On the 4th of July, my youngest son Tyler and I went bay fishing. I was so excited the days before the trip anticipating the catch, being alone with my son, and just being on the water for the first time in over five years. The excitement and anticipation made it difficult for me to sleep. We had set aside a whole day to fish, so we got up at 3:00 a.m. so we could be on the water early and not waste a minute of daylight.
What I love most about bay fishing in the Gulf Coast is that you never know what you might catch. Though you may use a bait to target a particular species, when something takes the bait, you just never know what or how large it may be. Some will be keepers, others will be ‘throw backs’, but they are all fun to catch. You just have to keep casting your bait, over and over, and catch whatever hits.
Again, my favorite part of this type of fishing is that you just never know what you will catch or how big it will be. Maybe it will be a Speckled Trout, maybe a type of Mackerel, or a Blue Fish, Lady Fish, Needle Nose, Jack, some other type fish that I cannot identify, or even a shark! You just never know. Sometimes you even catch a combination as Tyler and I did on this trip. The anticipation, excitement, fun and pleasure are derived not only from fighting the fish, but from the unknown—what you will catch, how many you will catch and how big they will be.
This reminds me of the day when Jesus called some professional fishermen, at the very moment of their most successful catch, to put down their fishing nets and to spend the rest of their lives fishing for a much more valuable catch. This story is told in Luke 5:1-11: “Now it came about that while the multitude were pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them, and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the multitudes from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. And Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break; and they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him”.
Not knowing what lay ahead of them or how they could ever get by if they left behind the only way of life and the only occupation they knew, they still “left everything and followed him.” They had seen in Jesus something they had never seen in anyone else—that He was from God and of God. Simon Peter, realizing this, began confessing his own sinfulness, yet Jesus still chose and called him to follow and serve Him and to become a fisher of men.
As Jesus sent them out two by two as recorded in Luke 10, the disciples experienced what God could do in and through their lives as they went our fishing for men in Jesus’ name. As they went and told others of Jesus and demonstrated His love for them, they “returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." (vs. 17). The disciples were excited and amazed at what God could do in and through their lives and the lives of others, if they just followed, obeyed and made themselves available for His service.
Later, after His death and resurrection, as Jesus was ascending into Heaven, He commissioned and commanded not only His disciples, but also all of us to go and to be fishers of men. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..." (MT 28:19-20) and see (Acts 1:8-11).
For five years I did not go fishing. As a result, for five years I never caught a fish! For us to be ‘fishers of men’, we too have to be intentional and actually go fishing. Jesus is coming again to gather His followers into Himself and to judge the world. If we are faithful to follow Him and share His gift of love and salvation with others, we can all be ready when He comes.
Our responsibility is just to keep casting and offering the Good News and the love of Christ everywhere we go with everyone we see. You never know who or how many you may catch. They may be different sizes and colors, but they all need Jesus and He loves them all, there are no ‘throw backs’ with Jesus, regardless of their appearance or their history. What do you say? Let’s go fishing!