Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

As Jesus began his ministry around the Sea of Galilee, he started choosing his disciples. The first four were fishermen, and he gave them the enduring directive:
"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (KJV)
This little play on words took on a deep significance for the four men, two sets of brothers, who dropped everything and followed Jesus. That puzzled me when I was younger. Why would these guys say, "Sure, why not?" and then follow a stranger?

But in researching this quote I learned something I didn't know before. Jesus was no stranger to them. In his Gospel, John writes of his first encounter with the Messiah. Both he and Andrew were followers of John the Baptist, and they had heard him speak of Christ. If anything, it was a thrill to be singled out for a calling.

The phrase "fishers of men," is imagery for a purpose. Most kids receiving a Christian education of some sort learn that, as Andrew, Simon, James and John threw their nets out into the water to haul in as many fish as possible, Jesus was preparing them for a new role of reaching as many people as possible to haul them into the faith.

That's the easy part to explain. The tough part is how. Do you have to leave your profession, like Andrew and Simon Peter, who dropped their nets? Do you have to leave your family, as James and John left their father Zebedee? I believe the answer is no. After all, if everybody quit their jobs and joined a seminary, there wouldn't be anybody left doing anything else. Jesus places value in honest work, Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary points out, as evidenced by Jesus' choice of fishermen instead of priests to be his first disciples.

Following Christ is a matter of changing your priorities, preaches senior pastor Dr. John Hamby of Vilonia (Ark.) First Baptist Church, in a 2002 sermon:
To follow Christ is to set aside our own goals and pleasures and to embrace the purposes for which God created us. Those purposes are: to know Him in a personal way and to make disciples of others by teaching them all of Christ’s commands. All those who truly follow Christ must exchange their affections, goals and priorities for his.
I think you have to start with the first part of that. I can't really become a fisher of men until I become an example of a follower of Christ. Why would anyone listen to what I have to say unless they see me, to use a cliche, practice what I preach? As Dr. Hamby continues, he points out that the metaphor of the fisherman is relevant once again, because fish are attracted to light.
Just as fish are attracted to the disciples' light, God wants people to be drawn to His light shining through His people. The light of every believer is the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives.
How do I do that? Through daily meditative prayer, I ask God for patience, sensitivity, and to not lose sight of my role as a husband and a parent. (I tended to my awakening 2-year-old daughter as I wrote this post. Thanks for reminding me, Hannah!) I am also working on taking ownership of my faults, instead of dwelling on them or blaming them on others.

As for the other part, of reaching out to others, I guess this blog falls under that category. Other than that, I'm working on it.

Words of Wisdom

Senior Pastor David Comer, Christian Life Fellowship, Cape Coral, Fla., on our relationships with others: "You can't love God and not love people. They bring strength, comfort, growth and truth."

-September 2 sermon

No comments:

Post a Comment