Fishing???for people.

Mark 1.14???20

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ???The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.??? 16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea???for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, ???Follow me and I will make you fish for people.??? 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Of all the people in the world that God could choose from to begin his redemptive, saving work, he chooses fishermen???not lawyers, doctors, or motivational speakers.  And so right from the beginning we can see that it isn???t powerful and overly-important people that God chooses in order to do his work.  Jesus himself was born to young and confused parents in a borrowed shelter.  Throughout the scriptures we see the unlikeliest of people being chosen to do great things for God.  Abraham was an elderly farmer with no children who followed God???s voice to a land he???d never seen and became the great father of many nations; Moses was an abandoned baby who rose to power in his enemy???s house and eventually turned his back on a life of fortune and privilege to serve God in the desert; David was a younger little brother in a big family who herded sheep, who then went on very shortly to kill a great warrior with rocks, and became the greatest king Israel ever knew.  So who God chooses to do his work is always going to be interesting.  It most certainly is in this text this morning.

To begin his choosing of disciples, Jesus runs across two sets of brothers fishing out on the water.  From the seashore, Jesus calls out to them to follow him and fish for people.  Now, I wish I could say that this sort of phrase was normal back in Jesus??? time, but it wasn???t.  It???s just a strange to us today as it was to people 2,000 years ago.  But the expectation is for these disciples to take their understanding of the tools they use to trap and capture fish and begin to see them as life-saving devices, used to save people from the depths and to Jesus, the ark of salvation.  Their using what they already know to glorify God and help people.

Their new job as disciples is a lot like ???catch & release??? fishing today.  In order to conserve fish populations, fishermen will catch their game, sometimes take a picture or give their buddy a high-five, and release the fish back into the water unharmed.  For the disciples, they are able to bring people into a saving???relationship with Jesus and release them back into the stream of society, better equipped to face the dark waters of the world.  But in order to do that, the disciples must follow Jesus, his way of life, and begin to fish the way he does.

But this is where it gets tricky.  Why in the world would these men just up and drop their work, their livelihoods, and follow a man they don???t know?  In all honesty, the world may never fully know.  Scholars and teachers have gone around in circles for 2 thousand years attempting to give an answer as to why they would do this.  Had they heard of Jesus before?  Were they part of the crowds who had gone out to the Jordan River to see and hear John???s message of repentance and the coming Messiah?  Was it something about Jesus??? presence, his face, or his demeanor?  Did his voice speak volumes about the kind of man he was?  Did these men hate their lives and their work and just abandon all responsibility to escape bad career choices?

We don???t know a lot about the disciples as actual people but I do want to straighten out a myth before we go any further.  These fishermen were not young, uneducated, marginalized people.  This is a common mistake that has been taught when we???ve attempted to better understand the disciples.  If you look at the text you’ll see the evidence.  Looking forward to v.29, Peter has a house and a mother-in-law, which means he may or may not have had children.  James and John are in their father???s both with hired servants, leading us to believe that they could afford to employee other people in their family business.  If anything, these men that Jesus calls are somewhat established citizens who work hard and have families.  This helps us see the disciples as everyday people???maybe even middle class folks???who knew the in???s and out???s of life just like the rest of us, working hard in business and at family life.  These were people who understood responsibility and knew what it mean to work for a living.

My own personal feelings about why they left their work boils down to this: they were willing.  These men were willing to sacrifice one important thing for another that they saw as more important.  What they saw in Jesus was enough in that moment to take up his call and follow after him.  These men were not so attached to their work that their hearts weren???t open to hear God calling.  They lived in a way that enabled them to hear when Jesus needed them.  And when he called, they answered, and they left their nets and they entered upon the way of Jesus.

The disciples remind me of the famous ???minutemen??? of the Revolutionary War.  When a battle ensued and the threat of war was upon the Colonies, word would spread and men of all ages would take up arms and head out to fight off the enemy.  So the disciples were able to leave their work and enter into the work of God at
Jesus??? calling.  Yes it was sudden and yes it was abrupt, but the lesson comes in the question ???are you willing to follow after Jesus????  

One of the most valuable images we have in this scene is the dropping of the disciples??? nets.  Their example calls us to understand that we cannot enter into Christian ministry without sacrificing something.  Just as they had to drops their nets in order to follow Jesus, so we must drop the various things in our lives that compete with God.  We have a responsibility as called people of God to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world through ministries of love and commitment.  

What are your ???nets??? today?  What might you need to drop in order to follow after Jesus?  Some of us may need to drop the nets of our putting ourselves first and begin to focus on others more.  Some may need to leave behind the petty quarrels we have with family or friends and realize that God desires mercy and healing, and that it can and may need to start with you.  For others it may mean dropping habits that are destroying your life or your family???s and begin to follow Jesus in a new direction that brings honor and glory to God.  My aim this morning is not to interpret for you what it is that you should be doing with your life once you drop whatever nets you have.  My aim is that you would be willing, willing to follow after God as he calls out to you from the seashore.

I don???t know what the ???net??? is that you need to drop today and neither did the disciples know just what exactly was waiting on them when they left their lives behind to follow Jesus, but that wasn???t the point.  It was their willingness that God needed in order to work them into the kind of people that would live successfully in the kingdom God was building.  Jesus wants willing hearts, people who aren???t afraid to say ???yes, Lord??? and follow him to wherever he leads.

Will you follow?  Will you listen closely, look intently, and recognize who it is that is calling out to you today?  It???s your Lord, calling for you today. 

Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church

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