Matthew 13:47-48 (NIV) “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.
When I was a kid, my dad would go ocean fishing from time to time. He would take a net and cast it out to pull in bait fish to use on the rods that were cast way out into the depths of the ocean. While he was fishing, my brother and I would take the weighted net and try to cast it out like our father did. He would stretch the heavy net between two hands and effortlessly toss it into a wide circle that would fall gracefully into the sea sinking to the bottom. Our attempts to simulate this action resulted in unceremonious wadded up mess being dumped in the ocean scaring away every fish big and small. To be honest, I gave up. What a frustrating process! Dragging the empty and disheveled net then carefully spreading it out, only to try again unsuccessfully. But my brother who was way more patient than I was, he took the time to master casting a net to catch fish. He was a pro by the end of the summer.
We are called to be fishers of men. Our mission in life is not fulfilled unless the Great Commission is the center of it. Reaching men, women, young and old, children, families, friends, neighbors, coworkers and even those folks who make it hard to love them even like them sometimes are all the fish in the sea of life. Jesus loves them. He desires each one of them more than anything else. He died for them just like us. How effective is our ministry in life? Are we participants in the Kingdom of Heaven? Are the nets of our life full of people being drawn in from the depths of darkness to the Light of His Grace and Love? Broken nets will not catch a fish. Nets folded neatly on the shore do nothing to fill the boat.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV) Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The best time to catch fish is high tide when everything from the deep is drawn to the shore. It is high tide. Jesus was given “all authority in heaven and earth” and He commissioned his disciples to use this power to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” We have a great call and we have been given all power and authority. What we need is obedience…patience…endurance and commitment. The mandate of discipleship and fishing for men did not end with the death of the last of the eleven, but through them is the perpetuation of becoming a fishermen. Just as they were taught by their grandfathers and fathers to fish, they are the ancestry of our ministry. We must let down our nets.
Luke 5:1-7 (NIV) One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
Fishing is an art. To learn the sport, it takes practice. Casting a line is not often achieved on the first try. You must continue to learn to hold down the button and sling the line remembering not to let go of the rod at the same time. There is a whole lot of hand-eye coordination going on at the same time. Just like a cast net, it is not always subject to beginners luck but those who truly want to catch some fish to eat will keep trying.
Discipleship is to teach or train. Jesus came and taught from Simon Peter’s boat that day. Peter obliged the Lord because fishing was not going so well. When Jesus finished speaking, He instructed Peter to push out deeper into the water. Once, there he was told to let down his nets. Peter explained to Jesus that they had worked hard all night and caught nothing. BUT… He would try again. There is an essential truth hidden in this conversation that has the potential to change our life and every single outcome. Peter did what Jesus told him to do. Well, that’s not a secret. Well, if was public opinion every God-fearing, Jesus-believing, Spirit-filled church would be in revival with bursting nets. We are picky about where we let down our nets, when we cast them out and how we fish for me. Too picky. Doubt keeps our nets on the boat rather than continuously being cast in the water. Peter believed Jesus enough to overcome his experience and his pride to do it one more time. God delivered.
Luke 5:8-11 (NIV) When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
When Simon Peter saw what happened, his faith in Jesus grew a little. Signs and wonders follow faithfulness. It is acts of obedience that open the windows of Heaven to pour out God’s Blessings. We get it wrong sometimes. Growing impatient with God’s Timing, we stop letting down our net because the fish are too few. When a simple conversation with Jesus, moving on His Lead, the way that He tells us to go, and doing it all over again may yield a completely different outcome.
My husband is a huge football fan. He loves his team win or lose. The man will sit through all kinds of weather conditions to support them even when they play terrible and cannot score a goal. He is committed to them. There is an investment each year to purchase tickets. Time is sacrificed to attend games. Reading articles and the online board for fans, he knows the inside scoop on the team and most current developments. We must learn to apply the same level of commitment to our pursuit of Jesus Christ and the Great Commission even when it is not fun, uncomfortable and inconvenient. This commitment must push us to continually seek to be obedient and faithful in all things. Outside interests and pastimes give us the opportunity to connect with other people.
Jesus undoes us one layer at a time. He is a teacher who leads by example and gives grace when we lose our way or choose not to follow. There is no reason not to become a fisher of men. We have nothing to lose. We must let down our net.
John 21:4-9 (NIV) At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”
“No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.
Funny how it works out sometimes, Peter and the others were back on the water as fishermen. Jesus was gone. He had been crucified. What now? Where do they go from here? Things had not turned out as they expected. Was it all a cruel joke or farce of some kind? Jesus came to them. He knew right where to find them. He could hear the cry of their heart. They knew their calling but just felt out of place. He came to them and immediately Peter didn’t care about fishing anymore. He didn’t care about another miracle so he didn’t ask to walk on water. All Peter wanted was Jesus so he jumped in and swam to shore. Could it be that letting down our net and discipleship is designed to bring us to this place all along? A point in time that all we want, need and desire is the Lord. Then, our ministry becomes powerful because it truly is all about Him and not what we want.
Revelation 2:2-5 (NIV) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.
First love. When Peter heard the Words of Jesus for the first time, it changed his heart a little. Faith grew a little so he followed the Lord. He wanted more. However, by the time Jesus was arrested and on trial, the same person was denying he even knew the Lord. How can this be? Oh love grows cold sometimes even in friendship and marriage. Love is a commitment. It is a long term and long range plan to be together. It takes us to the end of self not once but many times throughout the course of its duration. It is easy to do “things” and random acts of kindness along the way. Becoming a fisher of men is a life choice to love, serve and follow Jesus. He wants our heart not our hands. When he found Peter fishing again, Jesus knew He had the man’s heart this time.
If the nets are empty, seek the Lord. Talk to Him. Get into His Presence. Examine your net. Maybe you just need to pick it up again. Jesus wants our heart. He doesn’t need us, but desires us. He loves us. He made the commitment to love us forever as evident in His Sacrifice on the Cross. How deep is our commitment to Him today? I am examining my net. I am giving Him my heart! He must be my First Love.
I John 4:19-20 (NIV) We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?