Summary: Right in the middle of our world, Jesus calls us to become disciples committed to a work of eternal significance
Fishing is a favorite subject of mine. If I can’t get out to do it, I can at least sit around and talk about it, and that’s the next best thing.
There are some who would rather not do either. So, I wouldn’t want to push fishing on anyone. Even though 4 of 12 of Jesus’ chosen apostles were fisherman. In fact, if you run down the list of the 12, you’d find a tax collector, a political revolutionary, a doubter, and a swindler. But of 12, Peter, Andrew, James, and John are fisherman. From them Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John to become His inner circle among the rest. Peter becomes chief spokesman. James will become the first Apostle to die a martyr’s death. John will become the only to die of old age.
I probably would mention too, that Jesus told stories about fishing; that He fed a multitude with bread and fish, and His disciples with fish; that He sent Peter fishing to pay their temple tax; that the fish itself was adopted by the early church as a symbol for Jesus, and that’s why today you find it on the trunk lid of lots of peoples’ cars. (In fact, on Judgment Day, that’s going to be what makes or breaks you: “Did you have one of those fish things on the trunk lid of your car?”)
All that fish talk in the Bible is a good excuse for me to go fishing once in a while! I’m glad it’s there! Why, just this week, to help research for this sermon, I took Andy fishing! If I ever had a fishing boat, I’d name it “Visitation.” That way, if someone’s looking for me, the office can say, “He’s out on Visitation.” Ever notice how Bill Meyer seems to smile a lot? That’s because he fishes a lot. And just ask anyone who ever went fishing with a man named Dick Euchey if that time with him in a boat is what helped them to finally accept Jesus.
I’ve always enjoyed fishing! When I was a kid, I built lures, practiced casting in the front yard, and even knew the theme song to Bill Dance Outdoors. I enjoy getting away from the grind and setting my mind on just that one thing. I enjoy just getting outside and seeing some of the things that remind me of how awesome is the God we serve. I enjoy the contest of outsmarting a wily ol’ bass and then out-muscling him to the surface. I enjoy the adventure of never knowing exactly how the fishing’s going to turn out that day, and of pulling out of the dark water a fish that you’ve never before seen. And, like any fisherman worth his weight in worms, I enjoy having fishing stories to tell. Like…
• fishing in a rowboat in August in IN and hooking an 11lb catfish that towed me around for 15 minutes before got it into the boat with me. Then, one year later, same spot, same time of day, same lure, hooking a 12lb catfish and doing the same thing!
• fishing at 12,000’ in the mountains of CO where the snow came right down to the water and water so clear you could see it was full of trout.
• catching a bass that had a piece of one of my lures in his stomach because he had bitten it off earlier.
• taking my kids fishing and having still to listen to them tell how they each caught 5 fish and I only caught one.
Oh, yeah, then there’s the hazards that you non-enthusiasts probably remember: mosquitoes, deerflies, ticks, chiggers, poison ivy, bears, and snakes – at least in MO when you go fishing you always get a bite of some kind! Then there’s sunburn, lightning, downpours of rain, stalled boat motors, falling in, and the potential shame of coming home skunked – in more ways than one!
That’s the part of fishing that some of you remember, so reading about these 4 men leaving the fishing business to follow Jesus doesn’t seem so special. In fact, if it were you and Jesus said to you, “Hey, why don’t you give up fishing and follow Me?” you’d be saying, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Clearly, we need to see how we figure into this story today. And since we don’t live in a fishing town on the east coast, it’s a little tougher. It’s not just a fishing story – it’s about the call of Jesus to become committed disciples – the people who learn from Him, become like Him, and carry on His work.
We’re going to examine that call through the eyes of the gospel writers this morning.
John doesn’t have much to say about this event early in Jesus’ ministry. In fact, John records that these 4 fishermen, for the past 9-10 months have already been traveling around with Jesus. They’ve watched Him cleanse the temple, heal the sick, cast out demons, and turn water into wine. Mt, Mk, and Lk don’t detail that. But what these other 3 gospels do stress is the suddenness and determination with which 4 fishermen wholeheartedly become Jesus’ disciples.