Summary: How to win people to Jesus Christ

Fishing for Men

Mark 1:14-20

Good morning, Church. I invite you to come with me to the northern reaches of the Great Riff Valley – the Riff Valley is an enormous fracture in the earth’s crust that runs all the way from Kenya in East Africa north through the Red Sea and on up into Israel past the Dead Sea up the Jordan River Valley and finally to the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is the setting of our text in Mark 1 this morning. Over 600 feet below sea level, 20 kilometres long by 10 kilometres wide. Perhaps the most famous fishing spot in the world. Certainly, it was in Jesus’ day. Fish from these rich waters were sold in the markets in Rome. The wealthy people of that day ate the fish from the waters of the Galilee.

Josephus the famous Jewish historian of the first century was also the governor of Galilee for a time. He tells us that there were over 300 commercial fishing boats on these waters. The common people rarely ate meat. Fish was their staple diet. Fish was so much a part of their life and livelihood that several towns along the shoreline had the word ‘Fish’ in them. Bethsaida means ‘house of fish’ There was another village along the shoreline called in English ‘The Place of Salt Fish’.

They had two methods of catching the fish. The large commercial fishermen like Zebedee had a boat or a fleet of boats. They would attach a large net to the back of their boat. The boat would sail around the lake until the net got full and then they would come back to their home port.

The other method of catching fish was used by men who didn’t have a boat – often the guys with a small operation. Peter and Andrew are examples of these men. They would work from the shoreline. They had a smaller version of the net the big operators had.

And Jesus came to these men as they were working and said: Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.

This sermon is not about the fishing techniques of the first century. This is a sermon about evangelism. This is a sermon about how to obey the great commission to make disciples of all nations. This is a sermon about how each of us can bring new people into the Kingdom of God. This sermon is about what it really means to follow Jesus Christ. Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.

Jesus is using a fishing metaphor. Evangelism is like fishing.

If we are the fishermen and the non-churched are the fish, I have bad news. Fish do not like to be caught. They are not going to jump into your boat. People do not like to change any more than fish like to live on land.

There are now thousands of Muslims and Sikhs living in British Columbia. They want to become a Christian about as much as you want to become a Muslim or a Sikh. We don’t want to change. We hate change. We don’t even want to change to a new computer operating system let alone our religion.

And we certainly don’t want to be trapped. Every metaphor has its limit. And for the expression “Fishers of Men” this is it. We trap fish. We don’t trap people. We all know the feeling of being trapped in a situation, embarrassed, not sure how to get out.

When Muriel and I were young and foolish and poor we were in Montréal. Walking down the main street. Saw a sign. Travel log on Arizona. Free dinner. Short presentation. We loved travel. We were hungry. What could go wrong?

We did have dinner. We did get to see a short film about Arizona and then we were pressured to buy land in Arizona. There was no easy way out of the hotel. We were trapped.

I have gone to funerals like that. Dear Aunt Mable passes away; every pagan relative for 1,000 miles comes out of the woodwork and is at that funeral. So, the preacher has them trapped. And he lets loose with all the hell, fire and brimstone he can muster. After an hour of this everyone of Aunt Mable’s relatives vow, they will never, never go into a church building again in their life.

Our nets must be honourable and truthful. We are not fish, we are people. Knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade people. We don’t trick people.

There is no force stronger than love. There is nothing more magnetic than kindness. When love is born of the Holy Spirit, we have a power that can break down the hardest heart. When we are filled with the Spirit and care little about our ego or ‘results’ it is amazing what can happen when we fish for men and women, boys and girls.

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