about the Christian faith, you may not even understand all the important things, but like Peter, take comfort… listen, learn, and receive from Jesus’ Word and Sacraments.  Come to the place where Jesus can be found – His church where the Word and Sacraments are proclaimed into your ears, poured upon your head, and laid upon your tongue.  As a disciple, follow Jesus; receive from Jesus for you are His and He is yours.  Jesus comes for sinners; He especially comes for sinners on Sunday mornings.    

What does this mean?  It means that you are beloved Baptized Saints who have been called by the Gospel.  You are blood bought – baptized and forgiven!  You have been claimed as Christ’s own.  You are disciples of Jesus.  You are disciples of Jesus who live under the influence of Jesus’ Word.  As a disciple you are not to give up your occupations and you are not to run away from Christ in fear of your unworthiness, but rather you can know this day that Jesus has chosen to bring you out of terror to joy, from hell to heaven, from damnation to life, and from misfits to disciples.  He has chosen you unto Himself as a disciple of His church – loved and forgiven, now and unto eternity.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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