Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
Growing up on the farm, fishing was an integral part of life. It was also, in retrospect, an excellent life-lesson in patience. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why at least seven of Christ’s disciples were fishermen. God never does things on a whim or by some random choice. Everything has a purpose. As I read today’s verse, I was struck by Christ’s analogy and His later command to His disciples as He left this earth to go out and preach the Gospel.
Fishers of men was part of Christ’s purpose from the beginning.
At face value, Jesus simply made a play on words, one fisherman to another. But the phrase ‘fishers of men’ very clearly reveals a much deeper and more powerful truth. He didn’t say ‘I will make you disciples.’ From the beginning, He made it clear that their ultimate purpose was evangelism – preaching the Gospel and bringing others to Christ. Being disciples could not and cannot be separated from being fishers of men. In fact, their discipleship was training for growing the kingdom of God through sharing the Gospel and bringing others to Jesus.
This is a truth that many believers today don’t want to even think about. All too often, comfortable Christianity relegates evangelism to others, the so-called evangelists, and so shrugs off personal responsibility. But this is not what the Bible teaches. While it’s true that some are called to be full-time evangelists and are gifted for this work, all disciples of Christ are called to be fishers of men. We are all called to the harvest field, and every one of us is expected to share the Gospel.
The multiplication principle of fishers of men.
It’s very true that everything we can find in the world has a root in the Bible. It may have been perverted along the way or used for personal power or gain, the kernel-truth in everything can be found in the Word of God. The devil can only produce counterfeits – he can create nothing himself, but can only mimic or twist the things of God for his purposes. The multiplication principle behind fishers of men is exactly the same principle used by marketers in the world – you find ten, they each find ten, who in turn find ten… It’s not rocket science, but the principle itself it’s powerful. The problem with it is the people and their motives.
Christ’s motive was salvation, and He knew that twelve disciples could create a network that would ultimately spread the Gospel to every corner of the world. It’s pretty awesome to think that you and I are actually ‘connected’ to Peter, Andrew, or John, or any of the disciples, for that matter. Our salvation is the result of an evangelistic network that spanned the globe, but which started with twelve simple fishermen. Even Paul, who is possibly the greatest evangelist of all time, was ‘connected’ in this way. If those fishers of men had not preached with such fervour and enthusiasm, Paul would never have hunted them down. In doing so, He met Christ. Truly, the ways of God leave us breathless with awe.
Fishers of men are evangelists.
A quick look at the word evangelist reveals that it describes a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith. The church has set ‘evangelism’ apart from the body of believers as a specific ministry like preaching or apostleship, yet nowhere in the Bible does it say that the so-called ‘five-fold ministries’ are restricted to certain people. Every single believer will be called upon to exercise one or more of these ministries at some point in their walk with Christ. All of these ministries are part of what it is to be fishers of men.
To fully understand this, we must understand that we are called to live the nature of Christ, who was the perfect embodiment of these ministries. Jesus was apostle, preacher, evangelist, prophet, and teacher. Every single believer who follows Christ is expected to manifest His nature and characteristics. While we may not have a ‘calling’ to be a full-time preacher, we must be ready and available to preach if He requires us to do so. There is a dangerous tendency towards complacency that convinces us that the ‘five-fold fellows’ have the job and we don’t.
What it really means to be fishers of men.
If we’re going to follow Jesus when He calls, it’s as fishers of men. What that means is that if we’re going to live as His disciples, we have to assume His passion and purpose for the salvation of mankind. After all, that’s what He came for – to save the world. This ‘identity’ or basic nature of a disciple is confirmed by His command to go to all the ends of the earth and preach the Gospel. It doesn’t mean that we have to resign and become a full-time evangelist. Simply put, we’re expected to go fishing whenever we find water.
We are to be fishers of men in whatever pond, stream, dam, river, lake, or ocean we find ourselves in. The unsaved are everywhere, and our place of work or local supermarket is as much a fishing ground as the tent crusade that pulls in thousands on a single night. The Bible tells us that the angels rejoice when a single person comes to Christ. We share the Gospel by word and deed. In other words, the way we live can be a more powerful preaching than any spoken words. It all comes down to surrender and obedience, and we simply have no excuse.
Being fishers of men is a way of life.
It’s not complicated at all. As His disciples, we should manifest Jesus in everything. If His will and purpose is the most important thing in our lives, fishing will come naturally. Instead of stressing about the when, how, and who, focus on Christ and on making Him a way of life. He is the vine, and we are the branches. When we’re truly connected, the life of Christ flows in us and produces fruit. We don’t have to ‘engineer’ it because it’s an automatic response to the passion and purpose of Christ in us. The question is, are we willing to live His purpose in our lives? When we live the mind and heart of Christ, being fishers of men will be as natural as breathing.
Jesus, forgive us for our complacency. We yield to You today and ask that You fill us with Your passion and purpose for the unsaved. Help us and empower us to be the fishers of men You have called us to be and to be obedient to Your command.