Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fishers of Men

Fishers of Men


And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” – Matthew 4:21-22

Just picture it.  They had been out on the beach since sun up, wading deeper into the waters as the tide change.  It was repetitious the way they would throw their net, let it sink, pull it in, and check for a catch.  They were hoping for something worthy of the fish market.  Success or failure was found in the net.  They were fishermen, and this is what they did daily to earn a living.
Then Jesus shows up.  He was just another stranger on the beach.  But then Jesus shouts across the water to them “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Surely there was no market for men to be sold as there was for fish.  Surely they didn’t believe that they would literally pull in their nets and find men that were somehow lost in the waters.  Simon Peter and Andrew followed Jesus because God called them to, nothing more than that.  The desire to go was far greater than the desire to stay and do what they did daily.

Moving on down the beach, Jesus called out to two others, James and John his brother.  They left their boats where they had been mending torn nets, and without questioning this stranger’s motives, without wondering where their next meal would come from or what would become of their boat and nets, they followed Jesus. 

Why were they so willing to go and be led by a stranger?  Why did they find hope in being “fishers of men” over being fishermen?  I believe they had been prepared by God for this purpose.  They weren’t new to the word of God.  John 18:16 tells us that John knew the High Priest well enough to enter the courtyard at Jesus’ betrayal.  Their willingness to become “fishers of men”, when the term itself is curious, had to have been planted in their hearts long before Jesus showed up.
Jesus came to them not while they were resting from their labor, but while they were working.  Being a fisherman requires diligence.  Some days are good, and some are bad.  The only way to know if you’re going to be successful is to just throw out the net!  They knew how to persevere, and how to labor.  Jesus needed men who were willing to labor.  But more than He needed their preexisting knowledge of God’s word, more than He needed their work ethic, He needed men who would allow themselves to be led. 

How many of us would leave our jobs to go after some mysterious career led by someone we had never met?  Not many, but a few would – being led by a faith stronger than our simple minds could understand. 
But even then, there are those times when we just cannot seem to be led anymore.  We feel we must cut our own path through the jungle of life.  We must blaze our own trail.  We must seek our own fame and fortune.  Peter, who Jesus said was the “rock upon which I will build my church”, came to that point as well.

After having spent quite a bit of time with them, the disciples had come to know Jesus and seen the miracles He performed.  Jesus, in Matthew 16:15, had just asked the disciples a simple question, “But who do you say that I am?”  It was Simon Peter that spoke up and said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It was then that Jesus said that Peter was blessed because man had not given him an understanding of who Jesus was, but God had revealed it to him.  He said that Peter would be the rock upon which He would build His church, meaning the faith that Peter possessed to believe God, to trust God, would be the foundation of salvation.
But when Jesus explained to them that He, their leader, would in the next few days go to Jerusalem and be beaten and killed in order to fulfill God’s purpose, Simon couldn’t bear it, his faith was crumbling into lose gravel.  He took Jesus aside and in Matthew 15:22 disagrees with Jesus and says, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

Regardless of whether Peter consciously knew he had just snatched the reigns from Jesus’ hands, He wanted to lead Jesus down another path.  He wants to tell Jesus how it should all be done.  He thought he had a better way - even for Jesus.  And Jesus answers him, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Jesus goes on in Matthew 16:24-27 to say “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”

In each of our lives, God has charted a course, a path in which He will lead us.  Whether it’s filled with paved roads or rocks and pot holes, it’s the path we have to follow.  Deciding to change our course and not follow the direction of God causes us to become an offense to Him, a burden. 
Following Christ takes sacrifice.  It takes leaving your net, your boat, and all that’s comfortable to pursue a greater purpose.  You can lose your life, as many have.  But you can also find a life of joy that you never knew existed.  You can stop living a path of destruction, and live the path of God’s construction.

But what if you don’t follow?  What if you take the road to fame and fortune, you find your pearl of power, and you find contentment….here.  Here in a land that is only temporary, nothing you earn outside of God’s blessings and favor, no matter how hard you work for it, will survive the trip to Heaven with you.  Don’t be short sighted.  The future does not end at the grave.  Nothing you could gain here is worth losing your soul.  Nothing you can accomplish here, apart from work He leads you to do, is worthy of the life He gives you daily.  Follow Him.  He will make you fishers of men, and that has eternal rewards.

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