Perhaps you’ve seen on a church marquee 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 4:18-20:
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.
Initially notice, Jesus laying down the condition for making them fishers of men. ‘Follow Me and…,’ the Lord stated.
In the first century, following a rabbi in discipleship was a 24/7 endeavor. It was a complete commitment to live with and learn from the rabbi. Peter and Andrew would have been with Jesus all the time. They traveled with him and slept under the stars with Him. Jesus took them and the other disciples all over Judea. They asked Him questions, and He often answered. They watched Him do ministry, by listening, observing, and learning, and also did ministry themselves.
In the upper room discourse in John 17:18, just prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus prayed:
“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
And following His resurrection just prior to His ascension, the Lord told His disciples they would be His witnesses, commanding them:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. – Matthew 28:19-20
“Being sent” and “going” are active words. Going would require faith and obedience of those first disciples to follow the Lord wherever He would lead them. The Lord desires the same from you and me today. It takes faith to follow, yet we are not alone.
The Lord is with us 24/7 through the person of the Holy Spirit, Who not only indwells us, but also empowers us to go where God calls us and fulfill whatever task He calls us to!
Lord, give us the grace and faith to follow You.
“Following” precedes the “fishing of men.” But 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 minds. “Fishers of men?” Really? What is Jesus 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 it 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, confused and confounded them initially.
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.”
In calling them to follow Him, Jesus could have used any phrase. Yet, I find it striking that His calling on their lives about their future endeavor includes their past!
And therein lies a powerful application for you and me.
You see, I was a professional tennis coach for 14 years. In fact, 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.
For you, the Lord can use all of your experiences, expertise, and knowledge in developing your witness.
He made Peter and Andrew “fishers of men.” He has used my past experience in tennis as He develops my witness for Him today. How about you?
God can and does use our past to glorify His name in the present. Whatever gifts, abilities, and experiences He has endowed you with, He can and will use them to shape you into the witness He desires you to be.
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! Amen!