I Will Make You Fishers Who Catch People

January 18, 2009
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
Matthew 4:18-25

1. "Come and follow me! I will make you fishers who catch human beings," (Matthew 4:10). [These] are the words with which the Lord once spoke to Peter and Andrew at the Sea of Galilee. And [these] are words which churches for generations have heard as a message spoken to them each time this narrative has been read aloud in the church. "Come and follow me! I will make you fishers who catch human beings." With the same words the Lord is also calling out to us who are assembled here today in this place.

Come And Follow Me!

2. "Come and follow me!" The Lord was speaking to Peter and Andrew. At that time, Peter and Andrew were casting nets at a lake. They were fishermen. The Lord said to them, "Come and follow me!" They "immediately threw away [their] nets and followed [him]. That's what [the scripture] text says. Moving on from there, the Lord saw two other brothers, James and John. Along with their father, they were doing repairs on a net in the boat. Jesus called out to them. It seems he also said to them as well, "Come and follow me!" "These two also, immediately, left their boat and father and followed Jesus." That's what [the scripture] says. Thus then, what the scripture is addressing in today's passage with the words of "Come and follow me!" is the figure of [these] persons who "followed [or obeyed] Jesus." They followed after [him].

3. I read to you up to verse twenty-five for today's gospel reading. It is the part about Jesus' "going around Galilee, teaching in various synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing the public of every kind of sickness and disease," (verse twenty-three). After that, large crowds of persons from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the other side of the Jordan River gathered around Jesus. I'm sure it went exactly like that because it is natural for people to assemble after having heard of the miracles. However, even in this section, [the scripture] doesn't only say that the crowds had just come to Jesus. The text says, "large crowds of persons had come and followed Jesus." It is the same phraseology that was written regarding Peter and Andrew, and the others, from just ago.

4. Thus, in today's passage, the text states that the people followed Jesus. Peter and Andrew, James and John, first began to appear on the scene here at this point, but [we] shouldn't necessarily suppose that that moment was their first time to meet Jesus. In The Gospel According To Luke, before the invitation from Jesus, a story is found where Jesus was aboard the boat of Simon Peter. Jesus said, "Row out into the open sea, cast [your] nets, and fish!" When [they] did just as he told [them] to, it resulted in a huge catch. That's the story. And also The Gospel According To John tells of the circumstances when Jesus had encountered Peter in a separate situation from that one. Thus, before this scene, then, both Peter and Andrew had already known Jesus. They had probably even heard Jesus' teachings. However, I think we can say that today's passage of scripture is emphasizing one thing for sure. They didn't only just know Jesus. They didn't only have some experiences of having heard [Jesus teach]. It is that one day, they made a decision and "followed Jesus." They began to walk and follow after Jesus.

5. It is the same story with the crowds after that. They were healed. They were set free. They experienced miracles. If that were it, then the story would just be "Hey, that's great!" But, they heard Jesus proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. They heard the message of "Repent!" In saying the word "to repent" it doesn't just mean to be sorry and reform. It means to change direction. They changed direction from the way they had been living to that moment and began to follow Jesus.

6. There were people who knew Jesus, heard Jesus' teaching, and were touched by Jesus' grace. There were also some who experienced miracles. But, what Jesus was looking for was persons to follow [him]. The Lord says, "Come and follow me!" I suppose not a few persons were healed by Jesus. Also, no doubt, not a few were set free from evil spirits. But today's church isn't here because of the long line of continuity [from these kinds of persons]. No, that's not [why the church extends to this day], rather it is because there are people who followed Jesus. A man left his nets. Another left his boat. In such a manner as this, therefore, there have been people who followed Jesus. There were people who not only rejoiced at being healed but had followed Jesus. Into their future there is today's church.

7. "Come and follow me!" The Lord is speaking to today's churches as well. "I have a pile of things I want to do. Jesus, won't you please always follow after me and always help me have the time I need to do it?" -- I don't call being like that "following Jesus." "Today's generation is looking for a church like that. We are aspiring to become churches like that. Jesus, won't you please always be with us this way and help us?" -- I don't call being like that "following Jesus." The main thing is "Where does Jesus want [us] to go? Where is Jesus bringing us and how will he use us?" This matter of believing in Jesus means we are to follow Jesus. We are to follow him no matter where. "Come and follow me!" The Lord says that.

To Catch Human Beings

8. And the Lord went on to say to Peter and Andrew, "I will make you fishers who catch people." Where are the eyes of Jesus looking? It is upon "human beings." Jesus is interested in and cares for "persons." One of them named Peter. One of them named Andrew. And us here in this place. He is interested in "persons" such as these, each with their own names, with their individual personalities, and each with their different walks in life, and because of that, with their different sores and sorrows person by person.

9. In those days, among the Jews, in no small numbers, there were folks seeking for reform and revolution of the system. They were seeking for the rule of the Romans, who were Gentiles, to be wrecked down, and for the rebuilding of the state of Israel. They were seeking for the true king who could bring this into reality for them. Anticipating the arrival of such a king, they waited and hoped for the messiah. There were also others who were willing to bring this revolutionary change about with weapons. The ones who used to be called the Zealots were such a group. Galilee, where Jesus used to go about on foot, used to be the base of operations for Zealot groups.

10. Among those who followed Jesus was also a former member of the Zealots. However, Jesus himself did not show any interest at all in such a movement. When Jesus did many of his miracles, the people expected that he would soon shake the Roman empire with his amazing power. There was even a movement willing to make Jesus the king. But Jesus was not willing to use his own power to exert political pressure.

11. In addition, among those who approached Jesus there were also some members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court. It looks like there were also persons [in this court] favorable to Jesus. If the supreme court moved, the entire Jewish society moved, including the diaspora Jews. Jesus refused to wage a revolution of the systems and the institutions of Jewish society or to move the Sanhedrin by placing a base of operations in Jerusalem. Jesus' interests did not lie there.

12. Jesus always kept his focus of attention on human beings. It was at times [people such as] a poor widow whom nobody would stop to look at, a person with a severe skin disease who was not considered a member of society, a tax collector who was only an object of scorn, and a fisherman who lived quite ordinarily without any change day after day after day. Jesus was interested in each of these persons, one person at a time. He was looking for each person to turn to God and to turn to God as the true father, and for each one to be let into God's salvation.

13. And of Peter, Andrew and the others, who followed him, he said he would make fishers to fish for human beings unto God. They did not need to overthrow the world. They did not need to become heroes who would save the world. They were just supposed to pursue the persons who were in front of them one by one. That's what they were charged to do. And that's what we who are following Christ are also charged to do.

14. The church does not come face to face with the world in a vague way. The church time after time after time comes face to face with persons, and it always has to do with individuals. It does not practice an evangelism of lumping all different folks together as one. It does not baptize by sprinkling water with a hose. It keeps possession of the unique names of each person respectively, it is involved with unique personalities, which have walked unique lives, and it seeks for a person by himself or herself to turn to God. And it rejoices because of the person who receives a portion in God's salvation. That is the church. When we get to the point we are not pursing people and individual persons vanish from our field of vision, we have stopped being fishers who catch people. The church has died, it has stopped being the church.

I Will Make You Fishers

15. However, the Lord does not merely say, "Become fishers of persons!" Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of persons." Jesus will make us into [fishermen and fisherwomen]. Jesus himself, more than anyone, wants for us to become fishers of persons. And he is making us into such persons.

16. Even so, how much confidence is really packed into that statement [of his], "I will make you fishers of persons?" Jesus does have [real] confidence regarding Peter. He does have [real] confidence regarding Andrew. How much ability did Peter have at that time? How much potential did he have? These [areas] are not what mattered. Jesus had asked of a person named Peter, and only the fact that this same Peter followed him was important. That was sufficient. As a matter of fact, this Peter had several failures in following Jesus. His weaknesses would be fully exposed. But, still since Peter kept following, that's what mattered. That was sufficient to Jesus. According to Jesus' words, he could make Peter into a fisher of persons. Furthermore, after Jesus was crucified, Jesus could make the small flock, that was afraid of the Jews and was hiding in a house, into fishers of persons. And it is the same way for the later church as well. As long as we look at the history of the church, human weaknesses and errors will never cease in it. Nevertheless Jesus still keeps saying, "Come and follow me!," and through those who have followed his calling voice, the church has continued to be fishers of persons. That's why we in the present day are here in this place.

17. The Lord is speaking to us also. He is saying, "Come and follow me!" We should follow him. Whether we are able or unable, young or old, healthy or unhealthy, none of this matters. Whether the church is big or small, young and healthy or aging, none of that matters. Just don't quit following Jesus. Whenever we follow [him], the Lord announces confidently about us, that "I will make you a fisher of persons."