Summary: Evangelism - through the Great commission, we are tasked to be the fishers of men.
Today’s Gospel message is a continuation of the readings we’ve heard in the previous weeks, and a work toward Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Starting with Christmas, we heard the message about the joy of our Lord coming into this world for our benefit. The story continued with the visitation of the Magi as they searched long and hard for the child born to be their savior. Later, preparations began for Jesus’ coming ministry with John the Baptist’s proclamation of repentance and the baptism of our Lord. Today the message continues. In the reading from Matthew that we heard a moment ago, Jesus continued John’s call for repentance, then started recruitment of the first of His twelve disciples. Now, the real work begins.
After being tempted in the desert for forty days, Jesus has beat the Devil at his own game. He’s beaten temptation that we’ve all succumbed to, and did it while quoting God’s words of wisdom. Now it was time to build His team of assistants. The Gospel message tells of the story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to be the first two of his twelve disciples. This was the beginning step to call these men to His side. In verse 19, we read the phrase that many of us are so familiar with. Jesus said, “Come, follow me… and I will make you fishers of men.” (NIV) This morning, I want to look closer at this phrase that has been repeated throughout Christian history. This short phrase is one of Jesus’ most popular evangelical themes, yet we don’t always pay attention to what He’s trying to tell us.
Come, Follow Me
The first part of Jesus’ message is short, but very important. “Come, Follow Me”. He was speaking to two men who became His disciples, but the message speaks equally well to us today. When he said these few, short words, He was reaching out with clear and direct guidance.
When Jesus said to “Come”, he was doing more than just designating a direction. He wasn’t looking for someone to follow him around like a puppy dog, but someone to work with Him in the ministry that was soon to begin. He was looking for workmen to enter the mission field; grooming them for the work that was soon to follow.
The word choice He used did not give allow for a grace period or a time to wait. The words were immediate and required action right now. Come now. Do not delay. Drop what you’re doing this very instance.
More than just a direction, He was calling these men to a new career. He called them with an urgency. Come this very second. Don’t wait. Jesus knew what kind of followers He needed, and He knew these were the right men to pick for the job. He needed to mold them for the missionary work that was to come. But, before they could begin this transformation, they needed to be willing to leave behind the lives they currently lived, and embrace the new life that Jesus would teach them.
Packed into this command are many implications. Jesus was saying, “Live with me and learn by watching me. Own my values and priorities. Learn to become passionate for the things I live for. And follow my example by doing the ministry I have come to do. (Stuart K. Weber, vol. 1, Matthew, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 44-45. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.)
Both Mark and Matthew list this same story in their Gospels. In both we see that Peter and Andrew doing exactly what they were told. They dropped what they were doing, and immediately put down their nets to follow Him. Similarly, James the Son of Zebedee and his brother John stopped their work, right in the middle of repairs. They laid down the nets that they were mending, left their father and his hired servants in the boat, and immediately followed their newly found Lord.
This is how sudden the choice was made. You’re right in the middle or repairing a net that your family will need for tomorrows fishing business. Your father is depending on your help to get ready for the next day’s work… and you and your brother decide to just get up and walk away to follow a stranger you’ve never even met. That is the immediacy that Jesus required. I have a task for you. But, I don’t have time to wait for you to finish what you’re working on. Come, follow me, and do it without delay.
Fishers of Men
Following His call for immediacy, He continues with a plan of action. He used words that would have meaning to men from their specific lifestyle. He used terms that would relate to their work, and their experience. They knew how to gather fish out of the water. They knew how to plan to fish, how to prepare their boat for the journey, what type of nets to use, where to go on the water, what time of day to go out, and how to be patient and wait for the catch. They knew all about fishing in the water. Jesus also knew this and calculated the exact words to help them understand. These newly found disciples’ were soon to enter upon a new set of duties.