Summary: This morning our focus is on the Great Commission, given by the Master Fisher of Men.
Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishers. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry. Week after week, month after month, and year after year these who called themselves fishers held meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. They carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be the primary task of fishers.
Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing, and for new and better definitions of fishing. They loved slogans such as “Fishing is the task of every Fisher,” and “A fishing outpost for every fishing club.” They sponsored special meetings called “Fisher’s Campaigns” and “The Month for Fishers to Fish.” They held congresses to discuss fishing, to promote fishing and to hear about all the new methods of fishing and whether any new bait was discovered. These fishers built large, beautiful buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisher and every fisher should fish. One thing, though, they didn’t do was...fish.
In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishers to other places where there were many fish. Everyone seemed to agree that what was needed was a board which could challenge fishers to be faithful in fishing. The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in faraway streams and lakes where many fish of different colors lived. But one thing they didn’t do was...fish.
Large, elaborate and expensive training centers were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach people how to fish. Over the years courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology. But, no matter how well they taught, one thing the good Dr. Fishers forgot was to...fish.
Now it’s true that many of the fishers sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. Some received the ridicule of people who made fun of their fishing clubs. So, imagine how hurt some of them were when, one day, someone suggested that those who didn’t catch fish were really not fishers – no matter how much they claimed to be. Is a person a fisher if year after year she never catches a fish? Is a person a fisher if he isn’t fishing? (John Drescher, “Church Growth: America,” Sept/Oct 1978).
We’re focusing in this series on what took place between the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus, when He appeared to individuals on at least eleven occasions over a period of a little longer than a month.
These encounters helped to solidify the faith of these first followers as Acts 1:3 states: “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” According to a harmony of the Gospels, our risen Lord and Savior made these appearances:
To Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
To the other women (Matthew 28:9-10)
To two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32)
To Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5)
To all the disciples except Thomas (John 20:19-23)
To all the disciples including Thomas (John 20:24-29)
To seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee’s shore (John 21:1-25)
To the eleven disciples on a mountain (Matthew 28:16-20).
To James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
To all the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-49)
To Saul (Paul), after the Ascension (Acts 9:1-22)
Last week we learned that Jesus wants us to love Him lavishly and to serve others selflessly as we follow Him faithfully. That’s really the Great Commandment: To love God and to love others. This morning our focus is on the Great Commission, given by the Master Fisher of Men.
Almost every company and many churches have “mission statements” today. These statements are meant to define specifically what an organization is all about and to give the reason for their existence. Some statements are short and memorable and others are long and difficult to remember like this one: “It’s our responsibility to professionally engineer diverse meta-services so that we may endeavor to assertively integrate performance based catalysts for change while promoting personal employee growth.” At PBC, our defining declaration summarizes our six purposes as a church, using the acrostic IMPACT: Instruction, Ministry, Prayer, Adoration, Caring, and Telling.