WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT BEING “FISHERS OF MEN” – GOING FISHING WITH JESUS

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Acts 2:46-47 KJV

     Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee, which Luke calls the “lake of Gennesaret.”  He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. Around Him a crowd had gathered, listening to Him proclaim the word of God. Beyond the crowd of those who were pressing in on the Lord Jesus, there was the sea of Galilee, and two ships were pulled up on the shore. One ship belonged to Peter, and the other belonged to James and John. The Bible says, “And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon.” Luke 5:10 KJV  These four fishermen were not among the crowd. Instead, they were off washing their nets. They had spent a long and fruitless night fishing. It says in the Bible, “we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing” Luke 5:5 KJV  Jesus’ appearance at the lake is not coincidental. I believe that He purposed to be there, knowing that this is where the disciples would be. It is no accident that the boat into which our Lord stepped, and from which He taught, was Peter’s. It says, “And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.” Luke 5:3 KJV  Jesus seems to merely be doing that which would make His speaking more effective and efficient, as well as providing a way of escape from the crowds when He was finished. I believe, however, that Jesus was seeking the disciples. It was time for them to become permanently attached to Him, accompanying Him wherever He went. The time for a deeper level of commitment and involvement had come. The appearance at the lake that day was for the purpose of bringing about a life-changing decision by Peter and his companions. Jesus would momentarily use the boat as His pulpit, but He was intent on making fishermen fishers of men. The disciples had apparently finished washing their nets and had probably hung them out on the ship to dry. Jesus had likewise finished His teaching, and asked Peter to put out to deeper water, and to let down the nets for a catch. The Bible says, “Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” Luke 5:4 KJV  Jesus did not make a suggestion, He made a command. And He did not order the disciples to let down their nets to try to catch fish, He ordered them to put out their nets for a catch of fish. In other words, Jesus was issuing both a command and a promise. The command was to put out the nets. The promise was that there would be a catch. And what a catch it would be!  Peter’s words betray a reticence, perhaps even a bit of irritation in this verse, “And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” Luke 5:5 KJV  In the first place, Peter’s words indicate that he and his partners were dog tired. They had worked hard, all night. Besides that, they had just finished washing their nets. They would have to do it all over again. Second, Peter indicates that their efforts had been futile. Night was the best time to fish. If they had not caught anything at night, why in the world should they catch anything in the daytime, the worst possible time to fish. Third, there is a hint of irritation here. Did Jesus, a carpenter, think that He knew more about fish than these fishermen? His order seemed naïve. Peter relented and let down the nets, but it would seem that he has safeguarded himself for the failure he thinks is certain. You almost wonder if Peter didn’t want to fail in this venture, so that he could give Jesus an “I told you so” look. How many times would Peter have the opportunity to prove Jesus wrong. Surely when it came to catching fish, he was the expert. Jesus was the Master, and so His word would be obeyed, albeit under protest. The result was incredible. There were those stories that all fishermen swapped, about good catches, but this beat all that Peter had ever heard, by far! The nets were absolutely full. They began to break. They signaled their partners for help, and even with two ships, the harvest was so large that both boats began to sink. The catch of a lifetime had been made. And now it was time to “hook” the fishermen. Every miracle had its purpose, and this one was no exception. There was a “catch” to the story, and it is now to be disclosed. Simon Peter was the leader and the spokesman for the others. He immediately responded by falling down at the feet of Jesus, saying, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Luke 5:8 KJV  Falling prostrate at the feet of Jesus was an act of humility and worship. Peter had been ministered to in an area of his own expertise. He now saw the Lord Jesus in an entirely different light. Jesus was Lord, and he was but a sinful man. In verse 5, Jesus was referred to by Peter as “Master,” but now He is Peter’s Lord. The change of terms is our signal to a quantum leap in Peter’s grasp of Jesus’ greatness and power. Peter not only confessed the greatness and perhaps the holiness of our Lord, but also his own sinfulness. Peter saw his resistance and reluctance to obey the Lord’s command to let down the nets as sin. Peter thought he was the expert, but now sees that Jesus is Lord of the sea as well. Peter doubted that they would make a great catch, and feared that his efforts would be wasted. Now he saw his Lord’s sovereignty and his sin. The revelation to Peter that he was a sinner is a basic necessity, and Peter has the distinction of being the first in Luke’s account to become aware of this fact. Whether or not the other three disciples-to-be recognized their own sin as a result of this miracle we do not know, but Luke is clear that all were amazed and seized with wonder at seeing what the Lord had done. It says in the Bible, “For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Luke 5:9-10 KJV  Peter had just confessed to being a sinner, and testified to the greatness of His Lord. Jesus responded by a command not to fear, and a promise that he would become a fisher of men. Peter’s fear can be found in three areas, and that our Lord’s words to Peter provide him with hope in each area. First, I believe that Peter was fearful of leaving his life’s occupation of fishing to follow Jesus. It begins by describing the great crowd which had surrounded Jesus, while the fishermen are in the distance, tending to the washing of the nets, tending to business. Then it says in the Bible, “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” Luke 5:11 KJV  I believe that these men understood the implications of Jesus’ invitation, but were afraid to leave their life’s work to follow Him wherever He went. This was necessary, however, for Jesus ministered far more widely than just in Galilee, around the Sea of Galilee, where they always fished. With this remarkable catch, Jesus showed that He was able to provide. He was sovereign in the matter of work, as well as in all other matters. With this miracle Peter’s fears about following Jesus melted. He and his partners walked away without a thought, without even bothering with that huge catch of fish. The fears which had haunted and hindered them so long vanished with the catch of fish. Second, I believe that Peter and his partners were fearful about commencing an entirely new career. Not only did the call to follow Jesus require these fishermen to leave their career, it required them to begin an entirely new career. Jesus likened the new career of the disciples to the old. In both cases they would fish. There was a continuity in their tasks. It would seem that the first occupation had prepared them for the second. But even more than this, Jesus gave these men the promise that they would be fishers of men, a promise which in the light of their huge catch, included being very successful fishers of men. Third, Peter’s was fearful because he recognized his sin and the Lord’s righteousness. The words of Peter, “Depart from me, Lord,” reveal his awareness that a holy God cannot have intimate communion with sinful men. While Peter had no desire to leave His Lord, He did not know how he could enter into an even more intimate relationship with the immensity of his sin. Our Lord did not fully answer Peter’s objection on this count, He only assured him by telling Him to stop fearing. Ultimately the Lord’s provision for Peter’s sin is even more abundant than His provision of fish. That provision will be made at the cross of Calvary, where He will die in the sinner’s place. For Peter, and Andrew too, it seems, James and John, the three who will make up the inner circle of Jesus followers, this incident is a major turning point. They have followed Jesus before, but only partially, only for a time. Now, these disciples have made the decision to leave their careers and follow Jesus wherever He went. This was no small decision. It was a crisis of careers and a mid-life crisis combined. From this moment on, Jesus would begin to pour more of His life into these disciples. The more intimate aspects of His life and ministry would now be made known to them. If Jesus were to have His disciples with Him and He was called to preach the good news of the kingdom of God far and wide, then there is no way that these fishermen could continue their fishing career in the Sea of Galilee. It says in the Bible, “And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.” Luke 4:43-44 KJV  But what we must see is that after our Lord’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension, He is now spiritually present with all saints through His Holy Spirit. While we may need to leave our homes or our employment to obey His leading and to proclaim the gospel, we do not need to leave anything in order for Him to be in and with us. First, our text strongly implies that following
Jesus begins with the realization of our inadequacies and needs. Those who came to our Lord and followed Him in the gospels were those in desperate need. Jesus Himself said that He came to seek and to save the lost, that He came not to the well, but to the sick. Thus, it is those who are inadequate in themselves who follow Christ. There is no need to follow Christ if you are doing fine in and of your own efforts. Those who follow Jesus are those who have found themselves to fail on their own. Peter’s most significant confession is that he was a sinner and that Christ was righteous. When this is granted, it is no wonder that the sinner gives up his way and chooses to follow Christ. Failure is the first step in following Christ. Those who follow Him have found themselves to fail on their own. Those who feel sufficient will not turn to Him. Second, following Jesus requires faith in Him as our all-sufficient Savior. If Peter found himself to be a failure at fishing and a sinner in life, He found Christ to be sovereign, righteous, and all-sufficient. All of Peter’s fears vanished when he realized the sufficiency of the One who had called him to be a fisher of men. Jesus Christ is the only all-sufficient One. To follow Him is to be assured of God’s provision of forgiveness of sins and of righteousness, to follow Him is to be assured of our physical needs. To follow Him is to be assured of eternal life. To follow Him is to be assured of divine guidance and direction. To follow Him is to be assured of all that is required to do His will. Our great lack of faith can be traced, in almost every case, to an inadequate grasp of the goodness and the greatness of God. When we realize who it is who calls us to follow Him, the faith to do so comes easily. Apart from knowing God, we find our faith lacking and deficient. Third, our Lord knows our weaknesses and our unbelief, and gives us ample evidence, ample basis for our faith. The Lord Jesus knew of the inner turmoil which Peter and his partners were dealing with, better than they did. Instead of berating them or of forcing them to follow Him unconvinced and semi-committed, Jesus performed a miracle which vaporized their fears and was a catalyst for their faith. For these men, an overflowing, tearing net and two sinking ships was all the evidence they required to see the sufficiency of the Savior. Fourth, the text strongly implies that to follow Jesus, we must forsake certain things. In order for Peter, James and John to follow Jesus, they had to leave their ships and their nets. In the final analysis, they had to leave those things in which they had faith, in which they found their safety, their security, and their significance. Following Christ, finding Him to be our all-sufficient Savior, requires that we forsake anything besides Him in which we trust, in which we feel secure, in which we feel significant, in which we feel safe. Fifth, the text suggests that if we are to be followers of Christ, we must do what He does. Jesus came “to seek and to save” the lost. The disciples were to become “fishers of men” not only because Jesus would command them to do so, but because this is His mission. These men would become “fishers of men,” not so much because they were fishermen, but because Jesus had come to draw (catch) men into His kingdom. To follow Christ means to do as He does. Those who would be followers of Christ cannot ignore the fact that Jesus was a seeker of men, and thus we, too, must be fishers of men. Sixth, the text suggests that if we would follow Jesus, we must not only do what He does, but we must do it His way. Peter thought of himself as an expert at fishing. Using their finest skills the night before, Peter and his partners caught nothing. Fishing Jesus’ way, which involved a violation of all the principles of fishing Peter knew, brought great success. Doing things God’s way, the Spirit of God produces the fruit and God receives the glory. Let us be careful about what it is we try to bring with us when we seek to follow Jesus. Not only did Peter and his partners leave behind their boats and their nets, they left their proven fishing methods behind as well. There’s also a cost in following Jesus and experiencing the freedom He gives. When fishermen Peter and Andrew heard Jesus call, “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” Matthew 4:19-20 KJV  We are tempted to think that we should make something of our lives and at the same time follow Jesus. Wrong!  He calls us first to follow Him, and then He makes something of our lives. He leads us to prioritize so that we see the needs of people and their eternity as the goal of all our endeavors. Jesus is a compelling Person, and He is still looking for followers. He wants to make something of your life by giving you the identity of a follower of Jesus. It doesn’t mean giving up your career, but it does mean that you will do your work, and all of life, according to His will and ways. Where you “fish” is not important. But if you follow, you must fish. What are you waiting for? Drop your nets, follow Him, and let Him make something of your life. Let’s go fishing with Jesus and give you heart to Him, for He is the One that died on the cross and shed His blood to pay the penalty for your sins so you could have that free gift of eternal life. Amen

By: Jeff Ellinger

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4 Responses to WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT BEING “FISHERS OF MEN” – GOING FISHING WITH JESUS

  1. terri0729 says:

    Good lesson! I enjoyed it’s insight. God bless you, Teresa

  2. […] What the Bible Says About Being “Fishers of Men” – Going Fishing With Jesus (lnger.wordpress.com) […]

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