“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:19-20
Don’t you just hate showoffs? You know, the ones that always must prove a “one-upsmanship?”
Many summers we took our little children fishing in Oklahoma. We would troll the lines behind the small boat with the children holding their own fishing pole. When we trolled through a school of sand bass, the kids would reel in fish after fish. It was great.
Now, sand bass in Oklahoma are generally small as fish go, but they were fun to catch and are delicious to eat.
Once I was telling a friend about these fishing accomplishments, and he just had to reply, “You call that fishing? We go out in the Gulf and do real fishing in a boat five times the size of the one you’re talking about, and we use for bait the kind of fish you caught. You call that fishing?”
I began to make excuses about fishing with children and so on, but I began to feel inadequate and even began to feel like what we accomplished was rather insignificant.
In a similar sort of way, I get that same feeling of inadequacy and insignificance when I think about the twelve disciples of Jesus.
It’s almost like they’re showoffs. I mean, I look at them and see amazing things. They are called in person by Jesus Himself. How about that to start? They respond immediately, no report of negotiation or hesitation or procrastination. They leave their families. They become famous, although it meant martyrdom for all but one. They start spreading the Gospel and establishing The Church.
When I hear that, I can’t help but feel sort of inadequate and insignificant, don’t you?
Compared to them, my discipleship is kind of lousy, isn’t yours? Can you imagine Peter, James, and John taking a look at our response to Jesus’ call for us to become “fishers of men,” and asking, “You call that fishing?”
However, making us feel inadequate and insignificant is obviously not the intent of the Gospel accounts in the Bible. In fact, much of the story of the disciples shows their faults, fears, and hesitations. Time and again they were not such great “fishers of men” either.
When it comes to being “fishers of men,” the key to it all is not to look at the disciples and what they did, but rather to focus on the power of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit which enabled them to do it.
It was the power of Jesus that touched their lives again and again. It was the power of Jesus living in them that took who they were, very ordinary human beings, and molded their actions into outcomes of extreme and extraordinary success for God’s Kingdom on earth. It was only the power of Jesus in them that gave them adequacy and significance as disciples and “fishers of men.”
And the Good News is that the same is true for you and me, for all of us Christians, who also have heard Jesus’ call that He will make us “fishers of men.” We don’t look into ourselves to pull it off. We can only stand in the same shoes as the disciples and be recipients of the power that comes into us from Jesus Himself.
How and when does Jesus’ power come into us? It comes into us through the Holy Spirit as we hear and read and study His Word in Holy Scripture, the Bible. It comes into us when we are baptized and made His children. Jesus’ power comes into us every time we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the bread and wine of Holy Communion for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.
This power of Jesus, proven on His cross and proclaimed by the empty tomb of His resurrection, gives us the power to answer His call, be his disciples, and be great “fishers of men.”
And everything we do on a daily basis to share the love of Christ with others is great “fishing.” That will be to teach our children and grandchildren about the love of Jesus for them. That will be to take Jesus’ love into the world with us wherever we go. That will be to invite others into the worship and discipleship of our local churches.
These are examples of what we can do by the power of Christ within us. These are examples of the sweet fulfillment of being “fishers of men.” And, oh yes, you can call that fishing!
You want a feeling of adequacy and significance? Nothing is better than this! Thanks be to God! And Amen!
[Dr. Justin Kollmeyer, a thirty-seven-year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran minister. He is available to all Christians for preaching or teaching. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]