Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. -Luke 5:10b-11
“I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men. I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me.” Growing up in Sunday school meant learning a lot of songs, just like Fishers of Men. I don’t know how old I was when I learned it or any other activity or Bible reading associated with it, but I do, very clearly, remember learning the words and motions to this song. It is not the most exciting tune, but the motions certainly made it fun!
It’s an interesting image we are given in Luke. Being married to a fisherman, I can attest to the mood of Simon and his companions—after an entire night without a single catch, they would have been miserable. It’s not even my husband’s profession, but I always know when the entire night has been a bust.
Tired, cranky, defeated, and, probably, worrying about the negative financial effects of the nights, I’m certain going back on the water was the last thing these men wanted. And yet, after making his preferences known, Simon conceded to Jesus’ request: “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” (v. 5).
Yet if you say so; a specific series of short words strung together to show the depth of Simon’s faith. He knew it would make no sense to the men with him, but he trusted Jesus and so he took the step.
Imagine if Simon had ignored the command, if he had simply packed it in and went to get much needed sleep. He would have missed the biggest catch of his life!
When Jesus asked to go out in Simon’s boat, there is no way Simon could have known the ways in which his life was about to change. But because he stepped out in what can only be called faith, Simon (and James and John) heard the call on their lives to join Jesus in his mission. We don’t know if there was something extra in Jesus’ voice or if the heart simply recognizes when the Creator calls, but the men responded immediately to Jesus’ invitation. They left their livelihood and their homes to step boldly into the unknown, for no other reason than Jesus spoke it as fact. I’m certain experiencing the catch of their lives helped, but I’m equally as certain that Simon, James, and John also acted because they were ready to listen for and heed the word of God.
Two parts: listen and heed.
If we want to catch people for Christ, we need to be sure to do both parts. We need to be willing to listen for God and expect God to speak in even the most mundane parts of our day. Jesus came to these three where they were and as they were. There was nothing inherently special about the situation, yet Jesus sat in the boat and spoke to the crowd. And the crowd listened.
The second part is to heed. Notice the invitation to become disciples doesn’t come until after they have listened and responded to the command to return to sea and put down the nets. Simon and his partners had an abundance of reasons to argue or to refuse, an entire night’s lack of fish, in fact. But if Simon had done that, if the sons of Zebedee had abandoned their team, the true call would have been missed.
The same is true for us today. We too have been called to draw others to Christ. But we too will have moments in our lives where not following the first part of God’s word means missing out on the true call. What a shame that would be!
So, listen. Be prepared in even the most routine moments of your day. You never know when Jesus might show. Then, do yourself a favor and heed the call. Regardless of how outlandish it might seem or how tired you might be, answer the call. It just might be your chance to take part in growing the Kingdom.