“Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus’ first call to discipleship in Mark’s Gospel compared His ministry to the work Simon, Andrew, James, and John knew very well. He saw fishermen at work and made a ready comparison. But this call also connected what Jesus was doing to the Old Testament hopes found at the end of Ezekiel’s visions. The prophet had foreseen God’s people returning from exile and rebuilding the temple to restore right worship. Out of that rebuilt temple flowed a river of life and Ezekiel 47:10 talked about fishermen standing beside the sea and spreading their nets to catch many fish out of that river. And so by calling fishermen to fish for men, Jesus connected His work to the promised renewal of God’s people.
Jesus also knew that fish fishing made great preparation for man fishing. Fishing with nets takes faith, demands persistence, and depends on the providence of God. Ultimately what comes up in the net has more to do with God’s providence than the skill of the fishermen. Man casts the net but God fills it and that’s what evangelism is like, persistent casting and providential catching.
By proclaiming the gospel of God, Jesus became the fountainhead of the great river flowing from a renewed Israel. By calling disciples, He is placing fishermen equipped with the nets of repentance and faith along the shore and putting them to work hauling in a catch of men and women. This is the heart of discipleship, joining Jesus in the work of man-fishing. If you aren’t passionate about man-fishing, then you aren’t following Jesus. If you aren’t praying more men and women into the gospel nets, you aren’t following Jesus. If you aren’t participating in Jesus’ work of man-fishing, you aren’t obeying His call.
So how about you? Do you share Jesus’ passion for man-fishing? How do you communicate that passion to your family and friends? What are two or three ways that you’ve done this? Are you praying man-fishing prayers? When was the last time you did? How do you and how does your family participate in the gospel work of man-fishing? Do your answers match up with the importance that Jesus placed on this work?
And as you answer, remember that Christ’s fishing operation involves a number of different roles. Simon, Andrew, James, and John were called on to man the nets. Zebedee was called to make great sacrifices in his business and family life for the sake of Jesus’ work. Simon’s mother-in-law was called on to serve the fishermen after a long day on the riverbanks. Simon’s wife accompanied him on fishing trips. Disciples have different tasks in the work of man-fishing; behind the fish flopping in the net lies a whole network of fisher-folk.
This means that there are two risks for us as disciples: on the one side, well-intentioned Christians can assume that everyone’s part looks the same and then judge others to be unfaithful or uncommitted– “why isn’t everyone sharing their faith?” On the other side, those whose part is not as obviously on the front lines by the seashore can lose sight of the one main goal that we all share and find their passion and energy getting tangled up in other things or drifting away–“what does changing diapers or making dinner have to do with fishing for men?”
The most important thing is to hear Jesus’ call and respond with immediate obedience. Maybe, like Zebedee or Simon’s mother-in-law, you need to be reminded to re-examine how your life can support the ministry of fishing for men from right where you are. Or maybe, like Simon, Andrew, James, and John, Jesus is calling you to drop everything and leave family, work, and home, behind to go and cast gospel nets. Whatever the case may be, Jesus calls you to join Him in the glorious adventure of fishing for men. Follow Him.