While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18-19)
On a recent harvest mission in Alaska we watched eagles dive at breakneck speed and scoop salmon from the water. There are no superlatives that could describe it. Bald Eagles are awesome fishers. Their eyes have two centers of focus, which means they can see both forward and to the side at the same time. They can see fish below the surface from as high as 400 feet. When they target a fish, it is a good bet that fish is dinner.
We were fishing, as well. Our mission was to aid the Foursquare missionary to SE Alaska, a Tlingit himself, in the gathering of fish. Throughout the year he uses the catch to bless the local community. Many Alaskans rely on their summer catch to get through the long winters. In the native communities there is always need among the elders, who can no longer fish like they did when they were younger. Unless their kids stayed local, they are reliant on the larger community to assist them.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
…so begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is given in the Book of Matthew shortly after he called His “fishers of men.” It describes a community that was radically different than the world around them. This Kingdom of Heaven would be peopled by those who moved in grace and humility — preferring others over themselves and living with genuine love for others.
When our mission teams serve together, we get to experience what that is like. Our mission was clear — give “everything we got” to serve the missionary who has ordered his life to serve the people of SE Alaska. If that means painting his garage, splitting firewood for his winter needs or digging ditches, then that is what we do. In this case, we were to put up enough fish for him to share throughout the year – he is a fisher of men.
And we really do get to live as kingdom people. It is otherworldly. The presence of the Holy Spirit is palpable. Our goal is to serve the missionary, but our preparation is learning to love one another. There was no drama — no selfish demands made on an already overstressed missionary — only life together as a kingdom family. And it was very good.
I understand why Jesus chose fishermen. They were the salt of the earth — common men for the common people. They operated in faith — they could not see what was below the waters. They worked hard, long hours and were never sure they would get the catch they depended upon to survive. If God did not move, nothing was gathered. And so Jesus took such as these and made them fishers of men.