Fishers of Men

Perhaps you’ve seen on a church marque or bumper sticker the following quip: “Be a fisher of men – you catch em’, Jesus cleans em’.” I’m not so sure about the “catch em’” part, but I do know the whole phrase is a reference to Jesus calling the first disciples in Matthew 4:

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. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20). 

When the Lord Jesus said to Simon (called Peter) and his brother Andrew, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men,” He didn’t explain to these Galilean fishermen what that statement meant. They simply followed. Now Jesus had encountered Peter and Andrew before, near Bethabara, in the Jordan region, where Andrew (and perhaps Peter as well) had become a disciple of John the Baptist. 

In this Matthew 4 passage, Jesus is calling them to follow Him in long-term discipleship. Their decision to follow would mean three-and-a-half years spending lots of time with the Lord. During that time they underwent a life-changing process where they were transformed from fishers of fish to fishers of men as Jesus taught them, set an example for them, and allowed opportunities for them to minister. There were also times to debrief following ministry activities. They would become vessels of His grace, ambassadors of reconciliation, His witnesses of the Kingdom.

God calls us to follow Him as we engage in the evangelistic endeavor. And as we follow Him, He will transform us, show us the way, give us the grace we need for the work: 

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

In our lives we have comfortable ways of being and living. Just as Peter and Andrew would have been comfortable and familiar with fishing for fish, so we also are comfortable and familiar in certain areas of our lives. Yet, the call to walk by faith in our personal witness requires we be open to God as He molds us and changes us from what we are to what He wants us to be – fishers of men. 

What does it mean to be a fisher of men? 

When Peter and Andrew heard these words from Jesus, I wonder what thoughts ran through their mind. “Fishers of men? Really? What is he talking about?” 

It’s important to note that Peter and Andrew met Jesus months earlier in John 1:35-43 and had accepted Him as Messiah. Now Jesus calls them to leave everything, and follow him.

In one sense, becoming a fisher of men was all about reorientation. They knew about fishing for fish. But fishing for men? I suppose Jesus’ words, as they often did in the gospels, initially confuse and confound them. 

What did Peter and Andrew know about fishing for men? They knew well the fishing trade and God used what they knew to make them witnesses for Him. 

It seems to me in Jesus’ wordplay that the transformative principle is the “for men” part. Peter and Andrew knew fishing. Jesus would reorient their fishing trade to include the relational component. This reorientation was not so much about what they did, but rather why and for whom they did it. 

Because Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, His focal point was people. People would become Peter and Andrew’s focus too. 

Specifically, Jesus would redeem, shape and utilize their experience as fisherman to now function in a new paradigm, the Kingdom of God! Ultimately, in time, they would come to understand their Kingdom responsibility as “fishers of men.”

Jesus, in calling them to follow Him, could have used any phrase. Yet, I find it striking that His calling on their lives about their future endeavor includes their past identity!

And therein lies a powerful application for you and me.

You see, I was a professional tennis coach for 14 years prior to God moving me into vocational Christian ministry. I have played the game of tennis most of my life. And I can tell you God has used my tennis experience in my witness for Jesus Christ. In fact, I’ve written a book on personal evangelism entitled “Serving In His Court: Biblical Principles For Personal Evangelism” From The Heart Of A Coach” that utilizes the motif of tennis in equipping believers to fulfill the Great Commission.

I was still coaching tennis when I became a Christian at 23 yrs of age. My Kingdom orientation following my salvation included coaching tennis to glorify Jesus, not simply helping people become better tennis players. 

And you? What are your passions, gifts, and abilities? Will you surrender them to Jesus and allow Him to mold them for His Glory to accomplish His Kingdom purposes, which center on redeeming lost people? Now, becoming a fisher of men doesn’t necessarily entail leaving your 

job or ignoring your gifts, abilities and passions. Rather, it’s about your willingness to subjugate them all the Lord, allowing Him to transform you into the witness He desires you to become. The key is to simply follow Him, as Peter and Andrew did.

So follow Jesus and commit your way to Him, allowing Him to use the gifts, abilities and experiences He’s given you, for men and ultimately for His Glory!

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord…” – Colossians 3:23

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