38. The First Disciples, Quite A Character


By Phil McCormick

You may not know this about me but I really enjoy fishing! When I was younger, I did a lot of it with my dad and cousins. I remember fishing all night (several times) on a dock on a lake near Wisconsin while my dad and uncle slept in my dad’s truck.

For the past several years, I haven’t done much fishing but my passion for it was rekindled this past year. Cara (our daughter) and her family started helping a young man named Kannon who needed a home and Kannon likes to fish. The Bible says a lot about fishing.

‘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. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. 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, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.’ Matthew 4:18-22

The Account Of Jesus Calling His First Disciples

Notice that these men were all fishermen! Matthew’s account seems rather abrupt, doesn’t it? At first glance, it looks like Jesus simply told these fishermen to come follow him and away they went! Luke fills in the gaps for us.

‘One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So, they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.’ Luke 5:1-11

In Luke’s account, we see that Jesus actually brought about a miraculous catch after an unproductive ‘all-nighter’ for these fishermen. It was after this event that Jesus called them to be ‘fishers of men’. So, here’s an interesting question for you, how is fishing for people similar to fishing for fish?

1. Both require the right equipment.

When fishing for fish, you must have the right tackle, down to the right size of hook!

How do we need to equip ourselves for fishing for people?

‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’ Ephesians 6:10-18

Putting on the armour of God is one way to be ready to fish for people. Especially valuable are the shield of faith to keep Satan from interfering with our mission, the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word, and the gospel of peace. Fully equipped, we are ready to fish for people!

2. In order to catch something, your line has to be in the water.

I can’t catch any fish at Wolftever Creek from my living room, I’ve got to be down there with my line in the water!

How do I put my line in the water when fishing for men?

If we put forth an honest effort, God will reward us with a good catch. Sometimes, we don’t have it in our minds to be fishing for people and we let encounters with people just pass us by without ‘throwing in our line’. One of my favourite scriptures in this regard is 2 Corinthians 5.

‘So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.’ 2 Corinthians 5:16

We need to start seeing people as God does, souls in need of the saving grace of Jesus.

3. Fishing for fish and fishing for people both require patience.

Taking my grandkids fishing is a lot of fun to watch. If they don’t get a bite almost immediately, they want to reel their line in and cast it out again. Patience is something that must be developed and cultivated, it doesn’t usually come naturally. Yet, throwing it out there and not getting a bite for three hours doesn’t make sense either.

We have to know when to try something different and that takes wisdom. When fishing for people, patience and persistence is even more important. Just because the first cast doesn’t land them, you don’t give up.

You have to show people a degree of the patience God has shown to you. And, just like with fish, there is a time to try something different and, if that doesn’t work, it may be time to move to a different spot, start working on a different person.

Fishing for people is time consuming and often frustrating. In Luke’s account, we see some of this frustration. Jesus tells the fishermen to try again and Peter tells him they HAD been trying all night to no avail. Yet, they obeyed him and they were rewarded.

We must remember that, although our efforts with someone may not yet have been successful, perhaps, on the next cast, our catch may be bountiful.

Fishing for people is hard work! Let us pray for patience so that, when we are not seeing the results we hope for, we don’t let the results dampen our enthusiasm and motivation. Like the first fishing disciples, when we are obedient, God will use our work for His purposes.

Can you think of some ways in which fishing for people and fishing for fish DIFFER?

1. Fishing for fish is highly dependent on the skill of the fisherman.

In fishing for people, our skill of presentation is not nearly as important as the POWER of what we are presenting: the gospel. When fishing for people, it’s important to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about the gospel and the power of the message.

‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ – it is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes’. Romans 1:16

2. In fishing for fish, it is all about deception and trickery.

We are trying to make the fish think that what we are offering is real and genuine when, in reality, it is a source of pain and death. In fishing for people, it is not about trickery at all, it’s about being honest with people about the truth of God’s Word.

I like these scriptures that speak to this.

‘We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this’. 2 Corinthians 4:2 (NLT)

‘Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. So, you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery.’ 1 Thessalonians 2:2-3

So, keeping these things in mind, let us look for ways to fulfil the mission Jesus has given us of making disciples, fishing for people!


"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."