(I only have cell phone connectivity here on retreat so this comes from my Blackberry with minimal formatting)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
I wonder why Jesus has such a preference for fishermen?
From what we can tell a third of the disciples he called, four out of the twelve, were from that profession. There may have been more because not all the professions of the disciples are mentioned.
Was there something in the skill set of fishermen that made for good disciples?
The need to observe the depths? Being able to be in tune with the elements?
Living here in Port Alfred, at the mouth of the Kowie river there are all sorts of fishing adages. “When the wind blows East, the fish bite least. When the wind blows West, the fish bite best”
I wonder what the sayings around Galilee were?
Fishermen needto be able to face disappointment. Far more than hunters, they can come home day after day with nothing.
I will never know what it was that Jesus saw in fishermen, but John tells us that the metaphor of fishing became a metaphor Jesus used to describe the vocation of disciples, “I will teach you to fish for people”
Those of us who grew up in Evangelical churches will have had the song,
“I will make you fishers of men, (sic)
fishers of men,
fishers of men.
I will make you fishers of men,
fishers of men,
fishers of men.
If you follow me…
drummed into us from our Sunday School days.
When I think of how I as a child saw this fishing for people practiced I am not sure that the church really understood what the metaphor intended.
Most of the evangelistic fishing for people I witnessed growing up, seemed more like throwing a stick of dynamite into the lake and collecting the fish that were killed in the blast and floated to the surface.
The visiting evangelist, the tent meeting, the revival meetings were like whalers or trawlers that intended to haul in as many souls as possible.
I never saw the patience, the contemplation, the consideration that really good fishermen and fisherwomen apply to their craft.
If I could meet up with my childhood “fishers of people”, those who seemed obsessed solely with “decisions for Christ” I would want to ask some questions.
I would want to ask about sustainability of their fishing methods. Watching the ongoing evangelical movements of today it seems that their methods have become as unsustainable and inappropriate as a whaler in Antarctic waters. Nobody wants to see (or hear it any more). The violence, the shouting, the imperialistic harpooning is just brutal and barbaric. I don’t think Jesus had this in mind.
Here in Port Alfred most if not all sport fishermen practice “catch and release”. Fish are caught, weighed and then returned to the ocean or river as soon as possible and so, respect for the species and the stocks is maintained. I wonder if the church is quite ready to approach “fishing for people” in this way?
How ready are we to encouter people, share our truth and then instead of manipulating, cajoling and trapping them, allow them the freedom to re-enter the waters of life and make up their own minds about the truth we have shared?
Something about fishermen appealed to Jesus. I would like to think those early disiples were stoics as well as strategists, patient and not merely plunderers.
I wonder if we can discover the insight Jesus had to examine their craft closely and come to undertsand why he wanted us to become “fishers of people” with them?