Multitude by Abidan Shah, PhD

MULTITUDE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Each year when we visit Israel, I look forward to many different sites, but my favorite is the Sea of Galilee. Those who have been with me will tell you how much they enjoy walking up to the pier or sitting by the water in the morning and in the evening. It’s amazing to visualize that somewhere there Jesus called his disciples to follow him, and he would make them “fishers of men.” Somewhere there, he got into Simon Peter’s boat and performed the miracle of the great catch of fish. Somewhere there, he met them after his resurrection and again performed the miracle of a great catch of fish to encourage and motivate a group of shocked, confused, and embarrassed disciples, especially Peter. In today’s message titled MULTITUDE, we will learn that the same Jesus is also calling us to the same task. Main point: God has called every believer to be a fisher of souls. Although every single soul matters, God wants us to catch a multitude for the kingdom of God. In other words, Christian fishing is not as much rod and reel fishing as it is net fishing. We are to go into all the world and make disciples.

John 21      5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will findsome.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Context: The gospels have many mentions of fish, fisherman, and fishing. In fact, the region of Galilee, where Jesus primarily ministered, was known for fishing. Bethsaida, the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Philip, means “house of hunting/fishing.” Capernaum, the base of Jesus’ ministry was known for fishing. Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene, was known as Taricheae, which means the “place where fish are salted.” They would fish both with a hook and a net, but primarily a net. With net fishing, they had to mend their nets because the gills of the fish would get caught in the nets and tear them. Sometimes, they fished off the shores and sometimes off the boats. Most of the times, they fished at nights. It was cooler and the fish would come to the surface. There were as many as 25 varieties of fish in the Sea of Galilee: catfish, barbell, tilapia (St. Peter’s fish), etc. They would catch the fish and place them in baskets. Jesus drew on this in Matthew 13       47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” We need to keep this background about the importance of fishing when we read the FIRST CALL of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 4 (Also found in Mark 1 with slight variation) 18 “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”

But it was much more than just some local occupation. It had a very important Old Testament significance – Habakkuk 1        14 “Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them? 15 They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, And gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. 16 Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; Because by them their share is sumptuous And their food plentiful. 17 Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?…2      2 Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. 4 ‘Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.’” Humanity is like the fish of the sea, lost in their sin, and we must catch them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had to get Peter to see this in the multitude: Luke 5        1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. 4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

Can you see the fish in the sea, the lost humanity? The latest statistics regarding the state of theology and the depravity in our nation and world (The Ligonier State of Theology 2022, Lifeway Research):

  • The Bible, like all sacred writings contains helpful account of ancient myths but is not literally true (25% agree, 28% somewhat agree)
  • Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God (31% agree, 22% somewhat agree)
  • God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (45% strongly agree, 22% somewhat agree)
  • Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth (31% strongly agree, 28% somewhat agree)
  • Every Christian has an obligation to join a local church (36% strongly disagree)
  • Worshipping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church (35% strongly agree, 31% somewhat agree)
  • Gender identity is a matter of choice (24% strongly agree)
  • The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today (30% strongly agree, 30% strongly disagree)

Jesus was so burdened for lost humanity that, after his resurrection, he came back to his disciples – a confused, doubtful, and embarrassed bunch – and recommissioned them. John 21       2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

This was the Great Commission in parable form. Then, in Acts 1:8, he reminded them,“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”


Invitation: Are you catching the fish of lost humanity? It’s wonderful to catch just one, every single one matters, but it’s also very important to cast a net. It’s time we catch a multitude. Before you can catch, you must be caught. Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?

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