When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles –
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.’
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Jesus said: Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.
With just two words Jesus invited Simon and Andrew, James and John into a whole new way of living. Four fishermen, plying their trade on the Sea of Galilee, were approached by a stranger who offered them an unexpected open door through which they would discover a whole new world. Rather than ignoring that stranger’s bizarre invitation, they stepped through the proffered open door, they stepped from the familiar into the unknown.
Jesus used the language of their trade as he invited them to follow him. They were skilled fishermen, working within their family business. They knew how to use their boats and their nets to catch the fish that would provide food for themselves and for others. They knew the best times to sail out and catch the right numbers of the right type of fish to sustain life in their community. The notion of fishing for people must have seemed both familiar and very, very strange.
Jesus’ invitation to Simon and Andrew, James and John is an invitation that Jesus has continued to extend throughout the last two thousand years. Jesus has never stopped asking people to follow him, and to fish for people. But, as we consider our reaction to that invitation, we do need to reflect upon exactly what that means.
Firstly, Jesus’ invitation to follow him involves our engaging in a process of humble submission. There is no room for pride and personal preference in the life of the Christian disciple. All that we say and do should reflect Jesus’ commands to love God and neighbour before all else, to place ourselves at the back of the queue.
Secondly, we need to understand that ‘fishing for people’ does not involve trapping them, forcing them to go where they do not wish to go. To fish for people is to lead them, by word and example, along the same path we have chosen to follow. To fish for people is to amaze others with the Good News of Jesus Christ, to amaze them to such an extent that they feel compelled to follow him as well.
Jesus is constantly standing by the same open door he revealed to those first disciples. They chose to accept his invitation to go through that door and to live in and for his Kingdom. Let us pray that we might demonstrate the same courage as we step across that threshold and show others the true joy of the Christian life.