Faithlife Sermons

Fishing Community

Glimpses of the Kin-dom  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” These are the words of Jesus calling his first disciples.
It would seem that if Jesus were going to start his ministry and pick disciples, that he could have started in Jerusalem. The cream of the crop. The elite students and teachers of the law. The original holy rollers like Nicodemus or the Jewish council. The A team.
But fresh out of the wilderness the first news on Jesus’ ears is of John the Baptist’s arrest. John had been speaking against the material excess and oppression of Herod. And so he is in prison and Jesus knows he will be killed. This news comes from the land of Galilee.
Maybe when you think of Galilee you think of a beautiful landscape with quaint fishing villages. Like a tourist town or the setting of a Hallmark movie. I had a friend who went to the Holy Land last year with Bishop Swanson and got to preach while they were on the sea of Galilee. The pictures were beautiful.
But maybe there is more here than meets the eye. Matthew refers to the prophet Isaiah by describing the land of Galilee as the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. These were descendants of Rachel and Leah, and two of the twelve tribes of Israel. This land has a history scarred by battle and oppression of the Assyrians formerly and the Roman empire presently. This is Gentile territory. Land of the outsiders. Matthew describes it as a “people who sit in darkness” and “in the shadow of death.”
And it says that Jesus withdrew here. His friend and relative John has been arrested and he goes to the scene. Into the shadow of death. As John is imprisoned, Jesus begins his ministry of release. Repent, turn, change your life- for the kingdom of God has come near.
I was listening to a couple of pastors discuss this passage on the Pulpit Fiction podcast and they were talking about how in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus starts his ministry on the heels of John’s arrest. From the wilderness he enters into the fringe, a place full of crime, gambling, taxation and poverty. This is where Jesus goes after his temptation. This is where he starts. These pastors were saying that if this were Lord of the Rings, Jesus doesn’t start in the pastoral setting of the shire. Jesus starts in Mordor. If it were Star Wars, he’d be on the death star. If he were in India, he’d head to the slums.
The ground of Jesus’ calling isn’t on the marble floors of the temple, but on the smelly shore of a fishing community. Not even the B team but somewhere way on down the line. This is where he casts his net wide for disciples. Brian Blount says “If disciples are called out of Galilee, then Galilee is full of people who have lost their bearings, whose faith flickers at best, who compromise their integrity for a buck.” A people sitting in darkness.
And yet you have these men casting and mending their nets, worn from one day of fishing after another with their earnings cut in half by taxes. You have Simon Peter and his brother Andrew in one boat and James and his brother John with their father Zebedee in another. There is nothing special about this day to them. It’s just another day to survive. We don’t know if they have heard of Jesus. There is no miraculous catch here like in Luke.
Jesus is strolling along the beach and calls out to them and says “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And Matthew says they immediately dropped their nets. And that James and John immediately left their father Zebedee.
And it seems crazy. And even now years later we are still trying to fully understand. We want more details. We want Luke’s version where there is this miraculous catch before they follow Jesus. We want it to make sense.
You don’t just drop your nets, your only source of survival. You don’t just up and leave your family. Surely there is more here that Matthew meant to tell. Surely there is more to the story. Faith isn’t always logical. It doesn’t always add up. Why would they drop their nets? Why would they leave their father- that went against Jewish culture.
But in today’s text we have a call and a response, an invitation and a following.
The verb “follow’ here is not in the imperative. Jesus was not commanding. He was inviting. The empire of Rome ruled at the threat of death. The kingdom of God rules with the invitation to life.
Sometimes what doesn’t make sense in our heads is very clear in our spirits. I can’t wrap my mind around the logic of their discipleship, but I can wrap my spirit around the presence of God. There was something about the way he said “follow me.” There was something about his voice, the look on his face. Was he the one they had been waiting for?
This is the power of God in the flesh. This is God with us. This is the invitation to something more, a new kind of fishing community.
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow me, and I will show you how to be salt and light to this world. Follow me, and I will show you how to hunger and thirst no more. Follow me, and I will show you what love really means. Follow me, and all I will make you.
Jesus was creating a new kind of fishing community, a new kind of people. He was calling people on the fringe to go and find others on the fringe and be salt and light to them. Suddenly the people in darkness were seeing a great light. While Rome imprisoned and the Pharisees mocked, Jesus healed and set free with his voice and the hem of his robe.
Follow me, and I will make you.
The fishermen ran towards him. Immediately. No hesitation. I highly doubt they really knew what being fishers of men fully meant for them. That was something that would take them years to understand, long after Jesus’ death. But they followed anyway. They didn’t know what was next, and they followed anyway. Jesus wasn’t the kind of king they expected, and they followed anyway. Discipleship isn’t a point A to point B journey. We don’t have to have it figured out before we begin.
Being fishers of men doesn’t mean you have to leave your job and ride into the sunset with Jesus. But it may mean there are other nets you need to drop in order to walk with and live for Jesus. Nets of certainty. Nets of fear. Nets of not knowing what’s next. Next of security. Nets of scarcity. Nets of self-reliance.
When we follow, someone else has to be leading, someone else is in control. Sometimes we fail to grow spiritually because we drag our nets behind us. Discipleship is about stepping out of the driver’s seat and stop trying to get ahead of God. Follow me, and I will make you. Our making happens in our following.
Today let us drop our nets and follow. As a church and community, let us drop our nets and follow. Jesus is leading. We don’t have to be in control. We don’t have to know what will happen this year, next year, or in twenty years. We just have to follow, one moment, one day at a time. And in our following, he will make us.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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