Our Lord continues to catch lost fish. Their names are your names because you were once lost fish, but now caught by Christ. You are the ones to whom Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers-of-men!” Unlike Andrew, Peter, James and John, you may not be called to leave your vocations, but (and this brings me to the second point of this message):
To catch “lost fish”, fishers-of-men have got to get out of the boat!
Luther, commenting on Luke 5:1-11 says that the sea is the world; the fish are the people; the net is the Gospel message; and the “boat” is the church. With this understanding, preachers often talk in their sermons/Bible classes about how we, as fishers-of-men are to go out in our boats and fish for the lost fish. That image is true. In fact, in Matthew 13, the Parable of the Nets, Jesus describes the work of the church as fishermen working in their boats and using nets to catch fish and when the nets are full … at the end of time … the fish are sorted (Matt. 13:47-50).
But I would like to look at this text from a slightly different angle. Luke says, “They pulled their boats up on shore, and left everything and followed him.” (11) Mark tells us that, “[James and John] left their father in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” (1:20) Peter, Andrew, James, and John left their boats because they knew they could not catch the lost fish of the world by remaining in their boats.
Let’s ponder this thought for a moment! If the “boat” represents the church then might Jesus be suggesting that in order to fish for men, we have got to get out of the “boat” … out of the church … this building? We cannot be serious fishers-of-men if we remain within the four walls of this church building! As fishers-of-men we have to go where the lost fish are!
But here’s the problem: many of us have fallen into the mistaken notion that simply the presence of the “boat” (i.e. the church building) docked in a community will catch lost fish! Many of us have the mistaken notion that the activities that go on within the boat (e.g. worship services, Bible classes) will somehow cause the lost fish of the community to magically jump into the boat! Or, we have the mistaken notion that simply by having fishers-of-men gather in a boat and share fishing stories and methodologies will result in a greater catch. But this simply isn’t true!
As fishers-of-men, our Lord exhorts us to get out of the boat and fish where the lost fish are! When you leave this “boat” (this church) behind today, the Lord sends you to the lost fish in your homes … to the lost fish in your neighbourhoods … to the lost fish in your workplace … the coffee shops … the hockey rinks … the soccer fields … hospitals … nursing homes, etc.
Do you see yourself as a fisher-of-men? Or do you think that fishing for men is simply the responsibility of the pastor and select few people who have the gift of evangelism? Do you think of the people around you as “lost fish”? Are you using the “net” or the “bait” provided by the Lord to catch these fish?
In catching fish, it is so important to develop relationships … to be a friend. Yes, it’s good to take the neighbour to his doctor’s appointment … to visit the lonely person in the hospital or nursing home … to provide a shoulder for someone to cry on … to visit the person who is grieving the death of a loved one. But all too often that is where our witness ends. Essentially, we’re fishing without our God-given “gospel nets”.
Maybe you have heard this often told fishing tale: A game warden observed that each evening a certain fisherman brought back more fish than everyone else combined. The warden became extremely leery and inquisitive. As a result, he decided to go fishing with the fortunate man to see how he did it. The fisherman navigated his boat to an isolated lagoon. Dropping anchor, he opened his tackle box, withdrew a stick of dynamite and lit the fuse. The game warden watched dumbfounded. The man held the dynamite until the fuse was short, then hurled it into the water. As it struck the water, it detonated. Immediately many dead and stunned fish floated to the surface. As the fisherman collected the fish, the infuriated warden shouted, “Stop! This is outrageous. It’s illegal! You can’t fish this way.” As the game warden railed on and on, the fisherman took out another stick of dynamite. He lit the fuse and put it in the warden’s hand with the words, “Are you gonna talk or are you gonna fish?” (CPR Vol. 8 Part 1 p. 43-44)
We know it’s not appropriate to fish for fish with dynamite, but you might be surprised to learn that it is absolutely essential that we use “dynamite” when fishing for men, women and children! St. Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the “dynamite” … power of God unto the salvation of those who believe!” (Romans 1:16) Also, in Romans Paul states, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (13) But then Paul asks, “How can they call on the one whom they have not believed in? (14) … How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news! (15) … faith comes from hearing the message and message is heard through the Word of Christ (17).”
In Luke the key to catching the fish is the Word of Jesus! (Peter states: “If you say so, I will let out the nets.”) So, as you take the neighbour to his doctor’s appointment tell him about the Great Physician who heals all our wounds and diseases. As you visit the lonely patient in the hospital or the elderly person in the nursing home share with them that that Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, is with them. As a neighbour cries on your shoulder assure her that Jesus invites, “Come unto me all you who are weak and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” As you visit the person who is grieving the death of a loved one assure them that He who is the Good Shepherd journeys with them through the valley of the shadow of death. These are examples of fishing with the gospel nets provided by the Lord.
You might be thinking, “That’s fine for you to say Dr. Schaeffer. You’ve spent the better part of your life studying God’s Word. I get tongue-tied. I’m afraid I might not have all the answers to their questions.” In some cases that might be true, but even a three year old child can say, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins.” Not all of us may be able to eloquently express our faith but our Lord has provided us with resources that we can use as fishers-of-men: LHM tracts that address various life issues, marked Bibles, audio/written on-line sermons, other numerous on-line resources (e.g. flashpoints, gospel music videos, podcasts of sermons and evangelism tracts that can be downloaded into your IPOD or MP3 player), Christian CDs and DVDs, etc.So, you’re called to be fishers-of-men!
May our Lord grant you an abundant catch as you let down the gospel nets in your community! Amen.