My scripture today can be found in Mark 1:14-20
My daddy used to always tell me that “Fishing Isn’t the Same as Catching”
When I was a young girl, after my brother died, my dad and I would often take off on a Saturday to a nearby canal. Florida is famous for them. If we did not go to one of the canals off of the Florida Turnpike we would go to Lake Okeechobee or Lake Osborne. We would stop and buy some crickets as bait and go out fishing for several hours. Many times we never caught a thing! But you know…it was not really about catching the fish as it was spending time with life lessons. I loved the times we would catch some fish and I loved putting them in my dad’s fishing bucket. We would take them home at the end of the day and my dad would prepare them for eating.
Read Mark 1:14-20
As we look at our Gospel Lesson for this morning, two really important facts jump right off the page. The first is how quickly—actually immediately—the disciples responded to Jesus’ call. The second is that He called them not to be catchers of men, but to be fishers; and there is a difference.
Verse 18 tells us about the quick decision on the disciple’s part: “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Something is really happening here. People don’t usually drop what they are doing immediately…especially fishermen. Fishermen think things over. They’re usually slow to act because they are used to having to use so much patience to get what they want. But for these four disciples, well, their response was immediate. They left their nets and followed Jesus.
How many people do you know who are willing to follow or respond so immediately? How often are people asked to do something for the church and their immediate answer is: “Sure I will. I’ll be glad to.”? How often do we immediately respond? Is it only when our boss calls; or our spouses or mom? Or do we even put off our response in those cases?
“Just a minute honey!”… …or “Not right now, dear!”… …or “How about during the next time out?” …or the next commercial…. Or half time.
And what the disciples were called to do…well…it pales in comparison to the little things I’m talking about. All the disciples of Jesus left something behind. These first four left their fishing boats, their livelihood and their homes. And it wasn’t the kind of situation where they could say: “Well, okay, we’ll try this out for a while, and see how it works out.” They followed…plain and simple. There was a finality about it. Have we left anything to follow Jesus?
And I ask this because in order to follow Jesus we do have to leave something behind…for good! It may not mean that we have to leave our present jobs, or our homes or families…but it might. Just like Kathryn and Brian….they left a good teaching job and the security that goes with it and a good engineering job. They left…and went off to do God’s bidding….trusting in Him to take care of them.
What it means for us is that we might have to leave behind some of the prejudices that we cherish so much…and that are so familiar to who we are. And maybe there are lifestyle issues we must leave behind in order to follow Christ. One day when I was an undergrad, on the campus of Auburn University, I was witnessing to a fellow college student over a cup of coffee. I asked him if he believed that Jesus Christ is Who He says He is. His answer was yes. Then I asked him if he would be willing to pray, repent of his sins, and ask Jesus to become the Lord of his life. His answer was, “No. Not yet. I believe, but I’m not ready to give my life to Christ. There are too many things I’m not ready to give up.” So let me ask you all this morning….How many of us ‘believe’, but are not willing to follow?
James, the brother of Jesus, tells us: “Even the demons believe…” But we are also told that they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire! “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Let me tell you all….The power of the Gospel changes people’s lives. Once we meet Jesus on the road of our own individual life, and decide to follow Him, we will be changed! We will be different people. But many of us tend to resist change.
So many folks just want to see the Gospel through rose colored glasses—wanting to see only the joy, comfort, and light—and not wanting to see the difficult or disruptive. “Behold, I make all things new,” says Jesus. Two very important words in this morning’s Gospel Lesson are repent and believe. Too many people think repent means to feel sorry for what you’ve done—and then, go do it again. But that’s not it at all.
Repent means to change direction. It means a change in priorities. It means living with a whole new approach to life. It calls us to embrace the newness and change which Jesus brings. And to believe…well…it doesn’t just mean listing our denomination as United Methodist on some application blank. It means trust and reliance and placing one’s whole life in God’s hands, regardless of what happens in life. It’s called “the leap of faith.” That’s the kind of change that the Gospel produces. That’s what makes us different. And there’s no turning back, because it’s a difference that won’t go away. This is what happened to the disciples as soon as they began to follow Jesus…nothing was ever the same.
It was the beginning of a new and exciting journey…the best journey imaginable…where God is not just a Sunday friend but a daily companion. And this is what happens to all of us when we heed the call of Jesus in our lives to: “Come follow me.” And when we embrace this newness of life that Jesus offers… …well, we see how good things can be… …we experience God’s love up close and personal…and we want to ‘Pass it On.” “Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.”
There truly is a difference between being fishers and catchers of men. Jesus calls us to be fishers. Think about your life journey. How many people dropped a hook in front of you…before you finally grabbed a hold of the new life you found in Christ? An awful lot, I’d imagine. Maybe you were brought up in church. Maybe you were surrounded by the preaching of the Word, the invitation to accept Christ, and people who were wonderful/grace-filled examples of how magnificently different it is to be a follower of Christ. But you still didn’t bite. At the same time, there were hundreds upon hundreds of seeds being planted. And then one day, well, Praise the Lord!…
…it all clicked… …the decision was straight ahead of you and you became a Christian! And you believed…really believed…and things really started to change! Who was the One Who caught you? Do you remember? There had been a lot of fishers after you… …but Who caught you? Was it not the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself?
Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Even the ability to believe and make the decision to accept God’s plan of salvation is a gift of God.
Fishing is not the same as catching. Jesus calls us to be fishers, not catchers, and that is good. It means that we’re not alone in the project of proclaiming the Gospel to the world. God is with us, since it is God the Holy Spirit alone Who enables our ‘fish’ to be caught, Who enables people to respond to our message. And since it is the Holy Spirit Who does the catching, we don’t need to take the rejection of the Gospel personally.
Maybe it wasn’t the right time for that person; maybe the Holy Spirit has some other things to work out with them first; it may be a lot of things…maybe they will never accept Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives… …We do have free-will. The main thing we should be concerned with is the fact that we did witness to them.
And whether a catch is made or not, we are called to cast the net again, to proclaim the Good News to another person by words and deeds, and let the Holy Spirit fill the net according to God’s will. Many of have invited friends and family members to church. Many of us were at one time invited. There’s been a lot of fishing going on!!! And let me tell you….this church is a fishing church. And we are praising God for it! But you know…It is not us who do the catching… …but we do the fishing and rejoice when the Holy Spirit convicts and a positive decision is made!!! So let’s put ourselves in those boats so long ago, with the knowledge we have of a Savior Who wants to give everyone the gift of salvation. And let’s remember that this gift can neither be bought nor earned by any human being; that it is, however, God’s free gift to those who call upon Jesus’ name, who trust Jesus for salvation and not themselves.
Let’s hear Jesus call us to be fishers of people… …and let us respond by fishing and fishing and fishing… …letting God take care of the rest.