To Fish or Not–Mark 1:16-18

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew 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.

I enjoy fishing. I enjoy fishing sufficiently that I wrote my doctoral dissertation about fly-fishing literature. We don’t know whether Simon Peter and Andrew really enjoyed fishing or simply did it as the family business, although the fact that they went back to it after Jesus’ death seems to suggest that they at least tolerated the occupation.

Whether they enjoyed the work or not, these men must have been smart enough to know that you don’t run off and leave a perfectly good job to follow some broke and homeless fellow who’s offering to make you a “fisher of men.” I can’t imagine leaving my current job simply because some clever fellow walked down the hall offered an exciting–although awfully hazy–future in teaching “the language of love” rather than English.

We know that Peter was married. What did his wife have to say about this sudden career change? Perhaps more to the point, what did his mother-in-law say? Yes, Jesus would heal her, which surely scored some points, but can’t you imagine some fairly tense moments in the Simon Peter household?

Proverbs 14:12 tells us that there is a way that seems right to man but that leads to death. At the risk of adding to the scripture, let me suggest that there’s also a way that seems foolish to man but leads to everlasting life. (Of course, this notion is no novelty as 1 Corinthians 1:18 shows.)

Notice that Jesus did not call every fisherman around the Sea of Galilee to come follow him. For most of them, their best choice was to keep fishing. After all, had all the fishermen become preachers, the people would have had no fish to eat. For some, the call of Jesus was to keep fishing, but to these two, it was to do something else: to become fishers of men. In all cases, the call of Jesus was the call to the right thing, the best thing.

It might have seemed discouraging to the fishermen Ephraim and Jabez as they watched their friends wander along after this man Jesus. “Why didn’t he want us to go?” As so frequently happens with God’s matters, the answer isn’t completely clear.  But while the answer might not be clear, the action is: Put down your nets or take them up as Christ commands. It will be the best choice.