To be a line fisherman, be it as a professional or for recreational purposes requires training. No one can go to the sea with a fishing rod and cast the line into the sea with a sinker, hook and bait expecting all to go well. You need to practice.
May dad had a rather nice rod with a Pen 49 reel. Before taking me to the sea he spent time training me. He explained how the reel works. It had a clutch and a brake. You could set the tension and speed of casting so that the line would travel faster or slower. He showed me how to cause tension against the reel with the thumb and when winding in how to guide the line that it would wind up evenly. I needed to know how the reel was attached to the rod. Then I needed to learn how to fit the sinker and hook.
Having a few vacant plots next to our house that dad owned, he let me practice. I burnt my thumb often. I had numerous overwinds (birds’ nests). He showed me how to untangle the bird’s nest. He taught me how to add line to sinkers and hooks so that I had a stock of them because they do come loose or your lines does break. An art of a good fisherman is to keep all the equipment clean, especially not getting oil on the line because the fish ignore the bait on that line.
Once at the sea and the rod was set up all ready to fish, I needed cast in and learn how to keep tension on the line to feel a fish bite. Fishing like this results in one fish being caught at a time. If you are experienced you could use two hooks but its challenging when fishing off the shore. Those going out with a small boat will throw their net into the sea where fish were spotted. They would keep one side of the net in the boat and row the boat or motor it around the shoal in a circle before drawing the ends together. A line fisherman catches one fish at a time where as using the net you could catch many fish in one go.
1) Jesus makes His followers fishers of men.
Mt 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Jesus calls and these men to follow. These brothers were both fishermen. They were employed and active in their careers.
(1) Peter and Andrew were in the act of casting their nets into the sea. The word “casting” in verse 18 means “to let down” or to “cast down”. Obviously they were in their boat at sea when Jesus called.
(2) Jesus calls them away from their career into a new one.
(a) Fishers of fish was their trade. Jesus called them away from that and our text says “at once they left their nets and followed him.” Being at sea they would have needed to bring the boat and net back to the shore before following him which they did, “straight away or immediately.” No time was wasted in resigning (unless the boat and net was theirs and they did not need to take leave of their employee) to follow a new path. Jesus’ call was “Come, follow me” which when translated means that they follow after Jesus as Jesus draws them away from one career to join His party (ministry or business).
(b) Fishers of men. Jesus informs them of their new career which includes the job description. The wording is extremely important … “I will make you fishers of men”.
(c) Essentially in place of being men who fished for fishes in the water they would be men fishing for men on land. The concept of “fishers of men” distinguishes their catch from animals to humans.
(d) Jesus says “I will make you … fishers of men”. They were trained as fishermen (see my opening illustration), now He will retrain them to be men who fish for humans … for souls.
2) Another two brothers, also fishermen were in Jesus’ sight.
Mt 4:21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
They worked for their dad and were in a boat getting their nets ready to fish. Net preparation takes time because it needs to be folded correctly otherwise when it is thrown off the boat (cast into the water) it would tangle and knot and be useless. It is also possible that they were repairing their net. Often nets get torn or ladder being drawn against rocks or other debris on the sea bed. These are painstaking tasks as it requires patience, time and know how.
Again, it would appear as though they were on the water when Jesus called them. The same Greek wording is used here as in verse 20 … “at once” … also meaning … “immediately”. The word “left” in the phrase is interesting … “and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him”. They left their employment. Literally it means … “They departed from the one (father and employment), leaving him to himself so that all mutual claims they had were abandoned.” Whatever monies they were owned, whatever benefits they had and whatever possessions they had in the business were forfeited. The sacrifice, like Peter and Andrew was huge … but then it was Jesus who called them to another work! They could not resist. Observe the following …
(i) These men were called to two things. The first was to salvation and the second was to a new work, ministry.
(ii) You might ask … “Why Fishermen?” They had no formal education as in being an accountant, doctor or lawyer. True … but although education is important, attributes such as being hardworking, pushing the hours and being patient are qualities the Lord looks for in those who serve Him.
(iii) Jesus’ call then and now is an effectual call. This means that once He calls you to salvation or to ministry (lay or full time), the call is irresistible. You cannot refuse it. The Spirit of God enables faith for salvation and desire and passion for service. From personal experience I must say that once God called me to be saved I could not resist. He had me and all I could do was surrender. The same is true with lay ministry. Immediately I was saved I started to serve because He put both desire and passion into my heart. When He called me into full time ministry it was the same thing. His call is irresistible.
(iv) Jesus promises to train the people He calls into service. He gave us the Bible and He gave us the Holy Spirit … and when we are serious about Biblical ministry He surrounds us with people who help us to do ministry properly.
Dear God our Father, thank You for leaving us with the account of these two sets of brothers and their immediate response to Jesus’ call. Please call many, for the harvest is plentiful. Amen.