Three fishing lessons from the Disciples

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By Clark Bunch

Clark Bunch

The earthly ministry of Jesus is bookended by similar events involving the call of Peter. Mark 1 and Matthew 4 share an almost identical account of Jesus calling Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew by saying “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Luke 5 records the miraculous catch of fish and a very similar statement (from now on you will catch men). Peter left his nets behind and followed Jesus.

They used to fish with nets.

All of the fishermen in the New Testament fished with nets. They cast the nets off the side of the boat, drug them through the water, and then hauled up whatever was caught along the way.Many of us have never fished that way but you’ve probably seen it.

Tuna are caught by the hundreds as nets drag them up from the sea. It was a big deal in the late 80s and early 90s because dolphins were being trapped in the tuna nets and drowned. In the Luke 5 account the nets were so filled with fish they were breaking and the disciples had to call for backup.

Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men” and taught them how to cast the net of the Gospel. Some days you don’t catch anything; Peter and company had just had a bad night the first time they met Jesus. But our call as believers is to cast the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit do what he does to draw people to Jesus.

Don’t worry about the days you don’t seem to be catching anything; our calling is to love God, love our neighbors as ourselves, and keep casting the net.

Peter did not fish with bait.

I learned from my grandfather how to bait a hook. Most of us today cast a hook with a rod and reel and catch one fish at a time: catfish, bluegill, trout … that’s how it’s done.

When Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men,” he was talking to fishermen who casted nets. They traded those in for casting the Gospel. We are not to fish for men with bait.

See where I’m going with this? The prosperity gospel, the health and wealth preachers, are baiting people they hope to hook and do not cast the Gospel net. When praise and worship hymns we sing together are replaced by a rock concert, and when preaching the Word is replaced by a guy promising you will have everything you ever wished for and be richly blessed beyond your wildest dreams, then we’ve quit casting the net.

You can fill a stadium with people that have itching ears and are willing to take the bait. People show up for the show. We must not replace authentic worship with worshiptainment.

Peter never stopped fishing.

After the resurrection, in John 21:3, Peter said to about half a dozen other disciples that he was going fishing. So, they went with him. They weren’t taking a new bass boat out to the lake for the first time or going on a fishing trip to get away from everything a few days. They had spent the past several years with Jesus, listening to his teaching, witnessing miracles, and learning to do those same things themselves. They most likely had no clue what to do next.

Things changed when Jesus came. How would they change again when he left them?

Peter said he was going fishing because that’s what he knew how to do. If the Jesus movement was over there were still bills to pay and food to be put on the table.

Many of the disciples had been fishermen by trade and when Peter announced he was going back to work Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other unnamed disciples went with him. Jesus appeared to them, the miraculous catch of fish was repeated, and Peter found out that his work and ministry were not over yet. He had answered the call to follow Jesus and was now being sent out by Jesus.

The Great Commission is to go the whole world and preach the Gospel to everyone. We are told to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. Don’t forget the innocent part. Keep casting the Gospel net.


Clark Bunch is a graduate of Shorter University and pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Plainville. 

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