Matthew 4:19 – “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.'”
My brother Randy loves to fish. In fact, of all of the men that I know in my life, Randy is the biggest fisherman of them all. When it is summer time, my brother will often times go fishing in the golf course ponds behind his home. He’s been known to spend his birthdays taking trips from his home in Illinois to Tennessee to go fishing with his father-in-law and some close friends. The guy loves to fish.
So did Peter and Andrew. Peter, commonly believed to be the oldest of the disciples was a fisherman by trade. So was his younger brother Andrew. They were fishermen because they didn’t make the cut to become a Rabbi. Every Jewish parent had a dream for their child. They wanted their child to become a Rabbi. The Jewish educational system consisted of three distinct levels of education. The first level was Beth-Safar. This was for children aged 5-10. In this level they would memorize the Torah, word for word. The education took place at the local tabernacle, synagogue or in the case of Jerusalem, the temple court. The second level of education was called Beth-Talmud. This was for children aged 10-14. During this stage of education they memorized the rest of the Old Testament. When a child reached age 14 he could apply for Beth-Midrash. If he passed the test, which only a small percentage (less than 5%) did, the student would reach the final level of education. If not, they were sent back to learn the trade of their father, with the encouragement to have lots of children and pray that one of them would become a Rabbi. The final level of education allowed the students to study the law and the prophets, and to begin to learn how to interpret the law and the prophets. There were so many interpretations of the law that a student would pick a Rabbi whom he respected and whom he believed to correctly interpret the law. When they followed the Rabbi, they took the Rabbi’s “yoke” upon them. Which means that they agreed to take the Rabbi’s interpretation of the law with them.
Peter and Andrew’s fishing career paralleled their father’s career, but it was not their first choice. They would have preferred to have taken the Rabbi course. When Jesus, the new Rabbi, asks them to follow Him, they are given a new lease on life. They leave their nets and follow Him. The Rabbi had chosen them! Jesus had chosen them! And, if you are a believer in Christ, then Jesus has chosen you too! He has chosen you for a task that is difficult, at times scary, at times feels thankless, and one that offers the greatest joy ever afforded to men and women. Jesus invites you to be a fisher of souls.
Jesus invitation to Peter and Andrew would leave them forever changed. Both men eventually became martyrs for Christ. Christian tradition says that both Peter and Andrew were crucified, like the Rabbi that they followed. Peter was crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same way as Christ did. Andrew, Peter’s constant companion in the Gospels had become a missionary in the Grecian colony of Achaia. He was fishing for souls when he was arrested and eventually crucified.
The martyrs of the first century helped spread the news of Christianity. It is good news. And yet today, so many of us cower at the telling of it. May the blood of the early martyrs and the call of God spur us on to share his word. Let’s go fishing! Are you ready?
You have called us to spread Your Word. You choose to use weak vessels for the pronouncement of the greatest and the strongest message ever given to mankind. Help us to not cower in the face of opposition. Help us to live for Your glory and Your renown. We thank You for the example of the earliest followers of You. Help us to honor You like they did.
In Jesus’ name,