2022-1-09 “Fishers of Men”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                                          Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                                      January 9, 2022

“Fishers of Men”
Matthew 4:18-22

Here is the rhetorical question of the year, right at its outset: Isn’t the salvation we have from the Lord wonderful?  Think of the benefits that flow to us by virtue of our union with Christ—among which are forgiveness of sins, abundant, eternal life, and peace with God.  Now let’s look from within ourselves toward others.  Don’t we want others to have what we have (more accurately, don’t we want other to know the One Who has us?)?  Indeed, we do—and sometimes we yearn for this to a degree too intense for words.

Wouldn’t we love to be used of God in His fishing for men and women, boys and girls?  I think, in our better moments, that our answer to this question is “Yes,” but we worry about a number of things in this enterprise, such as, “What if what I say about the Lord comes out all wrong?” and, “What if people reject the Lord, Whom I declare—and reject me to boot?”  Let’s get some encouragement and help from God’s Word today.  Hear Him as He speaks to our souls from His written Word, the Bible.

            (HERE READ THE TEXT)

The Apostle Matthew, led by the Holy Spirit, opens today’s text with Jesus walking beside the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Genessaret), in the northern third of the Holy Land.  There, while walking, Jesus sees two brothers—Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew.  They are fishermen by trade, and Jesus finds them employed at their lawful, honest calling.  Yet from this legitimate work He calls them to another.

Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, saying unto them, “Follow Me….”[1]  Then He tells them what He shall make of them, “I shall make you fishers of men.”  This call is of a piece with their former calling, but they now shall be used, not to bring fish to the boat, shore, and market, but to be used of the Holy Spirit to bring men and women, boys and girls, to God in Jesus Christ.  Upon hearing this call, these two brothers follow—and that without delay, challenge, or excuse.  It is not that what Peter and Andrew did beforehand was unimportant.  It is the case, however, that Christ’s call supersedes their usual vocation.  As a result, the two brothers forsake their former trade, fall behind Jesus, and become fishers-of-men-in-training.

Jesus, moving along then from there, sees another set of brothers, James and John.  These brothers are sons of Zebedee.  Later Jesus will call them Boanerges (Mark 3:17), which means sons of thunder.  Like Peter and Andrew, James and John are fishermen—and Jesus finds them employed at their lawful, honest calling as well.  We read next that Jesus calls them, but we read not the substance of the call—unlike Matthew’s narration of His call to Peter and Andrew.  Likely, though unrecorded, the call to James and John is essentially the same—in not in fact verbatim—as the call issued unto Peter and Andrew.  James and John respond in identical fashion to Peter and Andrew: They follow without delay, challenge, or excuse.  They leave Zebedee, their father, with the hired men (Mark 1:20) and they followed Jesus wherever He may lead—themselves now the third and fourth fishers-of-men-in-training.

We see much here of Jesus’ irresistible call, and we see much of unconditional obedience in Jesus’ first disciples.  We also see something of this concept and work known as fishing for men.  Yet we still wonder, to some degree, “How do we, in fact, fish for men?”  Let’s think a bit about this as today’s sermon winds to its close.

First, the fisherman must prepare for the task.  These four disciples, among countless others, must be with Jesus prior to serving others in His Name.  Therefore, we who would be used of the Lord as fishers of men first much spend much time with Him.  We do this by spending regular, frequent time in His Word, the Bible—in order that we may learn much of Him and that He may speak to our souls from its pages by the secret work of the Holy Spirit.  We also spend time with the Lord in prayer—again, regularly and frequently.  By this we speak to Him.  Doubtless, He knows what we shall utter to Him before we utter it—in fact, He knows what we shall utter before we know what we shall utter—but He would hear it from our lips all the same.  We also spend time with the Lord when we worship Him—especially with others of His covenant family in corporate worship as the Church.  These activities prepare us for our work of witness to God’s existence and character.  Now, with these in hand, we turn our attention outward.

Let us, the people of God, redeemed in Christ Jesus by the agency of the Holy Spirit, befriend people.  Let us do this not merely as a means to an end—though a worthy end, namely, their salvation—and let us not treat their acceptance of the Gospel message as merely a feather in our proverbial caps.  Rather, let us befriend people because they are created imago Dei—in the image of God.  Let us care about them not only for what they may become in Christ, but also simply because they are our fellow image-bearers.

Also, if we are to talk the talk, let us by all means walk the walk.  If our behavior square not with our words, then our words will have no persuasive force.  Our walk must be consistent with our talk.  Walking the walk does not mean perfection; perfection, of course, is impossible to us in this life.  We, however, must walk the walk faithfully before others.  As our conduct becomes increasingly conformed to the Scriptural standard, our testimony gains a wider and deeper hearing—and God is glorified as well.

Now, right at the close, let’s consider some specific conversation starters.  First, don’t be shy to tell what the Lord has done for you.  This Jesus enjoined upon the Gadarene demoniac, even as He forbade him to travel with the apostolic band, saying, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).  Second, tell, if appropriate and comfortable, what the Lord has forgiven you, as the woman at Jacob’s well did among those of her Samaritan village, “Come, see a Man Who told me everything I ever did” (John 4:38).  Third, perhaps someone you meet will seem burdened, troubled, or the like.  Ask, if the time seems right, if you may pray for him or her—and then do it.  More specifically, ask, “How can I pray for you?”  Then ask for permission to follow up, saying, for example, “May I check with you about this later?”  These three suggestions are but mere starters.  Let the Spirit of the living God guide you as you seek to serve Him, and may He indeed equip us, lead us, and empower us to be fishers of men.

[1]     Jesus says, quite literally, “(Come ye) Here, behind Me.”  (Greek Deute opiso mou [deute opisw mou])