Matthew 4:12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 4:13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper’na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb’ulun and Naph’tali, 4:14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 4:15 “The land of Zeb’ulun and the land of Naph’tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 4:20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 4:21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb’edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb’edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 4:23 And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
This is a gospel passage most of us are familiar with. Fishers of People. We hear about it in Mark, Luke and Matthew. John has a rendition of the calling of the first disciples which we heard last week. But Fishers of People is one we are all familiar with. But I admit I don’t know much about fishing, and really how does one go about fishing for people? What I do know about fishing is it requires a fishing pole, which could have a real of fishing line on it, unless of course one is fly fishing, then you just have a pole and a line, I think. But any how fishing requires a pole and some line and a hook. And bait. We need to have something for the fish to come after, to entice them to the hook. Well ok, if we are going to be fishing for people then I guess we need to find us the right pole, and the proper line to hold the weight of the people we are going for and we need the right kind of bait.
What kind of bait is right for people? What kind of worm would attract a person? Well a gummy worm may work for some people, but certainly everyone does not like gummy worms. If I was going to think about bait for Pastor Scott, I would get some chocolate covered nuts. And for Pastor Carol, one could set out a nice frosty mug of A&W root beer, of maybe some Swedish fish or Twizzlers. And what kind of hook should we use? I mean we do not want to hurt these people when we catch them. If we take a closer look at the passage from Matthew we can see that this is really not the kind of fishing we are talking about. There is no rod or reel, or fishing line or hook required. The fishing we are talking about is using a net. James and John were in the boat with their father and servants mending the nets after the catch from the morning. The fishing we are talking about is using nets, where the fish do not have the choice of bite or not bite, but the fish are dragged from life out of the water to their death.
Now this is not a very appealing thing to me to think about. Am I really suppose to go out and drag people into church. Jesus says come and follow me, and lets get people and drag them out of their old lives and have them die to that and bring them to a new life in the church. Are we really supposed to drag people into church? I wonder what acolytes think about being dragged into worship, or if they are dragged into worship? Pastor Carol and talked about this the other day on the way to a meeting. The word Acolyte comes from a Greek word which is used twice in our text today. The word comes in verse 20 and 22, and immediately they left their stuff and followed him. The word for acolyte comes from the word to follow. An acolyte is one who follows the presiding pastor around and helps them, one who serves. Isn’t that really what all of us are to Jesus? Are we all not called to be followers of the one who first sought us out? Jesus calls us to be followers and then we become disciples. A disciple is someone who learns from a teacher or master.
Now in Jesus time a person would seek out a rabbi, or a teacher to follow as a disciple. The rabbi would not lower himself to go looking for students to follow him, or learn his teachings, but that is just what Jesus does. Jesus called these four men, to follow him. He did not promise them anything in return to follow them; they did not follow because he said they would get anything. He said follow me and do this job, follow me and fish for people. Jesus called them from one type of fishing to another, not to get something, but in a sense to give something.
The call of Peter, Andrew, James and John is a foreshadow of all of our calls. As Douglas Hare says these 4 represent “all future believers whom Jesus irresistibly summons to follow him. It may not be necessary for all to leave professions and possessions behind, but all must leave their world behind and enter the new world into which Jesus invites them.” We might think these men and we chose to follow Jesus of our own free will, and in some sense we do. We chose to be present at this worship service, we chose to be present where the Word and Sacraments are presented. We chose to study scripture and ponder its meaning. However on a deeper level we know that we are all really just caught in God’s net. We were all dragged from life to death. We were all given the promise of being inheritors in the kingdom of god through are snare in the net of God’s love. Augustine said “I could not seek you, if you had not already found me.”
We are all sought by God, and called to come and follow him where he leads. We are called not because of what we get, but we are called to do something, called to evangelize, called to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
We are called to follow Jesus, but to be ourselves, the one who God has made, and sought for a particular part in his plan. A great illustration for the fishing and being dragged from life to death in a net is found in the movie Finding Nemo. Towards the end of the movie there is a scene where Nemo, his dad Marlin, and Dory are swimming in the fishing channels, and Dory is caught in a net with a bunch of other fish. As the net is pulled out of the water, Nemo says he can save Dory. Marlin exclaims he does not want to lose Nemo again, but he reiterates he can save Dory. So he swims in the net and tells all the fish to swim down. So as the boat’s winch is pulling the net up and out of the water and fish on the top are pulled out of the water and are dying the other fish start to swim down, pulling the net back into the water. Nemo saved Dory, by getting the fish united in a single task. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians “all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” The fish were united in the task of freeing themselves from the net, it is not our task to free ourselves from God’s Drag Net. It is this net that holds us in his love, as he first sought us. Our task is to be overjoyed to be in the net, and to help others see the wonders of dying to self and allowing the drag net of God’s love to pull us to him.
Help us to respond as these four men did, immediately, to the persona of our Lord who says “Come behind me, and I will make you fishers of people. Give us all the strength to set aside our fears and follow the authoritative nature of Jesus and his word which inspires us to total allegiance. Open our hearts and minds to total abandonment of self to your control, and relax in the drag net of your love. Our task is not to fight the net, or try to escape the net, as Douglas Hare says “Our task is to share a faith that is exciting enough to be contagious.” Remind us you sought us first by dragging your net, and hold us in the love of your drag net. Amen