Fishers of Men

When Jesus called four men from their regular jobs as fishermen to become His disciples, He said, “I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). Fishers of men is a beautiful figure of speech to describe those who win souls.

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him (Mk. 1:16–20).

Truly, these men connected with His call, for Mark says they left their boat with the rest of the crew still in it and followed Him immediately.

They were used to working with nets, which they had to maintain and cast every day. Beside the boat itself, it was their most important tool. As we cast our nets for souls, there are important truths we need to apply—as seen in these fishermen’s nets.

Weave the Net Diligently
In these verses, two brothers, James and John, were weaving their nets, tying knots in cord and mending them. Have you ever thought about what a net is? It’s just a bunch of holes tied together. Do you know what a hole is? It’s a “nothing.” And that’s exactly what we are—a bunch of “nothings.” But if you take a bunch of nothings and tie them together, they become powerful.

Just as a net is woven and interlaced, people are netted and tied together with other people; and there is tremendous power. Woven together in the unity of the Spirit, we accomplish far more than any single individual could by himself. There is power in cooperation. You do much better fishing by net than by yourself with a hook and line. We need to learn that, not only are we independent, but we’re also interdependent. Together we join hands and work as one to span the globe.

Repair the Net Swiftly
We ought to be saddened when something happens to the net. When a net gets torn, when there’s a hole or rift, some of the fish we ought to catch escape. That’s the reason the Devil would like to tear our nets, to cause a rift in fellowship whenever he can. When a rift occurs, what is our duty? Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness [meekness].” The word restore is the same word for mending a net. Those of us who are part of the team need to hasten, with meekness, to mend the net.

Work the Net Obediently
In Luke 5:4–5 we see Jesus teaching His disciples (and us as well) some principles they must understand, since they were to become fishers of men. Jesus came to them along the shore and advised Simon, “‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’”

It wasn’t that they were lazy. They had been working. But they were toiling tirelessly all night, working feverishly in the energy of the flesh. They were fishing without the power of the Lord.

It takes work to fish, but it takes more than work to succeed. “We have toiled…and caught nothing.” Notice this lament begins with “we” and ends with “nothing.” Jesus said in John 15:5, “Without Me you can do nothing.” If you go out to be a soul winner but do not pray, if you work in the energy of your flesh, you will fail. We must depend on the Lord.

Here in a few words you have a story of failure, faith, and fortune. Failure: “we have toiled all night and caught nothing” (Lk. 5:5). Faith: “nevertheless at Your word I will” (v. 5). Fortune: “and when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking” (v. 6).

I don’t think this account is in the Bible merely as a fish story or so that Simon could brag about his catch. It is there for our benefit. We, too, are woven together; we must depend solely on Jesus as we cast our nets to bring many souls to Him.

We also must launch out. Someone has said the average Christian would rather be a keeper of the aquarium than a fisher of men. We can’t sail through the sea of humanity and keep the net in the boat. We must get out and draw the net for Jesus.

You may hear some say, “I just want people to see my life, and then they’ll want to be Christians.” Listen, friend, people aren’t saved by your life; they are saved by His death. They don’t need to see what a wonderful person you are. They need to know how wonderful Jesus is.

Wash the Net Continually
Before Jesus instructed Simon to cast his net, He “saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets” (v. 2). One of those boats belonged to Simon. He was at work, washing his net. Any good net is going to pick up debris. If you don’t wash the net, here’s what will happen:

  • It Will Smell Up the Boat. The net catches dead fish, seaweed, and mud off the bottom—all of which are consequently pulled into your boat.
  • It Will Rot the Cord. If you allow filth to foul the net, your net eventually will rot and disintegrate.
  • It Will Make the Work Harder. The net is meant to be almost invisible and to slide through the sea.
  • It Will Frighten the Fish. Fish can see a dirty net even from a long distance.

Some people are afraid to wash the net, thinking the things accruing in it are merely a part of it. We become custodians of the status quo, afraid to change our manmade plans. When we keep doing something because we’ve always done it and we’re afraid to wash the net, to get our organization cleaned up, then we’ve come to a perilous place. We need to review continually, reevaluate, and recommend, constantly cleaning the net and keeping our lives clean and pure, washing away the sludge of sin and needless activity.

Be careful never to worship the net. The most valuable thing is not the net; it’s the souls. We worship the net when loyalty to our programs means more than loyalty to God’s Word. To worship anything other than almighty God is idolatry. God forbid we should do that.

Cast Your Net
How wonderful it is to join heart and hands with people around the globe and love this world to Jesus Christ. To do so, each person must adopt the characteristics of a fisherman by having compassion on those souls who are lost and courage to step out and cast his or her net.

A wise man once said, “When we fish for fish, we take them out of a beautiful life into death; but when we fish for men, we take them out of death into a beautiful life.”

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