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Mark IV: Fishers of Men - Mark 1:16-20

As we continue to lay foundations for understanding who Jesus was, we’re introduced to a new category in Mark 1:16-20. In the previous verses, we encountered Jesus as a prophet whose message we need to believe, and now we also hear a call to follow Him as disciples. We won’t fully understand discipleship until the end of the book, but we start to learn what it means as Jesus calls fishermen to join His work of fishing for men.

So why did Jesus call fishermen? There are probably many reasons, but here are three: First, calling fishermen connects Jesus’ mission to Old Testament hopes. At the end of Ezekiel, the prophet sees a vision of renewal for God’s people, a return from exile and a rebuilt temple that pours out a river of life. Then, in Ezekiel 47:10, the prophecy talks about fishermen standing beside the sea and spreading their nets to catch many fish out of that river. By calling fishermen, Jesus connects His work to the promise of renewal for God’s people.

Second, Jesus calls fishermen because God loves to use the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. Jesus doesn’t topple Satan’s kingdom with the help of the wise, the rich, or the mighty. He does it with fishermen. This should be an encouragement to ordinary people, and it also humbles us when we’re tempted to think that God chose us for our strengths, resources, or abilities. Instead, we ought to boast in our weakness, so that Christ’s power will be magnified.

Third, Jesus calls fishermen because fish-fishing has prepared them for man-fishing. Fishing demands persistence, and it depends on the providence of God. Fishing with nets was hard, repetitive work, not like the precision of spear-fishing, or the passivity of setting out crab-traps. Ultimately, what came up in the net had more to do with God’s providence than with the skill of the fishermen. Man casts the net, but God fills it, and that’s what evangelism is like: persistent casting, providential catching.

That’s what leads Jesus to describe the work that He was calling them to as “fishing for men.” By proclaiming the gospel of God, Jesus opened the floodgates of the river of life. Now, He’s placing men with the nets of repentance and faith along the shore, and He puts them to work hauling in a catch of men and women.

And I want you to see the place of man-fishing in what it means to follow Jesus: when Jesus calls the first disciples, He calls them to be fishers of men. This work is at the very heart of discipleship! So for you, if you are not passionate about man-fishing, you aren’t following Jesus. If you aren’t praying more men and women into the gospel nets, you aren’t following Jesus. If you aren’t participating with Jesus in the work of man-fishing, then you aren’t obeying His call.

So how about you? Do you communicate a passion for man-fishing to your family and friends? What are two or three ways that you’ve done this? Are you praying man-fishing prayers? When was the last time you did? How do you and how does your family participate in the gospel work of man-fishing? Does your answer match up with the importance that God places on this work?

Here’s the heart of the message: Jesus is calling you to be His disciples by joining in the work of fishing for men. As you hear His call today, let a love for man-fishing grow out of your love for Jesus, and from your faith-filled response to His call! Because when Jesus calls, you don’t stay in the boat. You respond like Simon and Andrew, and James and John, immediately leaving behind your nets and even your family, and following Jesus! When the Son of God calls, you obey.

Now, your discipleship will look different than these original disciples. Jesus’ specific call for them involved leaving their livelihood and families behind to become traveling students of a homeless prophet on His way to becoming king. You might not be called away from family, work, and home. But you are called to subordinate these things to the call of Jesus on your life. Family and work are good things, but when God’s call comes, fishing for men is better.

So maybe the call of God you need to hear is to recognize the importance of man-fishing, and to make it a priority right where you are. Or maybe God is putting a special call on your life that changes everything. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God were raising someone up right here in our midst to give their whole life to the ministry of man-fishing? Whatever the case may be, Jesus is calling all of us to join Him in the glorious adventure of fishing for men. And whatever your part is in that mission, Jesus is calling you to follow Him. May He give each one of us ears to hear.

Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 by CJ Bowen