|FISHERS OF MEN
Series: In His Steps - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 15, 2004
Please turn with me to Mark 1:16-20.
A pastor, a priest, and a rabbi were out for a day of fishing. They had just pulled away from the dock when the rabbi said, “Stop the boat. I forgot the coffee.”
The pastor who was driving the boat said that they could turn around and go back to the dock. But the rabbi said, “No need. I’ll be right back.” The rabbi quickly jumped out of the boat - ran across the water to shore -then to his car to get the coffee - then ran back across the water and back into the boat.
Well the pastor - not wanting to be shown up by the rabbi - said, “Oh my! I forgot the sandwiches.” The pastor quickly jumped out of the boat to attempt running across the water like the rabbi. But instead sank quickly to the bottom of the lake.
With that the priest looked angrily at the rabbi and said, “You should have shown him where the rocks were.”
This morning we’re going on - looking at what it means to follow Jesus - following in His steps - and especially today what Jesus said about fishing.
Mark 1:16-20: "As He [Jesus] was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him."
This is a familiar scene - right? The danger with that familiarity is what? We could skim through what Mark is showing us as something we already know. “Been there. Done that.” And yet, there’s an importance here that we need to have fresh in our minds.
Think of a priority list - step one - step two - and so on. Things to do as Jesus is beginning His ministry. Two Sunday’s ago - here in Mark chapter one - two Sundays ago we looked at step one - the declaration by God the Father that Jesus is the Savior (1:1-11). Step two - Jesus spends 40 days preparing for ministry - being tested by Satan. Then step three - the beginning of Jesus’ ministry - proclaiming the Gospel (1:12-15). Here’s step four - calling His disciples - calling others to serve with Him in His gospel ministry. Its that important. That high on the list.
There’s a tremendous sense of purpose in the calling of these followers. Jesus calls to Simon and Andrew and immediately they follow Him. Immediately Jesus calls to James and John and they follow Him. The time has come to follow. “Come with Me. The ministry has begun. We need to move.”
Every Sunday on the front page of our bulletin is our purpose statement - its familiar - maybe easy to skim past. Without looking - no cheating - can you recite it? Let’s say it together. You can look if you want, “Leading people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and equipping them to serve God.” That - in a nutshell - is what we’re about as a congregation.
Thank God for the privilege He gives us to follow Jesus. Think about some the awesome ministries that we get to share as a congregation. Ministries like VBS and AWANA - missionaries we get to support - short term missions projects - our youth trips to Mexico - Sunday School - Bible studies - youth ministry - and we could go on - opportunities to be equipped and equipping. And, watching God bring others to salvation. Awesome - isn’t it? To see God at work and be a part of what He’s doing?
This morning - I’d like to have us focus on one statement of Jesus - to help us keep fresh in our minds our purpose as a congregation - to help us continue forward following Jesus. That statement is here in verse 17: Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
There are three parts to this statement that can be helpful to us. The first is that Jesus said, “Follow Me” The disciples followed Jesus. Turn to the person next to you and encourage them with that truth, “We need to follow Jesus.”
Near a highway bridge several boats were scattered about in the lake as there was the Annual Bass Catchers Classic fishing tournament in progress - when a funeral procession came by on the bridge. Everybody just kept on fishing except for one fisherman - who put his fishing pole down - stood up - removed his hat and remained like that - until the funeral procession had passed by.
A nearby fisherman happened to see this and was impressed at how respectful the man had been. So he cranked up his boat and pulled up beside the other man’s boat. He called out, "Howdy. I saw how considerate you were toward that funeral procession - pausing and standing like that. I wish I’d been as thoughtful."
The other man replied, "I reckon it's the least I could do. After all, we'd been married for nearly 30 years."
This is a challenge for us - the priority of following Jesus. Do we really follow Jesus?
Discipleship - in the New Testament sense of what it means to be a disciple - is that we so closely follow our disciple-er - that we actually become like the one we’re following. We take on his characteristics - behavior - mannerisms. We think like he thinks. Respond like he responds. When people look at us they see the one we’re following.
Back in the days of the early church the word “christian” was a derogatory term. People - who weren’t Christians - would call someone a “christian” as an insult. (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16) Like today - sometimes people use the word “christian” and they're mocking Christians - followers of Jesus Christ.
The word “christian” means “little Christ” - literally, “little anointed one.” Jesus was anointed by God - set apart for ministry by God. The baptism of Jesus - the Holy Spirit descending as a dove - the voice of God the Father from heaven declaring who Jesus is. That’s anointing - Jesus being set apart for ministry. We’re to so closely follow Jesus that we become a “little Christ” - someone called by Jesus - anointed to follow Him in His ministry - a disciple who is a replica of our Master.
There’s a story about a group of people who were preparing to climb a mountain in France. On the evening before the climb, a French guide outlined the requirements of making a successful climb. He said, "You will only reach the top by taking just the necessary equipment for climbing and leaving behind all unnecessary accessories. It's a difficult climb."
A young Englishman disagreed. In the morning he showed up with a brightly colored blanket - some large pieces of cheese - a bottle of wine - some chocolate bars - a couple of cameras and several lenses hanging around his neck.
The guide said, "You'll never make it with that. You can only take the bare necessities to make the climb." But the Englishman was very stubborn and he set off on his own ahead of the group just to prove to them that he could do it.
The group then followed under the direction of the guide with just the bare necessities. On the way up toward the summit they began to notice certain things abandoned along the trail. First a brightly colored blanket. Then some pieces of cheese - a bottle of wine - some chocolate bars - camera equipment. Finally - at the summit - they found the Englishman who’d left everything behind in the process of going up.
We're so tempted to say to Jesus, "I know why the Father sent You into the world to win the lost. I know why You send me into the world to win lost. But You don't understand, I can make it with all my accessories. I need all of this."
Our lives are so busy - we’re running and we don’t know why or where we’re going. If summer was busy - school starts tomorrow. Get ready. All the stuff our lives are filled with - even the things we do for God - can distract us from His purposes for our lives.
What accessories are we holding on to that keep us from following Jesus. Are we really 100% sold out - consecrated - broken before Him? Who rules our hearts?
Let me put this in a more positive way.
Jesus invites us to follow Him. So we get to spend time alone with the God to the Universe learning from Him all we need to know about living life. We get to be a part of what He is doing in this world in the lives of mankind. That’s awesome.
Ask yourself this question: What do I need to set aside so I can more closely follow after Jesus? To take advantage of the incredible opportunity He gives me to follow Him?
Second part of Jesus statement: “I will make you become fishers of men.” The disciples allowed Jesus to make them into fishermen. Share this with the person next to you, “Jesus needs to make us into fisherman.”
These disciples were simple Galilean fishermen - rough - unschooled men - governed by Jewish passions and prejudices - narrow in their outlook. Before they could become fishers of men, they would have to learn how to live in a way that relied upon the power of God working through them. Jesus says, "I will make you become fishers of men."
That’s an encouraging thought. Because it means that when Jesus calls us to a ministry - He assumes the responsibility to teach us everything we need to learn in order to fulfill that calling. As we yield to Him - let go of all our accessories and follow Him - He will equip us and use us - what makes us uniquely us - to fulfill His calling.
Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea - that's what they knew how to do and what their abilities were. Jesus teaches them to cast nets for men. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Andrew becomes the disciple who brings people to Jesus - even as he's brought his brother Peter to Christ. In Acts chapter 2 - Peter becomes the great evangelist - on the day of Pentecost he preaches the gospel to three thousand people.
James and John were doing something else - they were mending their nets. That was their skill and ability. The Greek word for "mending" has the idea of equipping - preparing. Just as James and John were equipping their nets when Jesus called them - Jesus teaches them to mend nets as fishers of men. Later they would become teachers - equipping - mending - the saints.
In our kitchen we have a toaster oven and a waffle iron - we plug them into the wall sockets. They draw power from the same source but they do different things.
That’s the way it is with God and us.
Have you ever asked yourself, "Why am I the way I am?” Usually when we ask that question we’re looking at what we don’t like - or we’re ashamed of - or comparing ourselves to someone else.
But, with Almighty Sovereign God its not an accident that we are the way we are. It’s not an accident that this church is here. People prayed. People sought after God’s will. God has gathered us here - given us these unique facilities - here on G Street in Merced - for His purposes.
All of which can be powerful tools to share the Gospel with others. The call to follow Jesus comes with our need to rely on Him - to use us - uniquely us - and all that He’s given us - to serve Him by His power and wisdom.
That’s the bottom line: All power to live the Christian life comes not from us - doing our best to get through life and to serve God - but from God. God revealing Himself to us and applying His power through us - moment by moment as the demands of life are made on us. What we learn - by following Jesus - is how God takes all of that and uses all of who we are in His ministry and to His glory.
The third part of Jesus statement is the “fishers of men” part. The disciples became fishers of men. Jesus taught them how to catch a different kind of fish.
Two guys go on a fishing trip. They rent all the equipment - the reels - the rods - the wading suits - the rowboat - the car - even a cabin in the woods. They spend a fortune. The first day they go fishing. But they don't catch anything. The same thing happens on the second day - and on the third day. It goes on like this until finally - on the last day of their vacation - one of the men catches fish.
As they're driving home they're really depressed. One guy turns to the other and says, "Do you realize that this one lousy fish we caught cost us fifteen hundred dollars?"
The other guy says, "Wow! It's a good thing we didn't catch any more!"
Sometimes I watch people fish. I watch because the only fish I ever caught out of a stream was already dead. I’ve come to agree with the conclusion that, "There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot." (1)
Jesus - by how He lived His life - gives us example after example of what it takes to catch men. If we want to reach others with the Gospel - we need to go where they are - we need to touch the concerns of their lives - we need to be ready to live and explain the Gospel and it’s relevancy for where people live their lives. All of which is a continuing challenge.
We need to prayerfully share with each other - to help each other to understand the mission field that God has placed us in - and how He wants us to reach it. Between the generations - the backgrounds - from the different experiences we go through and the places God takes us to each week - we need to be talking with each other - praying together.
What are the concerns of the people you live and work with? How can we as a church reach them with the Gospel? What are you doing to share the Gospel with others? How can we support you in what you're doing?
We need to learn how to fish - to know fish and what catches them today.
During the early days of Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico, Cameron Townsend - the founder - had gone to Mexico to try to get permission from the Mexican government to translate the Bible into the languages of the Indian tribes.
The government was adamant that this would not take place. The official to which he had to appeal said to him, "As long as I am in this office, you will never be given permission. We don't want the Bible in the Indian languages." Townsend did everything he knew - went to every official he could find - had all his Christian friends praying that God would open this door. But it seemingly remained totally closed.
Finally he decided that he would give up pressing the issue. He and his wife would go and live in a little obscure Indian village - learn the language - minister to the people as best they could - and wait for God to move. So, the two of them - basically gave up everything they had - and went and lived in a tiny trailer in this village.
It wasn't very long before Townsend noticed that the fountain in the center of the plaza produced clear spring water. That water just ran off down the hill and was wasted. He suggested that the Indians plant something in an area where the water could easily be diverted to make use of it. Soon they were growing twice as much food as before and their economy was booming. Townsend wrote this up in a little article and sent it to a Mexican paper he thought might be interested.
He didn't know it, but that article found its way into the hands of the President of Mexico, Lazaro Cardeñas - who said, "What is this? An American, coming here to live in an Indian village, where we can't even get our own people to live, and helping them this way? I must meet this man!"
He ordered his limousine and his attendants, and they drove to that little Indian village, where they parked at the plaza. It happened that Townsend was there and saw the car. He asked who it was and was told it was the President of Mexico.
Cameron Townsend - who wasn't one to miss an opportunity - went up to the car and introduced himself. To his amazement heard the President say, "You're the man I've come to see!"
The President invited Townsend to come to Mexico City and tell about his work, and when he heard what it was, he said, "Of course! You can come to Mexico to translate the Bible into the Indian languages." That began a friendship which continued throughout the lifetime of President Cardeñas. His power and authority were used by God all those years to open doors to Wycliffe translators throughout Mexico. (2)
Only God can do things like that.
Do you want to follow Jesus? To be a fisher of men? Let go of everything that keeps you from following Him. Allow God to work in you and through you - uniquely you - as He wills. Let Him teach you to catch fish.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.