“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”-Matthew 4:19
The word of God has much to say about the humble profession of the fisherman. Our Lord’s first four apostles were harvesters of the sea. When Jesus called Andrew and Peter, he told them he would make them fishers of men. For the Jews of Jesus’ time, fishing referred to two different techniques. Commercial fishermen used nets. But the hook and line method most of us recognize as fishing, was an option as well. Let’s see what lessons we can learn from both methods.
In Matthew chapter 17, Peter let his mouth get ahead of his pocketbook. He committed Jesus, and himself, to paying the two-drachma tax but apparently neither could make good on that pledge. Our Lord has Peter, “cast a hook” to catch a fish with a shekel in its mouth. Jesus’ unique method of satisfying the commands of the Law of Moses teaches us something about our responsibility to be, “fishers of men.”
Hooks Require Bait: The odds are pretty low that Peter used a dry fly to land the fish. Most modern-day anglers use an artificial lure (sight) or some form of bait (smell/taste). A brightly colored spinning lure appeals to the fish’s, “lust of the eyes”-I John 2:16 (KJV). He will strike out of surprise, a defensive reaction, or he may be fooled into thinking my yellow Rooster Tail is actually food. The fish is deceived into taking the hook. This is not how we convert people to Christ. Paul says, “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”-II Corinthians 4:2.
Taste And Smell: So, artificial lures are out of the question when fishing for people. We must use actual fish food. Fishing with a worm, minnow, or piece of liver comes closer to teaching others the gospel of Jesus Christ. The body and blood of Christ and the story of how the former was broken and the latter shed are, “true food…true drink.”-John 6:55. When a sinner has, “tasted that the Lord is good.”-I Peter 2:3, they will bite down hard on the truth of resurrection and forgiveness of sins. Catching fish with the story of God’s love to all who believe lands Christians without regret.
Casting A Net: Fishing with a hook is not the only method used in Scripture. Peter, Andrew, James, and John went out in boats and used nets to catch fish. Andrew and Peter were, “casting a net into the sea”-Mark 1:16 and when Jesus called, “they left their nets and followed him”-Mark 1:18. Similarly, James and John were, “in their boat mending the nets.”-Mark 1:19 when they made the decision to trace the steps of a carpenter’s son from Galilee. Luke records this miraculous detail from our Lord’s call of these four fishermen. After a fruitless night of casting nets, Jesus told Peter to, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”-Luke 5:4. Simon obeyed and, “they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.”-Luke 5:6.
What can we learn about hooks and nets to help us rustle up sinners for the Lord? We can not lie or deceive. What happens if we convert someone to an artificial gospel? When they learn the truth, they will be disillusioned and our work will be burned up (I Corinthians 3:13-15). If our lure is the love of God revealed in the sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring the grace of forgiveness to all mankind, our fish will never regret taking the bait. Fishing with a net teaches us two things:
- Don’t be afraid to expect great results (Romans 1:16-17)! The same gospel we preach converted 3,000 on Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and retains the same power of God today!
- Bring them all into the boat and let God sort them out. It is not our job to prepare hearts but to sow the seed. In the same way, their will always be unconverted souls among us. God will have angels deal with the carp (Matthew 13:47-50).
Let’s get to fishin’!