Fishers of Men

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20 ESV).

I’ve often tried to imagine the scene above. Family was important in those days, and life in the family business was essentially preordained. Sons worked with their fathers and helped with the family’s livelihood. Yet Jesus passes by these men, and immediately after James and John, and utters ten words. And hearing these ten words they leave their fathers, their boats and their nets and follow Him.

We also know that Peter was married at the time, yet his responsibilities didn’t for a moment slow him down. He immediately followed Jesus. What was it about Jesus, or the way in which he invited these fishermen, that made them respond without hesitation? According to Isaiah 53:2 there was nothing special about his appearance that would draw anyone to him; “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” The Matthew 4 text makes it seem as though He uttered the words almost in passing. In fact, I get the impression that Jesus never even slowed down!

When I look at these three verses I am cut to the quick. I look back over my life and see with what great difficulty I finally surrendered my life to Jesus, even though I was raised in the church. I look back at the number of times that I have felt called to do something and agonized over my obedience for quite some time, often failing to answer the call. Many of those times I have blamed my disobedience on financial responsibilities. Peter, Andrew, James, and John responded immediately to a perfect stranger. Yet I often fail to respond to the One I call my Best Friend.

When Jesus called the disciples, He called each and every one of us. For what did He call the disciples? To be “fishers of men.” There’s an old familiar saying, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, we all know that we are called to reach the world for Jesus. We are not all called to do this in the same manner–some are called to full-time ministry and evangelism, and some are called to reach those in their area of influence–but make no mistake about it, we are all called to this work. And we are not just called to lead someone to faith in Christ; we are also called to “teach others to fish.” We are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 26:19 ESV).

I have been blessed by God and given the grace to have led people to faith in Jesus. And I count myself fortunate to have been able to teach others to do the same. But I have not done so in a long time.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences as I. Or maybe you have never cast your net. In whatever circumstance you or I have found ourselves, we need to cast our nets if we desire to eat spiritual food, and we must also teach others to cast their nets so that they too can eat.

The past contains no security. We must secure our spiritual food continually. But neither does our past disobedience keep us from gathering and eating today. Set your heart to answer the call of Jesus and become “fishers of men.”

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