God’s Secret to Fishing for Men
January 21st, 2024
Third Sunday of Epiphany
God’s Secret to Fishing For Men
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
In the Name of Christ, who calls us to be fishers of men, dear fellow redeemed:
Don Marquis was an American satirist during the early 1900s. His best-known creation was a fictional cockroach named Archy who would leave Marquis poems on his typewriter overnight by jumping on the keys. Don once quipped: “Our idea of fishing is to put all the exertion up to the fish. If they are ambitious we will catch them. If they are not, let them go about their business.”
It is hard to tell if Don Marquis was being facetious when he wrote this, or if he dabbled in a bit of philosophy. It is clear he didn’t care much for fishing as he also said this: “Fishing is a delusion entirely surrounded by liars in old clothes.”
Regardless, many fishermen would have a bone to pick with Marquis. Muskie are called the fish of 10,000 casts. It takes real patience, persistence, and a bit of good timing in order to hook on to one of those amazing fish. It certainly takes ambition on the part of the fishman to stay after their desired catch.
And yet, Don Marquis does hit on something with his quote. When it comes to being fishers of men, is that not the method that naturally sets into our minds? Sure, we are willing to cast our nets out there, but if the “fish” aren’t ambitious enough on their own, why put in the effort, and let them go about their business?
This is our natural philosophy when it comes to doing what our Lord has called us to do. In today’s society, it is easier to let the fish do what they want, and only welcome in those who have come to the doorstep themselves. In considering the season of Epiphany is about how God reveals Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ, we will consider the theme: God’s Secret to Fishing for Men. He reveals to us how we are to be working in His kingdom by following the example He set for us.
The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the Gospels and, as such, does not go into a lot of detail as the other Gospels do, but rather provides the important details succinctly. That is the case here in chapter 1. In the previous 13 verses, you have a summary of the events leading up to Jesus going to Galilee. Mark talks about John the Baptist being the forerunner and the message of his ministry. Then he briefly covers the baptism of Jesus, focusing on the words from the Father, “You are My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” And in two verses, Mark covers Jesus going into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.
This is what brings us to our section for today. John had preached the law to King Herod for divorcing his wife and marring the divorced wife of his half-brother Philip and, as a result, was thrown into prison. This is important because it marks the shift from the forerunner who prepared the way, to the Messiah who would come to redeem Israel. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus’ area of operation would mostly be in Galilee. It is there that He begins His ministry, proclaiming to whoever would hear, the kingdom of God is at hand. Of course, He was talking about Himself. The one promised to redeem Israel, not from the tyranny of Rome, but from the tyranny of Satan had finally come. The Finisher of the Law, the Establisher of a new covenant, the Bringer of free forgiveness through His blood had finally arrived. Repent, turn from your sin and believe in Him. This is the gospel that Jesus proclaimed.
16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
As Jesus was preaching the gospel in Galilee, He sought out Simon who Jesus would rename to Peter and Andrew, His brother. These two, along with James and John, the sons of Zebedee, would become His first disciples. Why is this important? Jesus’ profession was that of a Rabbi. In Jewish culture, students who wanted to study the Torah would choose a rabbi, or teacher to study under. This is not the case with Jesus’ disciples. Jesus actively sought out those whom He wanted and called them. He didn’t call students who were already well-versed in the Old Testament, but rather the first four disciples were fishermen. Fishermen in Jesus’ day was a common profession, but not a highly glorified one. For Peter, Andrew, James and John, they were not experts in anything but fishing. They knew how to fish so well, they could do it in their sleep.
What they didn’t realize, is that they still had everything to learn about fishing. Not for fish, but for men. This was Jesus’ call to them to come follow Him. They knew about Jesus. They were followers of John the Baptist. Once John was in prison, it was a no-brainer to follow the One whom John pointed out as greater than He and who came to seek them out to be His disciples.
Doesn’t seem like this section reveals many secrets about fishing for men does it? Sure, Jesus doesn’t explain right then and there how the disciples were to be fishers of men, but He would spend the next 3 years teaching them the right doctrine and showing them how to be what He called them to be. Jesus set the example by first and foremost proclaiming the Gospel. He did not wait for the pool of fish to come to Him, but rather He sought them out. He went to the land of Galilee to bring them the refreshing news of repentance and forgiveness. He didn’t switch up His message when people spit out the hook, but He simply moved to another location continuing to use the same message to reach lost sinners. Finally, He did not lose heart. He, above all, was rejected by many. He was spurned by His own people, but He did not throw in the towel. He endured all that ridicule and shame and He gave every opportunity to the nation of Israel to be saved.
Jesus taught His disciples to be fishers of men by showing them firsthand how to do it. He does the same thing for His disciples to this day. He has shown you and I firsthand how to be fishers of men.
It is easy, isn’t it, to fall into the mindset of Don Marquis’ quote on fishing? “Our idea of fishing is to put all the exertion up to the fish. If they are ambitious we will catch them. If they are not, let them go about their business.” Especially in our society today, which is so volatile and aggressive. Why not just let other people go about their business and the ones who come to the doorstep, those will be the ones we cast our lines out? Certainly, it would be easier. We could sit back, enjoy what we have, and let the world carry on around us.
Now imagine if that is what God did to you. Suppose He didn’t call you to faith because you weren’t ambitious enough to come to Him? None of us are ambitious enough! Our sin drives us away from God, not towards Him. Without the grace of God, our only ambition would be for ourselves, it would be for our own sinful pleasures. We would be in a worse state than what we view our society is in right now because we would be on a direct path to hell. If God did not call you or me, none of us would be sitting here today. God did not reach out to you because of your ambition, but despite it. He reached out to you because He saw you on the road to hell and love drove Him to save you.
God’s secret to becoming a fisher of men is simply using the Gospel. It is the good news that you received when God called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. The world we live in is a dark place. There is evil and senseless behavior that abounds around us. And there are two ways we can look at that pool of people: As less-than-ambitious people who aren’t worth the time and effort to give them the assurance of sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus; or as desperate sinners who find themselves on the exact same path we were one before God called us through the Gospel. It is a no-brainer. God has given you the message of reconciliation to be a fisher of men. He has placed you in the midst of a sinful place filled with sinners needing hope.
You have that hope. You know your Savior and the mass amount of sin His blood has washed clean from your record. You know that because of your Savior, you are no longer on the pathway to hell, but on the ladder of God’s grace to heaven. This hope, this faith, this Savior is your secret to being a fisher of men. It is your rod, your reel, your hook and your bait. The very place in which you live is your pool that God has set before you.
There is a lot of technical tricks and tips to use when fishing, especially when you are in different parts of the world. You want to do everything you can to get the fish to take your bait and get hooked. Being a fisher of men is not baiting people through tricks or deceit. It is not waiting for them to jump into your boat. It is recognizing the need that is out there for the Gospel, and presenting people with this simple truth: Repent, God has died and risen again to take away your sins. Turn and hear the blessed hope He has in store for you. Amen.