How do you turn a person’s life upside down so that they turn away from all they have and follow a different path? This is what Jesus did with the early disciples and it is here we see the classic line where he said he would make them fisher’s of men. Simon Peter, Andrew his brother and their work partners James and John literally left all they had to follow Jesus on the promise that they would become fishers of men.
These few early disciples began a trend that carries through to today. Part of the process of being a Christian is in making disciples for Jesus. Note that we make disciples for Jesus, not ourselves. Some in the church have abused this ministry for their own benefit, but they will bear the consequences of their actions. The early disciples did a good job too. As I have said in other posts, from a rag-tag bunch of fisherman the Christian church has grown to the stage where probably a third of the earth’s population calls itself Christian.
But what is the basis of this transformation? Why was it so powerful, firstly in the lives of those early disciples and then down through the ages to this day? Let’s look at the aspect of the fishermen to see what it tells us.
A professional fisherman casts or lays a net to enclose a catch of fish and then draws the net in to himself. Often to bring the fish in he will use bait or berley so that the fish are attracted.
In this situation we see that Jesus first taught the people and used Simon Peter’s boat to push out a little from the shore. Simon listened to this ministry and was clearly moved by what was said, but not yet enough to give up all he had and follow the Lord. But then when Jesus said for him to lower the nets for a catch after he had toiled all night for nothing, Peter obeyed. He sensed something in Jesus that commanded respect and he believed what the Lord had said. His shock was evident when they immediately enclosed a large school of fish so big that their nets were straining and breaking. Peter implored Jesus to, “…Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Verse 8 )
Peter recognised a miracle had been performed and it was for his benefit and those with him that this had occurred. From a logical perspective it made no sense. Peter was the professional fisherman. He knew when and how to catch fish. He understood the tides, times, winds, current and so on to ensure the best opportunity to catch fish, and in spite of his efforts had come up empty handed. But Jesus who was a carpenter and should have no or little knowledge of fishing, told them when and where to let down the nets and they caught a huge haul.
Simon Peter believed Jesus and in this miracle he recognised Jesus could do anything. So if Jesus said they would become fishers of men, Peter did not doubt it. He knew that fishing was hard work and sometimes you come up empty handed. Preaching the gospel can also be hard work and sometimes you may not see the fruits of your labour. But like fishing it requires patience to get the catch, and may require many casts before the fish is caught and landed.
It is the same for those who fish for men today. The message of Jesus is the same to day as it was back then. The offer of freedom and release from sin with the ultimate reward of eternal life still holds true. A better life now and in the future too. Understanding this to be true, Simon Peter and the others were recruited, hook, line and sinker to change their life and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. All who come to Christ will go through the same process of change for Jesus ministry is about change. Changing from what is evil and worthless to what is good and eternal.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Auro Queiroz)