“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
If the Jewish fishermen hearing this from Jesus really thought about this statement, they may soon reflect on some unpleasant history.
At the time of Assyrian ascendancy, Amos warned the Northern Kingdom of Israel that their arrogance would result in their demise. In his warning he said, “The Lord God has sworn by his holiness that behold, the days are coming upon you when they shall take you away with hooks even the last of you with fishhooks” (Amos 4:2). Because Israel had ignored and dishonored God, they were going to be dragged like fish resisting a hook through its lip. Many scholars believe that this was a literal practice for the barbaric Assyrians.
In the time of the Babylonian conquerors, Habakkuk was already reeling under the brutality of these oppressors. He pleads for God’s mercy upon Judah who are being treated as if they were lowly fish on the end of Babylon’s hook. “You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. He brings them all up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so, he rejoices and is glad” (Hab 1:14-15).
Careful consideration of these images may have greatly disturbed Andrew, Simon Peter, John and James, but standing in front of them was no Assyrian dictator and no Babylonian emperor. It was Jesus.
When Jesus calls us to make fishers of men, he is asking us to bring a message that takes people captive. But these captives are caught, not as those who remain in bondage, but those who are freed from sin and the brutality of this dark world. Jesus hooks us with his illuminating, regenerating Spirit as we are gloriously made into slaves of the King of the Universe who is fully trustworthy and perfectly righteous. As we throw out the gospel message, most men will not even bite. Those who do will not be caught up into their demise from a self-absorbed earthly ruler, but they will be captives who are also sons and brothers and joint heirs in an everlasting kingdom. While the oppressive kings of this world treat humans as if mere animals, Jesus catches us to take us from acting like animals to know what it means to be truly human.
This is the glorious mission of the gospel and it is secure in the fact that the greatest Fisher of Men is faithful, true, merciful, forgiving, and unlimited in his love. We delight in being caught in his net. Not only this, but Jesus will never allow his captives to see demise because he already paid that ultimate cost on our behalf.
When being a fisher of men should be a troublesome and fearful thought, in Christ it becomes a delight because his catch will never want to be thrown back into the sea…..and they never will.
It is such a delight that should have the same response as Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John. “Immediately, they left their nets and followed him.” Immediately! Discipleship is not just a learning process, it's a capturing process. Let’s get to it. Immediately!