“'Come, follow me,’ he said, ‘and I’ll show you how to fish for people.’” Mark 1:17 CEB
Fishing is a little bit of an art form. It certainly is an object lesson in patience. Those who are good at fishing are students of the sport. It doesn’t matter if you are fly fishing, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, or commercial fishing you must know what you are doing. You must determine the right bait, the right line, the right rod and reel, the right boat, and the right area to do well. There is a lot that goes into being good at fishing. Over the years I have known many people who are very good at fishing. I have always admired them for one reason—I am lousy at fishing. When I was a kid I spent many hours hooking worms and trying to catch fish. I caught a few fish but was never considered successful—at all. Ironically, my most successful fishing expedition was when I was about nine. I grabbed a cane pole with no bait and dropped it into the water off the end of the dock. Within seconds a had a bite and began pulling my catch out of the water. It was an 11-inch Pike, which I caught with no bait and no effort. I guess I decided to hang up my fishing pole as a winner. Fishing takes a lot more effort than that if one wants to be successful.
There is a different kind of fishing discussed in the Gospels. Jesus calls his disciples from a career of fishing. They must have been good at fishing because it was their livelihood. Every day they would mend their nets, prepare all the gear, ready the boats and head out on the water. At the end of each day they would, hopefully, bring in the haul of fish and prepare them for the market. Day in and day out this was the rhythm of their life. Then one day a teacher, prophet comes along and changes everything. Jesus calls out to them and asks them to follow him. Along with the call to follow comes a promise—I’ll show you how to fish for people. That had to hit them as a strange promise. No one fishes for people. If these newly called disciples were to take Jesus literally they would certainly be confused by his words. Yet, they followed. Scripture records that they left their nets and followed Jesus. Simon and Andrew, James and John, all of them immediately left their life of fishing for fish and followed the One who promised to teach them to fish for people.
The question for us, as modern-day disciples of Jesus, is does Jesus still teach us to fish for people. Let’s answer that right away in one word—yes. Jesus still calls disciples to come follow him and he still promises to teach us to fish. Most churches have discerned this promise as a call to evangelism, and it is. Perhaps there is a better way to look at this promise of Jesus more holistically. The call is in part to evangelism, but the more holistic approach is that of disciple-making or discipleship. Jesus' call to follow him was a call to discipleship. A portion of that call to discipleship was calling and developing more disciples. This was the promise to join the fishing expedition. We are called to discipleship when we give our life to Christ. We become followers of Jesus AND we become followers who fish! When it comes to fishing for people we must remember that we were all fish once. Someone fished for us. Jesus pursued us. Now, as followers of Jesus we are called to fish and develop other followers. The amazing thing is that Jesus puts people in our path in life so that we can fish. Jesus teaches us to fish for people and places the people for whom we are fishing right in our path.
Are you fishing? Who has Jesus placed in your path? Are you willing to fish for them? Today you will cross paths with dozens of people, who has God placed in your path today who needs to hear the good news of hope and new life in Jesus? As one who is called to discipleship, Jesus also promises to teach us how to fish for people. I know it’s scary, but Jesus—by the power and person of the Holy Spirit—will teach us how to fish for people. Jesus will show us how to share our faith and be faithful to his call. This call to fish for people will most likely take days, weeks, months, or years to reel in the fish. Will you take the first step today? Followers of Jesus fish—will you fish today?
This Sunday we begin a new message series Go Fish. We will discuss what it means to live out Jesus Christ’s call to follow Him and fish for people. We will discuss who the fish are, how Jesus gives us all a fish tale, the messiness of fishing, and the practice of fishing with a buddy. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!