Luke 5:1-11: Simon Peter: a Humbled Witness

Witnesses to Jesus, part 1

This study is one of several in part 1 of the three-part series, Witnesses to Jesus, exploring "witness" in Luke and Acts. 


Getting started

This is a story about a person who was a true professional, someone who could handle things by himself and yet who, in the context of his profession, learned some amazing things about Jesus. In what areas of your life do you feel confident or experienced or affirmed by others? In what part of your life do you think you can handle things fairly well by yourself?

  1. Ask someone who enjoys reading to read Luke 5:1-11 aloud-and dramatically. Everyone else should follow along and notice as much as they can about the scene.
  2. As you look at the first five verses, put yourself in the scene. Pretend this is a movie. Who is there? What sounds do you hear? What do you smell? What are your visual impressions? (Note: Simon [also called Simon Peter and later just Peter], James, and John have known Jesus for a year, but are not yet his disciples. The Lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Lake of Galilee, a harp-shaped lake 13 miles long and 6-7 miles across, circled by gently rolling hills.)
  3. Why do you think Jesus gets into the boat? (Open water is a natural amplifier for sound.)
  4. In verse 4, how does the scene change? If you were Simon, how would you be feeling? What would be on your mind? Consider what Jesus says to him in verse 4. What difficulties would an experienced fisherman have with this suggestion? (Night is often the best time for fishing and shallow areas are the best places.) What do you notice in Simon's response in verse 5? What feelings and conflicts is Peter expressing?
  5. Look at verses 6-7. What words and phrases in these verses indicate the size of the catch? Why is the size of the catch significant?
  6. What is Simon's reaction in verse 8? Is this what you would expect? From his reaction, what do you think he perceives about Jesus? What does he perceive about himself? Why do you think he says he is a sinful man? Why is this an especially strong experience for Simon (being a fisherman)? What does his response say about who Jesus is? What does this say about who we are?
  7. What might Jesus be saying to you about an area of your life where you feel confident, or perhaps over-confident? What might he be saying to you about what trust in him means, or what faith is?
  8. Notice the way Jesus responds to Simon in verse 10. How might he have responded? "You will be catching people" (King James version: "I will make you fishers of men") is a famous phrase. What do you think it meant to Simon Peter? What does it mean for you? Why does Jesus say this to Simon now, rather than saying it earlier?
  9. James and John have watched this whole thing. What might have gone through their minds as Jesus made the suggestion to Simon about putting out into the deep?
  10. How does the story end, in verse 11? If you had been one of these three fishermen, what characteristics of Jesus would have led you to leave everything to follow him? What do they learn in this experience that they'll need in the work they'll be doing from now on?

In closing

What does it really mean to follow Jesus? How has Jesus shown his trustworthiness to be followed? What did it mean for Peter, James, and John? What does it mean for you? Is there anything holding you back from freely following Jesus?

Or, summarize Simon's story (learning of Jesus, being skeptical of his command, following his Word, seeing power demonstrated, repenting, being called to deeper service). In what ways are these elements present in our stories-our spiritual journeys?

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Luke 5:1-11


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