With a small tin can full of worms, a stick pole and a couple yards of line, I became a fisherman. I vividly remember those summer days of the 1960s at our family’s pond in northeast Ohio. It was there I learned the art of luring little fish from their watery habitat. I became acquainted with my future father-in-law when I began dating my wife, two decades later. He liked to fish for bass.
A few trips out with him and I was hooked. Since that time I have caught northern pike in Canada, walleye on Lake Erie, and salmon on a Lake Michigan tributary. I’ve also fished the Atlantic Ocean off of Florida and North Carolina for various salt water species and battled grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. My grandfather, father and my three brothers have all enjoyed fishing. The trips I’ve had fishing with my now grown children are very memorable and happy times. I am elated that my son-in-law is an avid outdoorsman and fisherman also!
One day Jesus encountered a couple fishermen. They we not causal hobby anglers, it was their job. In reading about them in the New Testament Gospels, you learn that they were well established in their trade, boats, nets and all the essential equipment needed to catch fish. It is quite remarkable that upon meeting Jesus the very first time and hearing his message of repentance and forgiveness they left all their gear and equipment behind and followed Him.
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 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 4:17-20
Fishermen aren’t necessarily known for their honesty, at least not when telling of the size and quantity of the catch. Peter and Andrew were likely no exception to the rule. Not exactly the type we’d expect to make the inner circle of this new movement of Jesus followers. Even my grandfather taught me as a child to hold the fish out toward the camera to make it appear much larger. Now you know! I started to tell you that I don’t do this anymore because now I just catch bigger fish, but that just wouldn’t be true. Are you smiling?
So what was it that caused multitudes of people to follow after Jesus? His words were obviously compelling. His message filled with hope, forgiveness and acceptance was definitely “good news.” In a time and culture much like today when people were so divided politically, ethnically, economically and just about any way that people can be divided, the message Jesus spoke, captured the hearts of fishermen and people from all facets of life and brought them together.
Jesus cared and it showed. His love and genuine concern for people drew people by hundreds and thousands to see and hear Him. His willingness to forgive sinners, from prostitutes to tax extortionists, was big news in the small towns where he taught. Healing incurable lepers and canceling a few funerals brought forth the masses to His gatherings.
Jesus told Peter and Andrew that in following Him they would catch men. Peter understood the concept of the catch so very well. As Peter, Andrew and many other unlikely disciples followed their leader, He taught them how to win the hearts of men. The art of the catch when fishing for men was much different than what Peter had been used to. Snaring fish with a net was not the way catching men would be done. Jesus taught his followers, the tools of the trade would involve love, compassion and caring for all people. Peter being a Jew had to learn that Jesus does not esteem one person above another. Both Jews and Gentiles were redeemable.
As a follower and ambassador of Jesus today, our objectives are the same as in Peter and Andrew’s day. Follow Him closely and repeat the Lord’s message. I love what Mother Teresa of Calcutta was noted for saying: “Tell everyone you can of the love of Christ and if necessary use words.” My old tackle box has many different types of lures for different types of fish species and conditions. As we are purposed to reach people with the love and message of Christ, we need to be well equipped. Our supplies of serving, helping, caring and loving continue to draw men to the savior who continues to invite fishermen out for the next catch. You’d be surprised to know who is waiting to be invited to know and follow Him.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30 NKJV
The writer is the senior pastor of Solid Rock Pentecostal Church of God, 2745 State Route 29 N., Sidney.