My article this month is a follow up to the Children’s message of January 22. I’ve been thinking about the illustration that Jesus intended when he told Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, all fishermen by trade that he would make them “fishers of men”. The picture that can form in our minds is one of a fisherman standing at the shore or in a boat with a fishing rod hoping to catch a fish or three over time. The method of fishing in the Sea of Galilee was quite different than that. Very large nets were used that were buoyed on one side and weighted for sinking on the other. The nets were then taken by boat to a good distance from shore where they were deployed with the floating side nearest the shore and the sinking side at the far point. At this point the nets were dragged by one or two boats being rowed towards shore and as the bottom dragging side approached the floating edge the nets would capture what ever fish were in the area of the moving trap. When they pulled up the net what they hoped for was a good amount of marketable fish, large and small. This was grueling work and often these fishermen would work day and night in order to make a living. This was also hard on the nets they used and you will note in reading the account in Matthew that James and John were helping their father mend one of their nets that obviously needed some maintenance.
This form of fishing sets the picture that Jesus was intending for his future disciples to understand. They knew that he was referring to the casting of a large and wide net in reference to become “f ishers of men.” This is a great illustration of the kind of saving of people that Jesus had in mind when he made his sales pitch to them.
Speaking of a sales pitch, among much learning that took place for me in the bible study that Joe Howard leads on Sundays (learning hour, starting at 11am), I learned that the phrase “fishers of men” had a very significant meaning to the society at that time. Many translations trying to be more politically correct in our current societal time have changed the phrase to “fishers of people”. What they are missing in the context is that the future disciples would have understood what Jesus was telling them. In that day if a man was converted in his belief system then his household would follow his lead. In essence he and his household would become believers. Sound familiar?
John 4:53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
Acts 11:14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Acts 16:33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.
Acts 16:34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Acts 18:8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
May we at St. Luke Lutheran Church of Sunnyvale CA share the good news that can save households to all that are brought to us as we constantly and tirelessly cast out our Spirit inspired fishing net.
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
St. Luke Council President