Leaving All to Follow the Lord


​​Luke 5:1-11.  And° it came to pass, as the crowd pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. ​​And He saw two ships standing by the lake; but° the fishers were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. ​​And° having stepped into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, He besought him to launch out a little° from the land; and sitting down, He taught the crowd from the ship. ​​And° when he had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch. ​​And Simon answering said to Him, Master°, having labored through the whole night, we have taken nothing; but° at Thy saying I will let down the net. ​​And when they had done this, they enclosed a multitude of many fishes; and° their net broke. ​​And they beckoned to their partners in the other ship, that they should come to take some with them. And they came and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. ​​And° Simon Peter, seeing this, fell◠before the knees of Jesus, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord! ​​For astonishment encompassed him, and all who were with him, at the catch of the fishes which they had taken; ​​​and° likewise also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were companions with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men . ​​​And they brought  their ships to land, and left all, and followed Him.  Kempton Revision of the Word

Apocalypse Explained 514.

[20] As all things in the Old Testament contain in themselves a spiritual sense, so do all things in the New Testament which are in the Gospels and in Revelation. Moreover, all the Lord’s words and doings and miracles signify Divine celestial things, because the Lord spoke from the Divine, and did His works and miracles from the Divine, therefore from things first through things last, and thus in fullness. From this it can be seen that the Lord’s teaching from boats was significative; also that it was significative that He chose certain of His disciples from boats while they were fishing; and that He walked upon the sea to the boat in which the disciples were, and thence calmed the wind.

Respecting the Lord’s teaching from a boat it is said in the Gospels:

Jesus sat by the seaside. And there were gathered unto Him great multitudes, so that He entered into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the beach. And He spake to them many things in parables (Matt. 13:1, 2, et seq.; Mark 4:1, 2, et seq.).

Jesus, standing by the shore of Gennesaret, saw two boats standing by the lake. Then He entered 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 throng out of the ship (Luke 5:1-9).

In all these particulars also, that “He sat by the seaside” and “on the shore of Gennesaret,” then “that He entered into Simon’s boat, and taught the throng therefrom,” there is a spiritual sense. This was done because the “sea” and the “lake of Gennesaret” signify, in reference to the Lord, the knowledges of good and truth in the whole complex, and “Simon’s boat” signifies the doctrinals of faith; so “His teaching from a boat” signifies that it was from doctrine.


The first thing we notice in our reading from the gospel for today is that it is said that

…the crowd pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God v1

The crowd is often described as pressing in upon the Lord, and to be doing so illustrates a general attitude or disposition towards the things of the Word in the natural man when it is open to receiving new insights from the Lord.  The central question concerning the spiritual life is one always pointing to our relationship to the Word: Are we looking to press in to hear the Word and so have the Lord speak into our life?  For the Word is the only means of conjunction with heaven and so for the new church is the Way of salvation.  The Lord, ever concerned about the spiritual welfare of the human race, is continually seeking every opportunity available to Him to bring a higher level of awareness along with a deeper sense of spiritual life to people.  And such opportunities are made available as we press in to hear His Word.  It is said that…

he stood by the lake of Gennesaret. v1

…which is another name for the Sea of Galilee.  This symbolises general knowledge of all kinds upon which boats travel and in particular ships from which fishermen ply their trade.  This lake is a general source of income and food for many and just as the body requires food for its life so the mind requires food to sustain its life.  This is why this lake corresponds to the great sea of collective human knowledge that makes up the memory which people are able to draw from to sustain their mental life and its interests.  It is to this level of natural life that the Lord comes, to stand on the shore of our perceptions, to be along side our interest in hearing the Word of God.  Such an interest is something that must be cultivated through effort, through self-compulsion arising from a desire to hear the Word.  But if no effort toward spiritual things is made, then nothing spiritual can be achieved.  However where sincere efforts are made to press in then something new is certainly possible for we read…

and he perceived two ships standing by the lake. Now the fishers, stepping off from them, rinse off their nets.  v2

And here we see described the work or effort that is required, it is work related to fishing.  But before considering the spiritual application of this trade and its related representations to the activities of spiritual life we need to get a sense of what is meant by two ships standing by the lake.  That there are two ships suggests that whatever these ships represent it has to do with the marriage of good and truth for this is what the number two relates to when spiritually understood.  When we are working with Scripture we need to keep in mind that every detail has spiritual significance, or points to some inner psycho-spiritual reality belonging to the human mind.  As far as the meaning of ships is concerned the Heavenly Doctrines offer us help by teaching us that…

…”ships” signify the knowledges of good and truth from the Word serving for the use of life. That these are signified by “ships” is because ships cross the sea, and bring back the necessaries which are for the natural man for every use; and the knowledges of good and truth are the necessaries which are for the spiritual man for every use of it; for from them is the doctrine of the church, and according to this is life. “Ships” signify these knowledges, because they are containers; and in many places in the Word the container is taken for the thing contained, as a cup for wine, a platter for food, the tabernacle and the temple for the holy things in them, the ark for the law, the altars for worship, and so on.  AR 406

The two ships spoken of in today’s story represent doctrine from the Word that a person understands in terms of the need to marry what they know of truth to life.  The fact that the fishers have “stepped off” the ships and so stand separated from them suggests that as yet the relationship to that doctrine is more centered in the intellect rather than being something in the will or life of a person.  There is a time for gathering knowledge and building an intellectual understanding in the things of the Word, but such knowledge is only a means to an end, the end being its application to life.  This story describes the transition every person must take if they are to grow in the Word.  That transition is one of moving from an understanding of spiritual life based in the memory to a life based on the actual practice of spiritual truths.  For it is this that provides people with firsthand experience of spiritual realities and so forms a truly personal or saving faith.  This state of transition is seen here in that we find the fishers rinsing their nets.  This is a key point for it reveals that there is a desire to ensure that the equipment they use to gather what they need from the lake remains in good condition and is up to the job.  Think about this; what is it in us that motivates us to gather knowledge?  Isn’t it a love or interest? Isn’t it our love for something that stimulates and brings into operation the necessary reasoning processes to “catch” or “net” what it is we desire from out of our memories?  And isn’t the strength of our desire related to the strength of our focus?  It is this that casts a net to act as a filter into the mental ocean of our memory so as to draw forth the specific knowledges required so that we can achieve our goals.

All this comes together when we see the spiritual relationship between what is represented by the fishers and their nets.  The word translated fishers comes from the Greek root word for salt.  Salt due to its association with thirst, corresponds to a thirst or affection for truth for the sake of goodness.  On the internal plane of our minds the fishers represent the affection for truth that can enable us to achieve what we desire as an outcome. Their nets represent the reasoning processes used by this desire to filter out and catch what it is looking for from the sea of knowledge that fills the memory, and a ship is the doctrine or understanding of the Word that serves as a platform from which this mental fishing can occur.

To be rinsing nets is to be in the activity of reflection, and attending to the things of the mind.  Part of that involves looking at our assumptions and beliefs to see if they really do align with what the Word teaches.  Self examination is the bed rock of spiritual life from a new church perspective, along with repentance, and it is described here in the symbolic language of scripture as rinsing nets.  It is through being in this spiritual activity that finds the Lord…

…stepping into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, He asks him to be backing up slightly from the land.  Now, being seated, He taught the throngs out of the ship.  v3

For the Lord to teach the throngs internally is for instruction and insights to be received from the Word so as to order our thinking processes.  Note that it is only as the nets are being rinsed that the Lord is able to enter our way of thinking about spiritual things.  This is represented by Him stepping into one of the ships, and also note that that ship is Simon’s.  Spiritual life is a life of giving attention to the quality of our mental life, our nets, and so it is a life of looking into our assumptions and beliefs to see what it is that governs our behaviour; not just on the level of us personally but also on the level of our collective life. What are our goals, why do we do what we do, and how does what we do fit in with what we are seeking to achieve?  Asking these kinds of questions is, in the symbolic language of Scripture, rinsing nets.  The Word teaches that we are to examine ourselves, to do this is to obey the Word and obedience in the language of Scripture is called Simon.  By the Lord entering Simon’s ship the Word teaches us that our understanding of the Word is seen through the filter of our beliefs which is why we must be continually looking to rinse our nets.  It also teaches us that when we look to the Word to do it the Lord is then able to step into the centre of our thinking and bring new insights.

There are many obstacles to change, but by far the greatest challenges are the fixed mindsets and perspectives that make up our view of things including our understanding of what it is we are called to do as a spiritual community and organization, and of how best to achieve that.  But until we are willing to look at the assumptions and beliefs we are operating from in the light of what the Lord’s Second Coming means we will struggle to move forward, we will sit like the paralysed man between ways of being that served passed generations and those new ways of being that are emerging around us.  But if we are willing to begin rinsing our nets then we become open to fresh ways of understanding the Word as it speaks from our ship into our personal and collective lives.

What’s interesting is that the Lord asks Simon to back up slightly from the land before he can give instruction.  This stepping back from things to get some space is what occurs when we allow the Word to work within our life and it is from this willingness to examine our life and activities in the light of the light of the Heavenly Doctrines we find the Word asking us to…

 “Back up into the depth, and lower your nets for a catch.  And answering, Simon said to Him, Master, having laboured through the whole night, we have taken nothing; but at your Word I will let down the net.  v4-5

There is nothing more disheartening than labouring for no result. Like Simon we too may feel we have laboured through the whole night and have very little to show for it.  Spiritually night refers to a state when things are obscure, when it’s not clear where things are at or how to proceed.  In the case of our story today we see that Simon had laboured through the night doing what he had always done, but he was catching nothing.  He had toiled all through the night and now the Lord was asking him to go out again.  His response reveals an acknowledgement we all must come to before changes in our situations can come.  Simon acknowledged that he had worked all night, that is without light, and so from reflection see that he has been operating from his own power and effort and that this had yielded nothing.  It is the presence of the Lord in his boat that reveals this.  And now because of the Lord’s presence in his boat he was willing to leave aside his own effort and do what was required of him for no other reason than it was what the Word commands.

What lesson is there here for us?  Perhaps it’s one of reassessing our purpose and mission, of seeing that it not about bringing people in but of getting the Lord’s message out to those who have been prepared already by the Lord to receive it.  To push out from the land, that ground we have found our security in is to move out from where we are in our thinking, to head out into the deep, into the unknown, and be a people open to new possibilities.  It is only when we approach the Lord in His Word with a view to responding to His voice and lay aside our own agenda’s and preconceptions that we will find that the things of the Word are beyond the capacity of our limited nets to hold.  That what the Lord prepares His people for is much bigger than anything we could ever conceive of.  Isn’t this what is described in these verses…

And when they had let down their nets, they enclosed a multitude of many fishes; and their nets tore through, and they beckoned to their partners in the other ship to come to their aid. And they came, and they fill both the ships so that they are swamped.

These fish represent knowledges from the Word, and what’s described here is what happens when people are prepared to obey the Lord in His Word from a spirit open to new possibilities.  When we look to the Lord’s purposes for the salvation of the human race, a vast haul of knowledges are offered for the work of salvation, so much so that we find our capacities to hold the catch is swamped.  This brings a new sense of things, profound and deep is the humility of spirit that arises as we realise the true power of the Word when understood in the light of the practise of what the Heavenly Doctrines teach…

And Simon Peter, seeing this, fell before the knees of Jesus, saying, Depart from me for I am a sinful man Lord!  For awe encompassed him, and all who were with him, at the catch of the fishes which they had taken. v8-9

Following on from this the Lord declares…

Fear not; from now forward you will catch men, alive. v10

For when our trust is in the Lord alone, when we see that He is the Word and that it is the Word alone that saves all fear and anxiety is banished and our focus shifts to align itself with the Lord’s own purposes, which is the salvation of the human race.  This purpose is the sole purpose for which the church exists and until this is seen we labour in darkness, but once it is seen then we like the disciples here will be willing to forsake all to follow the Lord…

And bringing the ships onto the land, leaving all, they follow Him. v11


About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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