“What does it mean to be a Fisher of People?”
I want to start with something funny that I found on an internet site: Two guys are talking about fishing. One says to the other, “I am NEVER going to take my wife fishing with me, ever again!” “Huh, that bad?” the other says. The first man continues to say, “She did everything wrong! She did everything wrong! She talked too much, made the boat rock constantly, tried to stand up in the boat, baited the hook wrong, used the wrong lures, and, WORST of all, she caught more fish than me!”
I never have experienced fishing firsthand. I watched my brother and his friends when they caught fish with a net when I was a child. So, I couldn’t understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). A Korean Bible says, “Follow me. I will make you fishermen to catch people.” Because I don’t know how to fish, I couldn’t understand what “making us fishermen for people” meant.
Most likely many of you have experienced fishing and know how to fish. And for that reason, you may better understand about “fishing for people.” Today, I want to talk about “being a fisher of people.” What does it mean to be a “fisher of people”? To understand fishers for people, we should first know about fishing. The idea behind fishing is, we first identify what kind of fish we are looking for and how best to attract it so we can make the catch. To catch a fish, we must know what equipment to use, the habitat and depth of water we are fishing in, as well as the kind of bait the fish will go after. After we understand everything we need for actual fishing, then a question becomes, how do we relate that to being fishers of people?
I wonder if the disciples understood what Jesus meant regarding “fishing for people.” They were professional fishermen. They most likely knew more about fishing than Jesus because they were experts. Jesus approached them using words that they knew very well. However, they didn’t know what is meant to “fish for people” yet because, while they were with Jesus, Jesus often said, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:17; Matthew 16:9). To understand “fishing for people” we should understand what Jesus’ willingness is toward the disciples he called.
Let’s see today’s scripture. Jesus began his public ministry after John the Baptist was arrested. John’s central preaching theme was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” And surely he said, “the One is coming who is more powerful than me.” As soon as John the Baptist was no longer able to continue his ministry, Jesus finally began his ministry, starting it by recruiting his disciples. He called people who belonged to the poor and the powerless as his disciples, especially, he said to fishermen, “follow me, I will make you fish for people.” And they immediately followed him, leaving their fish equipment, family, and coworkers. Jesus was with his disciples for about three years, training them as intern ministers. Jesus taught them and showed them all about his ministry. The main theme of his ministry was “the good news about the kingdom of God,” with healing, teaching, and preaching. The good news he proclaimed and taught was that the kingdom of God was open to everyone, regardless if they were poor, blind, deaf, sick, and this even including children and widows. As evidence, he healed the blind, the deaf, and the sick; he heard the widow’s request and joyfully welcomed children. It was the good news for everyone, especially for the poor and powerless in society. Above all, the great commandment he gave his people was to love God and to love your neighbors, which means have “open minds and hearts to everyone with love.” Furthermore, before he was lifted up to heaven, he gave his disciples the great commission, “go and make disciples of all nations.”
Finally, we found what Jesus’ willingness is toward his disciples: he called the poor his disciples because he wanted to teach them that the kingdom of God is open to everyone because, at that time, religion was the privilege of the establishment and the leaders. Furthermore, as fishermen have the skill of fishing, he might want them to fish people and make them his disciples, as he did. For more than two thousand years, many disciples consistently practiced Jesus’ great commandment and the great commission. Our grandparents and parents also did a great job for our church. Now, it is our turn.
As you know, if we go fishing, we should prepare the proper equipment to fish and decide where we would go fishing. And then, we should think about what kind of bait we should use, how to attract the fish, and so on. It is similar to being a fisher of people; we should think of who we would invite, how we should invite them and what kind of tools we can use to invite them, and we should also know who they are. As we pray and keep “Fill my house” as the theme of our ministry this year, I encourage you to keep at least one person in your prayers and invite them to God. Who knows, it could be the last chance God gives us to commit to discipleship again. It could be the last chance to vitalize our church again. If you really love our church and love your family, friends and neighbors, please try to invite them.
I know it is not easy. For some it is making them change their beliefs completely. For John the Baptist and Jesus, their preaching, “repent, the kingdom of God is near” means that ask people to turn their way. As “repent” means turn back to God from their daily life, to invite people might be like a driver making a U-turn on the highway. However, don’t be disappointed if they don’t listen to or accept your invitation. The important thing is that we practice it in every life. That is being a fisher for people.
I often recall when I was in the hospital. If the pastor hadn’t come to my hospital room; if I didn’t want him to pray for me; if I didn’t accept Jesus my Lord, where would I be now? Even though I don’t remember the pastor’s name, I deeply appreciated him, as he brought the good news to me. Whether they accept our invitations or not, our duty as Christians and Jesus’ disciples is to introduce Jesus to them and invite them to the church. Try at least to talk with one person each week. We meet many people and speak with many even via the phone every day. I don’t think they all are Christians who attend church service regularly. Please don’t miss God giving you a chance to spread the good news, which God waits for them.
The Apostle Paul says, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). In other words, it means that “if you believe in the cross of Jesus, the cross gives you the power of the Gospel in your life.” Please do believe in the power of the Gospel in Christ and invite people confidently. Practice being a fisher of people in everyday life. Thanks be to God! Amen.