When Jesus calls four of His disciples He makes His agenda known up front. You might expect Jesus, when calling these men, to say something like: “Follow Me, and I’ll make you more spiritual.” Or, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you more holy.” Instead, Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
I don’t think Peter, Andrew, James and John knew exactly what Jesus meant by this at first. Luke’s version of the story describes what precedes the invitation to follow. Jesus jumps into Peter’s boat, and insists that they push off shore and lower their nets. Peter initially resists, but eventually complies. The result was a catch so substantial that their nets began to break and their boats began to sink.
On the heals of this miracle Jesus issues the invitation to follow. My suspicion is that these men chose to follow because of what Jesus did for them. They dropped everything believing Jesus would look after their needs.
Present day followers of Jesus aren’t that different. I’ve yet to meet a Christian who says they came to be a follower of Jesus because they wanted to be a part of this movement that “fished for people.”
No, most of us come to follow Jesus because we imagine that He will do something for us. We imagine Jesus will make us a better person. We imagine that He will fill a void for us, or that He will mend something for us. It’s not that this is a wrong way to think, it’s that this way of thinking is incomplete.
Eventually, the early disciples would learn that following Jesus wasn’t simply about them. They eventually discovered that they had been called to something bigger than themselves. They eventually learned that to follow is to fish.
Jesus’ agenda for His followers has not changed in this regard. If you belong to Jesus, His design is for you to fish. His design is for you to positively impact the lives of those around you for eternity.
Followers of Jesus often resist this design. “I lack knowledge” will be one objection. “I’m too inexperienced” says another. “I’m not good with words.” “I’m too this”. “I’m too that.”
But here’s the thing. Jesus never said that the moment we believe in Him we’ll be expert fishers of people. He says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Like most things in life, our capacity to fish for people is a work in progress. And we stay at it because a big part of following is fishing.
If you are a Christian, think back to the person who helped lead you to faith in Jesus. For me it was my first camp counselor at Muskoka Woods—Ken Harper. As I think back to that time I recall what it was like to live apart from Jesus Christ. I compare what I was then, and what I am now, and I’m so grateful that Ken Harper didn’t shun his obligation to fish. Ken Harper’s willingness to fish has changed my life forever.
You could say that a huge reason why I fish is because I know what it is like to be fished for. I’m so grateful someone fished for me.
Nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus shared His agenda with four men on a beach. We have every reason to believe the agenda is the same for us: To follow is to fish.
On October 18, at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered the first of six messages on this theme of sharing the message of Jesus with others. The order of these messages follows the outline of a series by Andy Stanley, entitled, “Go Fish”. Have a listen to the message below and learn why telling others about Jesus is such a big deal for His followers.