Week after week, month after month, and year after year these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.
Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing.
These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn’t do, however; they didn’t fish.
In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a school to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. All the fishermen seemed to agree that what is needed is a place which could challenge fishermen to be faithful in fishing. The school was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in faraway streams and lakes where many other fish of different colors lived.
Some spent much study and travel to learn the history of fishing and to see faraway places where the founding fathers did great fishing in the centuries past. They lauded the faithful fishermen of years before who handed down the idea of fishing.
Further the fishermen built large printing houses to publish fishing guides. Presses were kept busy day and night to produce materials solely devoted to fishing methods, equipment, and programs to arrange and to encourage meetings or talk about fishing. A speakers’ bureau was also provided to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing.
Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who didn’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish? Is one to be considered a fisherman if he isn’t fishing?
Mar 1:17 “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
The Fishing Guide
Every good fisherman has, at one point or another, been the student of a better fisherman. Many today pay top dollar to be taken out by a guide, to show them the best technique and places to fish. Our Lord was the best Guide for man catching. He was saying, in essence, “Follow me, and I will teach you how to catch men for the kingdom.”
What does it meant to follow Christ in this way? Many books have been written on evangelism. The question is often asked, “How can we become better soul winners?” Some have answered, “Become a good debater”. Others have said, “Go to seminary”. Christ says, “Follow me. Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
But reader, if we are followers, true followers of Christ, we will become what He is. He was the the greatest man catcher there was. He still is. Has His desire to catch men rubbed off on you? Spurgeon once said on this passage, “If you are saved yourself, the work is but half done until you are employed to bring others to Christ. You are as yet but half formed in the image of your Lord. You have not attained to the full development of the Christ-life in you unless you have commenced in some feeble way to tell to others of the grace of God: and I trust that you will find no rest to the sole of your foot till you have been the means of leading many to that blessed Savior who is your confidence and your hope. “
What does it meant to follow Christ here?
First, it means to be separated unto Christ.
What were Peter and Andrew, James & John to do with these words “Come after me”? They were to leave their former attachments to the world and be sanctified, set apart to the Lord. To follow Christ, first and foremost, means to “quit the world”. The disciples did this.
Mat 4:18-22 says, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”
Our passage says the same thing,
Mar 1:16-20 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
If we are to follow Christ, we must be those that forsake the world. Not everyone is called to the public ministry like a pastor or missionary, but this truth is no less true for everyone who calls himself or herself a believer. This is true for us all. That if we are caught by the gospel, we will catch with the same.
The truth is, we cannot be fishers of men if we remain in the water. To fish, you must be, above the water, separate from it, though connected to it. Fish will never be fishers. The sinner will not convert the sinner. The ungodly man will not convert the ungodly man; and, what’s more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world. If you are of the world, no doubt, you love the world. It means much to your heart. You see no real need to win souls, because your own soul has not been won. You see not great danger for others, because you see no great danger yourself. One reason why the church of Christ today has so small an impact in this world is because the world has so greatly impacted the church. All to often, we swim with the fishes.
But the Lord calls his people, to “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”2 Cor 6:17.
Another meaning of these words, “come after me” is obviously to abide with Christ.
I have seen it so often. So have you. A son becomes an engineer because his father loves his craft. Some love farming, because they have been born within a house, which loves farming. Some are tradesman because their father was also a tradesman, and there was a love for it. Some of you love to fish because your father instilled in you the love for it. We often love things that people we love, love! When we abide with Christ, truly abide, we will love the things He loves. He loves, to save sinners. That was his reason for coming to this earth. To seek and to save that which was lost.
The disciples whom Christ called, came to live with Christ. They w
ere with him every day. They did not say, “O.K, Lord, see you on the Sabbath. Be well.” No, they lived with him, ate with him, walked with him, hung on his every word. To learn how to fish, they watched him fish (for men). I know of one youngster in my congregation who has watched so many men fly fish, that when he picked up the rod for the first time, he had almost perfect technique (and it is not one of my sons). It came, by observation. They fulfilled Ruth’s words to Naomi, “for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God“. They were with him in his afflictions and persecutions. In his healings and preaching, in his mighty miracles. They witnessed his secret pain; saw his many tears; marked His passion and the compassion of his soul, and so they learned Christ. If I can say it like this, they caught his love for souls, and so they learned to to love fishing for men.
And so must we. At Christ’s feet, we must learn his love for soul-winning; the art and mystery of catching souls. As Christ the Guide, the disciples learned His technique. No wonder they did so much for the kingdom of God after he departed to the Father. Yet even Peter, who spent so much time by the Lord’s side says in 2Pe 1:19 “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” That more sure word of prophesy that Peter is speaking about, is the Bible itself. And we have this more sure word with us today. And will we not win souls with this word? What will it take to be less theoretical fisherman and more fishers of men?
A third meaning can be understood by the words, “Come after me” and it is this: “Obey me, and then you shall know how be a fisher of men.”
We must not talk about our fellowship with Christ, or our being separated from the world unto him, until we make him our Master and Guide. “Come after me; Follow me”, means, “obey me”. And how short do we all fall in this way? Our Churchs become more worldly each year, we give away much of our heritage that belongs to our children and exchange it for the things of this world. “What do we give?” you ask? You know the very things. We, leave, as it were, the road with Christ, who asks us for full obediance, and say, “I part with you here good master. I will not give up all for thee. I will meet you again up the road.” And we forget the words of the great fisherman, Luk 9:23 “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
The Lord said to his disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” and he promised them that great signs would follow them, and they did. If we wnat this kind of sucess in evangelism, we must get back to the old paths and the old ways: we must lay aside the commandments of men and the flighty novelties of our own hearts. Stop trying to invent new techniques, and copy Christ. We must do what Christ tells us, as Christ tells us, because Christ tells us.
To be a Church of fishermen, let us do the works of the Great Fishermen. Not the crowd inspiring features of the megachurches who broaden their tents by removing obediance and doctrine, faith and repentance. Today the cry goes up, “I am not going to preach that old gospel, that musty Puritan doctrine.” And men forget, or have never been taught of the Master Fisher, Jesus Christ.
But if we go our own way, with our own pole and bate, we will make nothing of real fishing (even if a Church id filled to the rafters). The Lord’s directions make himself our leader and example. It is, “Come after me. Preach my gospel. Preach what I preached. Teach what I taught, and keep to that.” Let us not be original, let us copy Him. Copy Christ even in the little things, as well as the big. Do this, and he will make us fishers of men; but if we do not do this, we will fish in vain, or never fish at all.
Let me close by saying this; we will never be fishers of men unless we follow Christ in one other way and that is to imitate his holiness. Purists are always the most inspiring of all fisherman. Likewise, holiness is the most real power that can be possessed by pure fishers. We may preach orthodoxy, but we must also live orthodoxy. God forbid that we should preach anything else; but it will be all in vain, unless there is a life of holiness to back it up.
Real power lies in these words, “Come after me.” Be Jesus-like. In all things endeavour to think, and speak, and act as Jesus did, and he will make you and I fishers of men. This will require self-denial. We must daily take up the cross. This may require willingness to give up our reputation, friends, even family; a readiness to be thought fools, as men always call those who are keeping close to their Master. Fanatics! Oh, may we be so blessed by the world calling us such as we cast our lines.
To be continued…
 Adapted from John M. Drescher’s article.