The Big Fisherman

The Big Fisherman

August 12th, 1973 @ 10:50 AM

1 Peter 1:1

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
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THE BIG FISHERMAN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Peter 1: 1

8-12-73     10:50 a.m.

 

Happily for us you’re listening and sharing the services in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you who have turned on the radio and you who are watching the television.  This is the Pastor bringing the message entitled: The Big Fisherman.  I did not particularly plan it this way, I just started preaching through the general epistles, so we’re coming back up: first, second, third John, Jude. Now we’re going to start with the two Letters of Simon Peter and it begins, the first letter;

 

Petros – Rock – "Peter," an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the diaspora – scattered – throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,

– provinces in what we know today as Asia Minor –

Elect according to foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling in the blood of Jesus Christ:

Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

[1 Peter 1:1-2]

 

             What a beautiful salutation.  We’ll just take the first word today:  "Petros – rock, stone – Peter, an apostle – apostolos,  ‘a sent one’ – of Jesus Christ."  Sometime ago, there was a very famous novel written entitled The Big Fisherman, and the author who so named that volume, named it correctly.  Apparently Simon Peter was a gigantic man; you have several intimations of that in the Scripture.  In the twenty-first chapter of John: under the direction of Lord, as they culled a big school of fish, six of those disciples were wrestling with it, trying to get it to land.  And it says Simon Peter went down and drew the net to the shore by himself.  What six men were struggling with, Simon Peter did it by himself – a tremendous gargantuan man!

Another like intimation in the third chapter of Acts:  there’s a man, born from his mother’s womb impotent, a cripple and he’s seated.  They bring him and set him at the beautiful gate of the temple and there he is asking alms.  So, seeing Peter and John, he held out his hand expecting to receive an alm from them.  Simon Peter looked at him and said, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk!"   

Now had you been born from your mother’s womb impotent in your feet and had never walked, if a stranger passed by and asked you to stand up – would you stand up?  It would not occur to you that you could, much less that you would try.  So the man just sat there, looking in amazement and wonder at the stranger who told him to get up.  Well he was there with his hand extended, expecting to receive some kind of a pecuniary gift.  So, Simon Peter took that hand extended and raised him up; he lifted the man bodily up!  Now I want you to look at that: if a man took another man and got underneath him and used his back and his shoulders to lift the man up, well I can see how he did it.  But how on the earth does a man reach out with leverage like that – reach out like that and physically raise a man who had never stood in his life?  A dead weight – just raised him up!  With leverage like that, I’m just telling you it was a tremendous feat of strength to do that, that’s Simon Peter!  He was a big, strong, gigantic, gargantuan man: The Big Fisherman

In the fifteenth chapter of the 1 Corinthian Letter, Paul says in verse 41, that "there’s a glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and is there a glory of the stars: for the stars differ one from another in glory."  The men in the kingdom of heaven are like that, they are different; they are different in affinities and predictions, they are different in personalities and in idiosyncrasies, they are different in temperament – in abilities.  The grace of God is not like a steamroller that irons out all the wrinkles of our individualities.  We are still ourselves though serving God.  I think of the preachers that I’ve heard in my lifetime; they are so different!  I think of a man like "Gypsy" Smith; the elder, "Gypsy" Smith.  I think of a man like B.B. Crem, the Texas cowboy.  They are preaching the same message and yet they are so fundamentally diverse in approach, and thought, and presentation. 

 It’s the same sun out there, but look at it through the stained glass windows.  The same light shining through here is red, blue, and yellow and green.  God’s people in His kingdom are like that – they are so different – serving the same God.  The prophets are like that. Amos is a country preacher; when you read him you can smell the the fresh, open furrows out in the field.  He talks like a country-man; he uses the language and imagery of a farmer.  But Isaiah is a court preacher – his lofty perorations, his poetic imagery, his chaste and courtly language – yet both men are prophets of God. 

It is thus with the apostles of our Lord: Matthew, Thomas, John, and Simon Peter, who always heads the list.  Simon Peter is no "retiring sweet petunia out in the backyard" wasting his sweetness on the desert air.  He’s heard, he’s seen, he’s volative and impetuous.  He’s like a mountain stream rushing down to the valley.  He’s quick; he’s on his feet.  He does it and then he thinks about it after it’s over.  For example, when the Lord was washing the disciples’ feet He came to Simon Peter to bathe Simon’s feet and Simon said, “Lord, you’re not going to wash my feet, you’re not going to wash my feet!” 

And the Lord said: “Simon, if I don’t wash your feet you have no part with Me.”

And then, just like that, he says: “Then Lord, wash my hands and my head and all over.”

Well, he just got through saying: “You’re never going to bathe my feet."  Now:  "Lord wash me all over.” 

Or take again, when Judas brought the officers of the temple to arrest the Lord.  When John wrote the story the people in the story had been dead for a generation so he calls names, the other synoptic gospels don’t call any names because people are still living.  They could have arrested Simon Peter for attempted murder, but Simon Peter now has been dead thirty years and Malchus – the man he tried to kill – been dead thirty years.  So John calls their names.  And he says when they came to arrest the Lord; Simon Peter, having a sword, took out the sword from the sheath and he cut off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant – cut off his ear!  What Simon Peter was doing; he was going to cut off his head! And that’s the reason I know that Simon Peter was right-handed, because he cut off the right ear of Malchus.  You see, Malchus – this way – had he ducked that way, Simon Peter would have really cleaved him in two!  But he ducked this way; so when he ducked this way – when he ducked this way – why, Simon just grazed him and cut off his ear.  Well that’s Simon Peter!  Man, when they appeared, out came that sword.  Or take the story, when John said to his old friend Simon – up there in the twenty-first chapter of John; and the seven disciples up there at Galilee when they caught the big draught of fishes – John said, “Simon, you know who that is?  That’s the Lord!”  And Simon Peter jumped into the sea and swam to shore – there to look on the face of the blessed Jesus.  That’s Simon! 

Now, three things about that: one, there is strength in a man like that, undeniably so.  He will strike while the iron is hot, he immediately and promptly will act in a moment of danger.  He will make a decision in politics, or in the marketplace, or in business.  Or, if he’s a general and going up and down the line watching the ebb and the flow of battle, he will immediately make a decision.  There’s strength in a man like that! 

You see it in Simon Peter when the Lord came by, and they were fishing on the shores of Galilee, and the Lord said, "Launch out and you’ll catch," and they did! 

And the rest of the story says, "and the Lord said to Simon, ‘You come and follow Me.'” 

Right there Simon could have said, “Now Lord, You’re rushing me!  Let me think about this, let me ponder this, let me turn this over in my mind.” 

Or he could have said, "Now, master, You come back in ten days and call me, or maybe thirty days, You walk by here and ask me to follow You.

And after I have had time to consider it and weigh it, I’ll give You an answer."

You know what the Book says?  That when the Lord called him, immediately he forsook everything and followed Jesus, just like that!  There’s strength in a man like Simon.

Take him again: at Caesarea Philippi the Lord said to His apostles, "Whom do men say that I am?” 

And they said: "Well, some of them say You’re John the Baptist raised from the dead; some of them say that You’re Elijah;

some say You’re the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.” 

And the Lord said: “Whom say ye that I am?” 

And I can just see all those apostles as they ponder it, you know, turn it over in their mind. 

"Well, it’s just about a fifty-fifty chance that You might be John the Baptist raised from the dead."

Or, "You know?  That’s six of one, half dozen of the other, that You might be Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

You know what Simon Peter did?  He just spoke up, just like that, and he said: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!  That’s who you are! 

And I stand here making that affirmation without fear of contradiction!" – Strength in a man like that!

That’s Martin Luther, standing before the Diet of Worms: "Here I stand, I can do no other – so help me God!"  There’s strength in a man like that.

You know, you couldn’t help but especially be impressed with it in this day of insolution, when you’re taught you’re not supposed to have any convictions.  You’re supposed to leave everything in abeyance  because, "It may be this, and it might be that – and could be the other."  So we weigh the arguments on this side, and we weigh the arguments on this side, and we never come to any truths – any convictions – "It just may be, it just might be," but we don’t believe actually anything!

When I was a boy growing up on the daily newspapers, there was always a column on the left of the newspaper that we read entitled, "Today."  And it was written by a man by the name of Arthur Brisbane, Arthur Brisbane; "Today."   And I remember one time reading in the column,Arthur Brisbane was no religionist; he was no follower of God, or Christ, or anything else, but he always went to hear Billy Sunday preach.  And a man was talking to Arthur Brisbane – and he’s writing this in his column, you know – man is talking to him and he said, "That’s the strangest thing in the world that you go to hear Billy Sunday – why Billy Sunday believes in a devil that has a red coat, and a forked tail, and a pitchfork in his hand, stoking the fires – why, just unthinkable!  Why do you go hear Billy Sunday when you don’t believe anything he says?  

Or he could have said, "Now, master, You come back in ten days and call me, or maybe thirty days, You walk by here and ask me to follow You.

And after I have had time to consider it and weigh it, I’ll give You an answer."

You know what the Book says?  That when the Lord called him, immediately he forsook everything and followed Jesus, just like that!  There’s strength in a man like Simon.

Take him again: at Caesarea Philippi the Lord said to His apostles, "Whom do men say that I am?

And they said: "Well, some of them say You’re John the Baptist raised from the dead; some of them say that You’re Elijah;

some say You’re the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”

And the Lord said: “

And I can just see all those apostles as they ponder it, you know, turn it over in their mind. 

"Well, it’s just about a fifty-fifty chance that You might be John the Baptist raised from the dead."

Or, "You know?  That’s six of one, half dozen of the other, that You might be Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

You know what Simon Peter did? 

And I stand here making that affirmation without fear of contradiction!" – Strength in a man like that!

That’s Martin Luther, standing before the Diet of Worms: "Here I stand, I can do no other – so help me God!" 

You know, you couldn’t help but especially be impressed with it in this day of insolution, when you’re taught you’re not supposed to have any convictions. 

When I was a boy growing up on the daily newspapers, there was always a column on the left of the newspaper that we read entitled, "Today." 

And Arthur Brisbane says: "I just like to hear him because he believes it!”   That’s something of strength in a man, he believes something; he stands up and says it! He knows his own mind and he avows it.  He has conviction!  He’s got strength in him, you feel it! 

The Lord will say: “Blessed are those who – that are always discussing, and philosophizing, and speculating?"  No!  “Blessed are they that do the will of God; they shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  It is wisdom to know what to do; it is skill to know how to do it; but it is virtue to do it.  Do it! 

Now, there’s also weakness in a man like that – no doubt about that.  There’s weakness in him, he is like a pendulum.  A man like that tends to go to extremes.  He’s over here on this side, and then he goes to the extreme on the other side.  He’s like a pan of water – full, and it spills over here and then you turn it and it spills over there.  There’s weakness in a man like that.  Look at him:

 

The Lord will say to the apostles, "All of you tonight are going to forsake Me, all of you.” 

And the head of the apostles, Simon Peter, says: “Now Lord, all of these other eleven may forsake You but I won’t.” 

And the Lord said: “Simon, you will not forsake Me?”

“No!” said Simon Peter, “I will lay down my life for You.  I’ll follow You to death!  I’ll not forsake You!” 

And the Lord says, “Simon, verily – truly – I say to you, before the cock crowed twice," – the cock crows at midnight and it crows at dawn –

"Before the cock crowed twice, before the rising of the sun, you will deny Me thrice.”     

The oscillation of a man like that: one minute, "I lay down my life for You…"

"Before the dawn comes, you’ll thrice deny you even know Me."

[from Mark 14:27-31]

 

There’s weakness in a man like that.  For example, Simon Peter was taught of the Lord – in the tenth and eleventh chapters the Book of Acts – to go to Cornelius, a Gentile.  And the Lord trained him with that vision of a sheet let down from heaven full of all kinds of unclean creatures.  And when Simon Peter went into the house of Cornelius he said, "It is a tradition that a Jew is not to enter the house of a Gentile and certainly not to stay there and break bread with him.  But God’s taught me that I’m to call no man common or unclean, that He died for all men, so I have come."  And Simon Peter broke-over that barrier, and there he is with Gentiles in freedom: eating, and drinking, and fellowshipping with the Gentiles. 

Now the second chapter of the Book of Galatians Paul says, "Simon Peter came down to Antioch and when certain came from James, the traditionalist in Jerusalem, why Simon Peter dissimulated" – that’s a sweet, beautiful term for playing hypocrite – "he dissimulated, and withdrew himself from the Gentiles, following the traditionalists."  And Paul says, “I confronted him to his face.”  Now isn’t that a strange combination?  In the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Book of Acts, there Simon Peter is just breaking-over every barrier and every racial tradition; and there he is with a gentile.  Then, the second chapter of Galatians up there, and down therein Antioch, there he is withdrawing himself and "dissimulating."  He was a strange mixture of cowardice and courage; of rugged strength and instability.  Simon Peter was always striking 12.  Either twelve at the high-noon hour in some marvelous triumph, or he was striking 12 at the midnight hour in some dismal failure.  He was never at nine in the morning or three in the afternoon.  He was always up, or he was always down; it was one or the other with him.  And no doubt but there were weaknesses in a man like that.

But third – first, the strengths of the man; second, the weaknesses of the man – third, God’s use of the man.  The Lord found in that volatile spirit of Simon, the Lord found him teachable.  Simon Peter, in the passage that we read, fell at the feet of Jesus and said: “Lord, depart from me I am a sinful man.”  In the closing verse of the sixth chapter of the gospel of John, after the Lord had delivered His sermon on the bread of life and everybody left Him, He turned to the disciples and said, "Will you also go away?” 

And Simon said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? There’s nobody to go to, we’re staying with You."

"Lord, depart from me I’m a sinful man.”  But after the Lord taught him the way, the truth and the life, Simon Peter says, “Master we’re clinging to You.  There’s nobody else to turn to.  Thou hast the words of life and there’s no one else to whom we may go.” Isn’t that great what he learned?  Or look at him again, the turning of the man – this way – but oh, the blessedness of the turning of the man, the coming back of the man.  The Lord then looks at him and says:

 

“Simon, Simon,” – wherever the Lord repeats the word, you know there’s something heavy, significant and meaningful to follow after – "Simon, Simon,  Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat – that he may try you in the fire – but I prayed for you, and Simon, when you turn, when you come back, strengthen your brethren." 

[Luke 22:31-32]

 

Satan surely did it; he treated him bad.  Satan treated him mean; Satan just ruined him; Satan just destroyed him.  When they arrested the Lord, Simon ran like a coward!  When he stood there warming by the fire while the Lord was being tried before the Sanhedrin, a little maid – a little house maid – accused him, because of his Galilean brogue and speech, accused him of being a follower of Jesus and he said: “I’m not!I’m not!” 

And she said: “But you are, you sound like Him.” 

Oh, that is absolutely the most marvelous thing about the Lord in the world: that He sees us, not as we are – sorry, no count, no good, no how – but that He sees us; what we can be, what we could be.  He sees us at our best.  Like an artist-sculptor will see an angel in a solid rock and chisel it out; he sees it first.  Like an artist will see a beautiful painting and put it on a canvas; like an architect will see a magnificent building in his mind and there it fruits before him.  Jesus is like that: He sees us at our best.  Jesus is for us; always for us, never against us – He’s for us!

Like my mother – she was always for me, always with me, always helping me.  Like my father – he was always for me, always with me, always encouraging me.  Jesus is that way with us.  Our Savior is for us!  He encourages us, He helps us when we’re down; He doesn’t push us further, He lifts us up.  When we’re discouraged, He doesn’t re-discourage us, add to our burden and frustration; He has words of comfort.  He believes us, He helps us.  Jesus is for us!  You know what comes to my mind?   I don’t think of a better title for a sermon to preach than that: God Is for Us, Jesus Is For Us.  Oh, what a blessedness; what a blessedness, just to open our hearts for the blessed Savior to come in.  Lord, Lord, come and welcome. 

In a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal and while we sing the song, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you.  Down one of these stairways, or into that aisle and here to the front, "I’m coming pastor, today.  I choose now.  I make the decision in my heart and I’m coming now."  Do it !  On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.

 

THE BIG FISHERMAN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Peter 1:1-5

8-12-73m1

 

I.          Introduction

A.  The big fisherman(John 21:11, Acts 3:7)

B.  We’re not all alike – we differ in every category(1 Corinthians 15:41)

1.  Preachers I heard in my youth

a. Same sun shining through stained-glass windows

2.  The prophets (Amos 3:8, 7:14-15, Isaiah 2:3-4, Jeremiah 9:1)

3.  The apostles

C.  Simon Peter

1.  No shrinking petunia – he is going to be heard

2.  Impetuousness exhibited in story of his life(John 13:4-9, 18:1-10)

 

II.         There is strength in that type of a man

A.  The story of his call(Luke 6:10-11, Matthew 4:18-22)

B.  The great avowal – "You are the Christ…" (Matthew 16:13-16)

1.  On that avowal Jesus said He would build His church (Matthew 16:18)

C.  Jumping in the water to Jesus(John 21:7)

D.  That spirit is needed today

 

III.        There is weakness in that type of a man

A.  Like the swing of a pendulum

1.  Peter’s claim never to deny Christ(Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75, Mark 14:27-31, 66-72)

2.  Simon Peter dissimulated(Acts 10:28, 11:17-18, Galatians 2:11-14)

C.  Strange combination of courage and cowardice

 

IV.       What the Lord can do with such a man

A.  He is teachable(Luke 5:6-8, John 6:67-68)

B.  He will turn(Luke 22:31-33, Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:71)

C.  The man Jesus called a rock (Mark 6:7, John 21:15-17, Acts 4:12-13)

D.  Like a sculptor or an artist sees the finished product before it is created, Jesus sees in us what is our finest and best

E.  Always, Jesus is for us (Revelation 3:20, John 4:13-14, 6:53-58)