The Uneducated Fishermen:
Christ’s first followers
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
The first people Jesus called to be with him were not the religious Jews, but rather ordinary fishermen. Jesus met two sets of brothers, who were also friends, at the Sea of Galilee. Their names were James and John; and Andrew and Peter. In fact, after a few years, these men would become the leaders of the Christian church that Jesus started.
The most outspoken of these men was Peter. He was willful, stubborn, and crude. But his brother Andrew had heard John the Baptist point out Jesus as “the Lamb of God” sent to be “the Saviour of the world.” Andrew was excited and told his brother Peter the good news, “We have found the Messias”, he told him. The Messias (Messiah) was the Chosen One sent from God whom the Jews had waited for the past several hundred years. Now the prophecy had finally come true!
Jesus calls us to come unto him by faith.
Jesus wants all men to come to him. Christianity is not another religion where man attempts to find peace with God through his own efforts and good works. Rather, it is a relationship with the creator God in Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ. God the Father sent Jesus His Son to be the Saviour of the world (I John 4:14). He came to us because we could not go to him.
My friend, are you at peace in your mind and heart? Perhaps you are troubled at the thought of dying. Perhaps, you have been waiting for some good news. You may find rest for your soul today! Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
We each must realize there is more to life than the pleasures and cares of this world: there is eternity to ponder. As nothing in this world can guarantee satisfaction, so can no amount of money purchase peace. God alone holds the key to peace and rest for your soul. Jesus said, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul" (Mark 8:36, 37)?
Our soul is the intellect, emotion, and will. Have you ever had thoughts of fear and loneliness, wondering what the purpose of life is? In our world of chaos and crisis, the soul of man seeks peace. Jesus came into this world to bring peace: not the temporary conditional peace that this world offers, but true peace with God and rest for our soul.
But we must choose to come to Christ. This is an act of our own will after we have heard the invitation of Christ’s word to come to him by faith. Jesus promised in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Jesus calls us to come after him by following him.
Jesus had singled out Peter…the influential leader of the fishing team. He had spoken directly to him and used his boat to teach from. Then he had a lesson to teach him. “Launch out…let down your nets.” Notice Simon Peter’s response in verse 5, “And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
Simon could have had a long list of excuses why he should not launch out and let down his nets again. After all, he was surely tired from fishing all night! Not only was he tired, but he had been fruitless…no fish were caught! He was surely discouraged from this. Now he was finishing up and ready to get some needed rest. In fact, he had already washed his nets! But Simon shows his faith in Jesus when he says “nevertheless at thy word I will”.
The result was miraculous! They caught so many fish that they needed help to haul them in. Both ships were filled and began to sink. Notice Simon Peter’s reaction. “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (verse 8).
Jesus had demonstrated his power and Simon Peter recognized there was something special about Jesus. He recognized something pure in Christ and it revealed his own sinfulness. Some people want to follow Christ for the “boat load” of money they think he will give them. But when we truly encounter the real Jesus, we will have to face our own sinfulness and unworthiness. We must humbly acknowledge and bow to the Lord of Lords!
According to verse 9, Jesus had done something that astonished these hardened fishermen. He met them where they were so He could take them to where he was going: to fish for men!
In Luke 4:43, Jesus had told the people in Capernaum that he needed to go preach in other cities also. But he chose to include and involve others in this mission. He would teach these disciples by modeling to them how to fish for men in many places.
Something so dramatic happened in Peter’s life, from the time they had left shore with Jesus until the moment they returned, that His entire future was changed. He began a journey of a lifetime. Luke 5:10 says that Jesus told Simon, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” This meant he had to stop following his own heart, and start listening to the voice of his new Master. Proverbs 3:5,6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Simon Peter had to put aside the excuses, for truly nothing about obeying Christ made rational sense at the time; most certainly not based on his own previous experiences! Peter and the fishermen listened to the voice of Jesus and obeyed him. Jesus said in John 10:27,28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Jesus met the fishermen where they were and called them unto himself. They heard him and believed that he was worth leaving everything else behind. This is true faith!
Jesus will call us to come up to be with him in the future.
In Matthew 17:1-6, Jesus called Peter, James, and John to join him on a mountain where he showed his glory. They heard with their own ears the affirmation of God the Father in Heaven as he said the words of affirmation, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (verse 5). One day, Jesus will bring his followers to be with him in His presence!
Jesus told his followers that if they believed in God, they must also believe in him. One day Jesus will bring his followers to live with him in Heaven (John 14:1-3). Belief in God is the first step toward the light of truth. It doesn’t require an education, but rather believing God’s Word. Consider the words and testimony of Simon Peter and his friend John years later:
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:12,13).
These fishermen may not have had wealth and education, but they had the privilege of meeting Jesus. When they heard his words, they believed on Jesus, and obeyed him. Their lives were changed and they followed Jesus until their death. They became bold preachers of truth warning others of their need to be delivered from sin.