Be Fishers Of People

January 22, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Mark 1:14-20

Repent And Believe The Gospel

1. Today's recitation from The Gospel [Of Mark] is a passage which tells us of the beginnings of Jesus' ministry activities. Jesus went to Galilee and preached the gospel of God and said, "The time is full, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel," (verse fifteen).

2. Jesus declared that "the kingdom of God is near." The kingdom of God" stands for "the rule of God." It means that God is ruling as king. God the king is near and has come. [The kingdom of God] has come into this world filled with sin, into this world filled with anger and hatred, into this world filled with sighing and sadness. Jesus said it did. God came in order to rule with his mercy and love. It is salvation for the person who is under the rule of sin. The kingdom of God is near. It also means that God's salvation is near. Therefore, it is called "good news." Jesus kicked off his evangelistic preaching work.

3. Let's listen up to Jesus' words. The Lord said, "The kingdom of God 'is near.'" Since it "is near," obviously it means it has not fully arrived. We observe the fact of the matter that even today, the kingdom of God still has not arrived. The power of sin is still, as ever, going on its rampage in the world. That which goes against the will of God is taking place. Exclamations of sadness and cries of grief have ceased not on this earth. Therefore, we still keep praying, "Thy kingdom come." -- Because we know that God's will is not coming to pass on this earth as it is in heaven. That's why we still pray, "Thy will be done on earth." That is how the kingdom of God has not fully arrived.

4. But, just as Jesus said [it is], the kingdom of God certainly "is near." The time is full. The decisive hour has already come two thousand years ago. Since the time Jesus Christ came, an entirely new relationship has begun with God towards the world. An entirely new set of actions have started by God and God alone that is so completely different from anything he has ever done before. God has come into [the world] of human history with amazing and astonishing love and forgiveness. Through the words of Jesus Christ and through [Jesus'] life that lead [him] to the cross and the resurrection, God's final invitation and call out to [humanity] has begun. It has been coming with grace from God, and it is [still] near. The time is [still] full. The kingdom of God is [still] near.

5. Therefore, Jesus went on to add, "Repent and believe the gospel." "To repent" does not just mean to be sorry and make amends. [We] have to change directions. The person who has turned his or her back to God has to turn back around to God while he is near. Those who have been acting apart from God have to change directions and turn to God. Those who have closed [their] windows, pulled the drapes, blocked God's light and secluded themselves in a totally dark room have to open the windows, put themselves into God's light that is shinning in, and turn their faces to God's light. We have to begin living in the light. By changing directions we believe the gospel. We receive the good news. We accept it. We accept it with joy. The important thing to do is that "each individual person change his or her direction" as given above.

6. That's right. Jesus is demanding that each person change and he is calling out to [each person]. It is not revolutions in national systems that the Lord has wanted. He did not try to move to overturn the Roman imperial government. In fact, there were plenty enough such movements back in his day. Galilee, where Jesus was, was the hotbed for the Zealot Party movement. It was a movement that aimed at overthrowing Gentile rule by means of military force. But, Jesus did not join in with their movement. When Jesus showed his miraculous powers, many people expected Jesus to exert his powers to shake up the entire Roman empire. But, Jesus refused to make use of his powers for that end. The Lord cared for individual persons.

7. In addition, Jesus refused to try to change the Jewish supreme court. If the supreme court which was called the Sanhedrin could be changed, then all of Jewish society, including the Jews of the dispersion, would change. But, Jesus made no effort to change the very systems and the very structures of Jewish society. Jesus did not place his base of activity in Jerusalem. No, [he didn't]. Instead, he went to Galilee first and foremost. He went to the places of the people who lived in the lands despisingly called "the Galilee of the Gentiles," which is the remote boonies as seen from Jerusalem.

Come And Follow Me

8. Even today's passage of scripture tells us that Jesus is that way. What is Jesus doing? He is going all around the Sea of Galilee and its environs. While hanging there and about, he is focusing on the people. "When Jesus was walking by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Simon's brother Andrew casting nets at the lake. They were fishermen," (verse sixteen). It's not strange at all that fishermen were throwing nets at the lake. It's the normal thing you'd expect them to do. Jesus fixed his eye on people who were living their normal every day lives. Simon and Andrew did not have anything special that stood out and grabbed your attention, and neither were they doing anything special. The Lord called out to them out loud, to these fishers during a quite average day of their lives. He said to them, "Come and follow me."

9. The scripture says that Simon and Andrew "immediately threw away their nets and followed" him. Why [did they]? I don't understand it so easily. I don't necessarily have to think that this was their first meeting ever with Jesus and that they followed him by means of those few words that time. In The Gospel Of Luke a brief episode before Peter follows [Jesus] is recorded in the text, and The Gospel Of John records a separate set of circumstances, too. I think that perhaps both Peter and Andrew already knew Jesus before this scene. But, there would not be the future apostles Peter or Andrew in just a long state of just knowing about Jesus. At some specific point, some time after that, they did begin to walk with Jesus. Without that, there would not be the future Peter or Andrew. For that reason, the circumstances up to then were not very much important to Mark, who had written this. Leaving that question aside, it is important that they began to follow Jesus after a certain time.

10. It is still the same today in a relationship with Christ. We hear about Jesus and know about him -- but, as long as we stay at that [level], we will not have a life pattern as a Christian for all the time we continue at that [level]. We need that first step in which we begin to follow [him]. In response to a call from Jesus Christ, [I] believe the gospel of Christ, [I'll] risk [my] life and follow him in obedience, [I'll] turn [my] face to the coming kingdom of God and live [my] life with him -- Being determined in one's mind like that, we need to take the first step.

[I Will] Make [You] Fishers Who Catch People

11. In addition, the words of a promise are included in the words of Jesus' invitation. The Lord said this: "I will make you fishermen who catch people." Peter and all of them had so far been fisherman who caught fish. The statement spoken to these fishermen that "I will make you fishers of 'people'" was humorous and impressive to them. First of all, I would like for us to pay attention to the word, "people."

12. Jesus was interested in whether or not the person by the name of Peter, the person by the name of Andrew, or each individual person with each of his or her different names having his or her own specific personality would make a change in direction, believe the gospel, and follow after Jesus. Each and every time individual people have been important to Jesus. The Lord handed that way of thinking over to Peter and Andrew when they followed Jesus. He did not entrust to them the [mission] of changing the world. He didn't expect them to be world saving heroes. Just as Jesus was, they too would become fishers pursuing after people. "The time is full. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel." The disciples would soon be carrying this message, going out and seeking for the hearts of person after person one by one to change directions.

13. Coming all the way from then to now, that's what the church is to do. It is still today the work that is entrusted to Christians. The church ever and always meets with persons face to face and continues to have to do with people. It continues to have to do with individual personalities [with persons] with individual and different names, who have walked unique lives of their own; it continues to seek that each person change his or her direction, believe the gospel, and be saved. Therefore, the church does not baptize people by sprinkling* water from a hose in a sweeping manner. The church, (but ordinarily, the church board acts on behalf of [the church body]), meets face to face as individuals with each baptismal candidate and baptizes each one as individual persons. Then, we rejoice with the angels when each person has turned to God.

14. Well, we've taken note of "the people" in the phrase "fishers who catch people." We need to be thoroughly particular about this phrase. --Because it does happen all too often that the church, including me, ends up straying away from [the mission] of turning its thoughts on "the people."

15. The pioneering phase of the church -- and I have this experience too -- was filled with great joy among the entire body when they all wrenched their hearts and prayed together for the person to be lead by the Lord and when that person would believe the Lord and be baptized. While they did that, the church soon grew large, it gradually had power, it became economically rich, and came to possess a great many talented persons, and possibly came to be respected in areas of society. That seems natural enough, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that either. But, the main thing in this whole thing is this: Will the church continue to be the church, just like it used to be, that truly turns its interests upon individuals believing the gospel and turning to God and rejoice from the heart when a person does? It is a huge problem whenever the fishers of "people" slowly stop doing it. Even in our church it would be a danger signal to us for something like this to happen, that even though someone is baptized, yet nobody cares much about it or even remembers the person's name. So, this word "people" is a big one.

16. In that manner, then, the Lord had fixed his gaze on Peter and Andrew, invited them with "Come and follow me," and gave the words of promise that "I will make you fishers who catch people." We want to remember this statement from the Lord here of "I'll make you fishers." The Lord did not say, "Become fishers who catch people." He said, "I will turn you into fishermen and fisherwomen. "

17. As a matter of fact, it was after Christ arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and the Holy Spirit descended when Peter and Andrew, and the other disciples also, had become fishers of people. After Christ was raised to heaven and he gave the Holy Spirit, it began to be possible for them to go out into the open sea of this world as fishers of people.

18. As far as evangelistic work [goes], human beings do it every time with human words. Peter and Andrew called out, "The time is full. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel," and so has generations of the church and us, too. For a fisher to catch people he or she needs to be one. But, human words themselves cannot change a person's heart to God's direction. The persuasive power of human speech does not give faith. Proclamation is the work of God, who works by using people. Faith is God's gift. After Christ makes us fishers of people, we can be fishers of people. Just as we turned to the Lord through someone, the Lord is using us so someone else will turn [to God] and be saved now. When we don't understand this, [our work] turns out to be arrogant high pressure salesmanship of good will.

19. And another thing. Before the Lord said, "I will make you fishers of men," he did not question at all the qualifications and talents Peter and Andrew were born with. It was not an issue for Jesus. We are the same. What kind of temperament are we born with? Are we strong or weak? Are we talented or not? Are we young or old? It's not an issue to Jesus because preaching is God's work. There is something that has a great deal of importance in the church. [It is this:] How will [you] respond to the statement from the Lord "Come and follow me," which precedes the promise that he will "make you fishers of people?" That's right, the important thing is that we follow him in response to his invitation as individuals upon whom the Lord has directed his gaze, and that we continue to walk with Christ.

*Theological Note: This tradition baptizes by sprinkling, not by immersion.