Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, crying out, Repent (change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
21 And going on further from there He noticed two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets and putting them right; and He called them.
22 At once they left the boat and their father and [o]joined Jesus as disciples [sided with His party and followed Him].
It is important to note here that Jesus called His first 4 disciples and they were all fishermen. That is what they did for a living. They didn’t participate in tournaments, they didn’t go after lunker bass, they went after food for them and their village. They used the fish to sell and barter for the necessities of life. These were truly fishermen.
The key verse in this passage for what we want to look at today is v19. Jesus is talking to Andrew and Simon (later called Peter). 19 And He said to them, Come after Me [as disciples—letting Me be your Guide], follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men! The phrase ‘come after me’ has to really be parsed to understand what Jesus was saying to them.
This was not the first encounter of Jesus by Andrew and Simon. John 1:35-42 we find the encounter where Andrew and Simon first recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Andrew called him Rabbai (teacher) and remarked to Simon that they had found the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one. At this time, Simon’s name was changed to Cephas which means Peter.
So, when Jesus approached these two men tending to their trade, they were not strangers to Him, nor was He a stranger to them. They knew who He was, the Lamb of God as John the Baptist had told them early in the passage in John.
When we hear of the title ‘fishermen’ in our time, we think of the guys in the ball caps running around Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s buying new lures, hooks and rods and reels. These ‘fishermen’ are more accurately described as “men who fish”. They almost all have other occupations, even if that occupation is “retired”, and the fish when they feel like it, on occaision and fish for fun.
These fishermen worked at it, day and night if need be, to get enough fish to take to market to get enough money to feed their families. The depended on the fish they caught, where as our ‘fishermen’ would most likely do better at a cost per pound ratio of going to the fish market and buying some, but that is their relaxation, hobby and bonding activity.
What Jesus was saying to Andrew and Simon in v19 was to “throw off this life, quit being a fisherman and working at this trade. Put on the teaching, the thinking, the actions, the feelings, yes, even the Spirit of the Christ and be like He is”. And that is the call of the Christian. From the Pulpit Commentary “Following a person, in the Jewish phrase, signifies being his disciple or scholar.”
Jesus explained to them they would be made “fishers of men”, prophets, preachers, teachers, healers and all that being like Christ entails. As they had lived a life where every waking moment was spent on the goal of trying to ‘catch more fish’, they were now in a completely different circumstance. Every effort should have only one goal, to ‘catch more men’.
Everything a Christian should be doing, everything a Church should be doing should have that one goal. Making disciples for Christ. That is the primary, if not the only, reason we are left on the earth after we get saved. If we are NOT going to propagate, what good are we?
Souls won to Christ are our fruit. There is NO reason for any Christian to not be able and willing to tell someone how to be saved from the scriptures. There is no reason this isn’t done far more than it is.
It is time we all put on the fullness of Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit and start doing as he commanded. At some point, the words of the Bible have to mean something in your life. The simple way to do this is as the old preacher told his church “Read the Red and Do what is Said’. That is fabulous advice. When you get the read letter part down, you will find the other parts take care of themselves. As an army has to have support people for the troops on the front line and in the field, so does the Church. But just like an army, everybody can’t work in the office or in supply. Someone has to be on the front lines.
There are tools on this BLOG as well as other places to help you lead someone to Christ scripturally. I recommend you prepare yourself and if you feel uncomfortable, attend a seminar or workshop on the subject. But start looking for ways to talk about God to others. The blessings you get from doing that are remarkable.
May God Bless the hearing and doing of this word. May these words find their way into your heart and stir your sould with a real hunger for the lost. May you find ways to reach out and share Christ with others.
To the Glory of God,
Numbers 6:24-26 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
Some notes from popular commentaries:
Albert Barnes says “Fishers of men – Ministers or preachers of the gospel, whose business it shall be to win souls to Christ.”
Adam Clarke talks about it this way “Matthew 4:19
Follow me – Come after me, δευτε οπισω μου. Receive my doctrines, imitate me in my conduct – in every respect be my disciples. We may observe that most of the calls of God to man are expressed in a few solemn words, which alarm, the conscience, and deeply impress the heart.
I will make you fishers of men – Eze 47:8-10, casts much light on this place; and to this prophet our Lord probably alludes. To follow Christ, and be admitted into a partnership of his ministry, is a great honor; but those only who are by himself fitted for it, God calls. Miserable are those who do not wait fur this call – who presume to take the name of fishers of men, and know not how to cast the net of the Divine word, because not brought to an acquaintance with the saving power of the God who bought them. Such persons, having only their secular interest in view, study not to catch men, but to catch money: and though, for charity’s sake, it may be said of a pastor of this spirit, he does not enter the sheepfold as a thief, yet he certainly lives as a hireling. See Quesnel.
Some teach to work, but have no hands to row;
Some will be eyes, but have no light to see;
Some will be guides, but have no feet to go;
Some deaf, yet ears, some dumb, yet tongues will be;
Dumb, deaf, lame, blind, and maimed, yet fishers all!
Fit for no use but store an hospital.
Fletcher’s Piscatory Eclogues. Ec iv. 5, 18.
Following a person, in the Jewish phrase, signifies being his disciple or scholar. See a similar mode of speech, 2Ki 6:19.”
From the Pulpit Commentary we find “Mat 4:19
Follow me; come ye after me (Revised Version); δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου. There is no thought of continuous following from place to place (ἀκολουθεῖν) , but of immediate detachment from the present sphere of their interest and of attachment to Jesus as their leader. And I will make you fishers of men; Mark, “to become fishers of men,” laying more stress on the change in their character necessary for success in this new kind of fishing. Luk 5:10 brings out the change in the nature of the work(ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν). Fishers. The word suggests care, patience, skill, besides habits of life fitted for endurance of privation and fatigue. The same promise is, as it seems, related in Luk 5:10, where notice:
(1) It is connected with the miracle of the draught of fishes.
(2) It is not verbally identical with this: Μὴ φοβοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν.?
Robertson’s Word Pictures renders this thinking “Fishers of men (haleeis anthrōpōn). Andrew and Simon were fishers by trade. They had already become disciples of Jesus (Joh 1:35-42), but now they are called upon to leave their business and to follow Jesus in his travels and work. These two brothers promptly (eutheōs) accepted the call and challenge of Jesus.”
Some cross references from TSK
Follow: Mat 8:22, Mat 9:9, Mat 16:24, Mat 19:21; Mar 2:14; Luk 5:27, Luk 9:59; Joh 1:43, Joh 12:26; Joh 21:22
I will: Eze 47:9-10; Mar 1:17-18; Luk 5:10-11; 1Co 9:20-22; 2Co 12:16