“As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!’ They left their nets immediately and followed him. Going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Then he called them. They immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22 NET)
Fishermen. Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen. They lived by a large lake that we call the Sea of Galilee (the lowest freshwater lake in the world). These four fishermen were from the town of Capernaum, on the northern coast of the lake.
As fishermen, they made their living catching fish. Nets were thrown from their boat into the lake and when drawn back, fish were trapped in the net. Even today you can eat a fish known as “Peter’s fish” in this area – Sea of Galilee tilapia.
Have you ever wondered why these men were so willing to walk away from what, from all appearances, was a thriving fishing business? In John’s gospel, we find the rest of the story. In John 1 we discover that these men already knew Jesus and had spent time with him.
Jesus didn’t need followers to catch fish. Fishermen were needed, but it was for a different purpose. He needed people who could become “fishers of people.” He selected these four men, plus eight others, to train in “people fishing.” They spent the next few years with Jesus listening to him, observing him, and practicing what they learned when he sent them out on their own.
Jesus was training them to be the ones to initially teach others the good news about him so they could become Christians. Then they would teach these Christians to teach others, and on and on it went. From a strategic point of view, we might not think that this was the best way to get his teaching out to others. Twelve men. What if they failed? There was no Plan B. This was the way Jesus designed it from the beginning: people teaching people.
What about us? Do we have the same willingness that these four men had to follow Jesus? Have we answered Jesus’ call to forsake the attractions around us to devout our life to following him?
I’m not talking about everyone leaving their employment to devote all their time to teaching others about Jesus – although there is a need for more who can do this. But are we willing to do our part in telling those around us about Jesus?
Notice that with both sets of brothers there wasn’t any hesitation: they immediately left their nets and boat – and even family – to follow Jesus.
We have a new year ahead of us. As we think about what we are going to do, let us make Jesus our priority. Spend time with him each day, reading his words and talking to our heavenly Father through him. Let’s make what was important to him important to us. Let’s become fishers of men.
photo: Sea of Galilee
Readings for next week:
7 January – Matthew 4
8 January – Matthew 5
9 January – Matthew 6
10 January – Matthew 7
11 January – Matthew 8