30 November 2010

Matthew 4:18-22

"And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." (v. 19)


Happy St Andrew's Day! Not surprisingly this passage is about Andrew - his call by Jesus to leave the fishing boat and become his disciple. 

The calling of the four fishermen is dealt with succinctly in just five verses. Not a phrase or a word is wasted. But the passage raises questions. 

There is no doubt that Jesus spoke with authority, but what exactly was it in Jesus' words or character that made the disciples pay attention, listen and respond obediently? 

And what was it that Jesus saw in the fishermen that would make them "fish for people"? 

In the job market, lots of attention is paid to transferable skills - abilities that you have acquired in one job or in life that can be successfully used in another post. Perhaps the transferable skills ofthe fishermen included: 

  • Patience - to wait for the fish to be caught. It can take a long time (some say five years) for someone to move from initial contact with the Church to faith.
  • Perseverance - how many times would the fishermen go out in the boat, but catch nothing? And how many times would the disciples speak to someone about Jesus, only for it to fall on deaf eyes?
  • Courage - to launch the boat in rough weather or to sail through the storm. The disciples also need strength and courage in the face of opposition and hostility.

There are two instances of Jesus calling the fishermen here - Simon and Andrew casting their net on the water, and James and John mending their nets. Is this needless repetition or might Matthew the Gospel-writer be making a point? 

Some people have suggested that casting the nets relates to an evangelistic ministry directed at those outside the church (or the net), while mending the nets is a pastoral ministry to those inside the church. The Greek word, katartizein, for mending, crops up again in the epistles where it refers this time to the Church (eg  1 Corinthians 1:10 Ephesians 4:12). 

Whatever the task or way ahead maybe, it is God who calls us. 


To Ponder

How would we respond if someone came up to us and said what Jesus said, "Follow me!"? What would that person have to say or do to make us respond like the fisherman?

What are your skills? How might God use or by using them?

Matthew's Gospel begins with Jesus making disciples and ends with the great commission to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:20). What are you doing?

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.