Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Mark 1:16-18 (English Standard Version)
Here we see Jesus walking along the Galilean shore when he encountered brothers Simon and Andrew at their work. These were fishermen who worked on the Sea of Galilee during the nigh when the water was cool, allowing the fish to congregate towards the surface. Jesus walked up to these men and told them to follow him and they would become fishers of men and women. These cats immediately left their work and joined Jesus and became his first-of many-disciples.
Now first, I don’t think they just “dropped their nets and went”. No, I believe that Jesus saw something in those men and spent time with them as he shared God’s message with them. I believe that Jesus would talk with them during the day as they were ashore; maybe he went with them at night in the boat. I believed that Jesus started to form a bond with those cats.
I also believe that over time, Simon and Andrew started to hear something in Jesus’s message that resonated with them. I believed that Jesus saw more in them than just fishermen, but teachable disciples to whom he could share the Kingdom of God with; who can also become teachers themselves over time. Jesus showed these two how they were are part of the Queendom of God and more than what they are. This culminated with their dropping their nets and leaving their trade to follow Jesus.
What amazes many who studied this account is how Simon and Andrew left a profession which was passed down from their father, and could have been quite a lucrative business. This says to me what Jesus had for these cats was so powerful, so life affirming, and so life changing, their present day-to-day lives did not matter anymore. Eventually these men-and others-would learn so much from their master Jesus, they would go onto become teachers and sharers of the Kingdom of God.
Today however, when it comes to being “fishers of men/women” it’s a whole different ballgame. Today, we quickly conjure up shoving a tract in the face of some hapless person on the street and threatening them with eternal Hell unless they do their “ABC’s”: Acknowledge (their sinfulness); Believe (on Jesus); and Confess (our sins). Then when we “bring someone to Christ,” they find a boring and lifeless religion that cannot engage them at their hearts. We’ve lost that story that Jesus and his disciples told. Now we have a kitschy “gospel” that leaves many out in the cold. Our story is a just a rehashed bunch of tired cliches, proof-texted Bible verses, and full of human contaminants. Even we “fishers” are jaded, tired, and have lost our fire.
This Lenten season, instead of shoving a tract in someone’s face and telling them how “Jesus died for their sins,” or trying to play “apologist” with non-Christians; we need to do what Jesus did: bring the good news. Both God and the world needs us to be the Kingdom/Queendom of God and open people up to life-affirming life that is in that realm. To bring people out of their day-to-day’s and show them a higher life for them. Engage people where they are instead of trying to drag them to our church building with its cotton-candy services that make them feel good, but not fulfilled.
Let’s take a page from Jesus’s book (not the Bible), and we too will be fishers of men, women, boys and girls.
Prayer: Father/Mother God, teach us through the life of Jesus to be fishers of people. To engage others with the loving and life-affirming words and deeds of Jesus right where others are. Keep us from “proselytizing” to fill pews and tithe boxes, yet not to fill hearts with Your Love. Keep us from shoving the Gospel down the throats of others; but instead invite them to real life in You. In Your Name, Amen.
(Above image: Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. Took this during my son’s field trip there in 2013).