Summary: We are called to become fishers of men by following the fisher of men
Following the Fisher of Men
When Jesus calls Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, it is not their first encounter. The first encounter that Peter has with Jesus is recorded in the gospel of John. John records that Andrew takes Peter to meet Jesus. There is no mention that Peter follows Jesus after this encounter. The second encounter with Jesus is one we are most familiar with. Luke records that Peter encountered Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus provides Peter with an incredible catch of fish and at the end of that encounter Luke says that they left their nets and followed Jesus. The assumption is that Peter followed Jesus from that point on. If that was the case, why is there a different encounter recorded in Matthew and Mark? We just read that Jesus called Peter to be a fisher of men what is going on in this passage?
The key is the word follow. There are two different Greek words that we translate follow. The first is opiso which means to believe and become a disciple. What Luke is telling us is that Peter left and followed Jesus that day. Matthew and Mark are showing us that Peter went back to fishing. When Jesus calls Peter to follow this day on the shore of the Galilee, a different word is used. The word here is akolutheo and it means to follow and leave everything. Peter had to make a choice to change his life with following Jesus. This was a choice to move beyond the role of fisherman to become a fisher of men.
Notice that each of the gospels emphasize a different aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. Matthew emphasizes that the call of Jesus is to His mission. Mark emphasizes that Jesus is calling the disciples to a changed life. Luke focuses on the fact that Jesus is calling the disciples to a new profession. John emphasizes that Jesus is calling the disciples to personal relationship with Him.
The question is where are you in following Jesus? Answering the call of Jesus is part of the journey. For Peter, there was a process in moving into a committed relationship with Jesus. It took the process to draw Peter deeper. To follow means to accept Jesus as the authority of your life. Following Jesus means that you are pursuing His calling, to adapt the model of His life to yours and to join your life with His. Many times we settle for the spiritual depth of a mud puddle, small and shallow.
The call of Jesus is still going out searching for people who will faithfully follow Him. Following Jesus happens in three different stages.
1.) Receiving the Call from Christ
We receive the call from Christ to follow and we are given the choice to accept and follow.
2.) Responding with a choice
We cannot be neutral when Jesus calls us to follow Him. We will either accept the call and follow Jesus or we will reject the call and live our own way.
3.) Rejoicing in the Commitment
There can be no true joy in a persons life until they make the choice to follow Jesus. Until that point they will live with a false joy or just be joyless. When we make the choice to follow Jesus, an overwhelming joy floods into our lives and begins to make a difference in us and through us.
What does it mean to be a fisher of men?
As we see in the life of Peter, it is not enough to just be a follower of Jesus. Anyone who accepts Christ can be called a follower but Jesus is not looking for parts of your life. Jesus wants and deserves all of your life. The longer that you hold back from giving your life to Jesus, the longer it takes to grow and mature spiritually.
To be a fisher of men you must surrender
When Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John, He calls them to leave everything behind to follow Him. Jesus is calling you to the same thing today. We can settle for being less than Jesus wants us to be and less than God made us to be. We can settle for being a disciple without ever becoming a fisher of men.
What are you holding onto that is keeping you from being all you can be for Jesus? What do you need to leave behind?
Maybe there is a wrong relationship that you need to sever
Maybe there is a habit that you need to give up
Maybe there is a spiritually destructive behavior that needs to be surrendered
No matter what it is, the answer is the same, it needs to go. What is it that you need to leave behind today?