Fisher of Men
One of my favourite things to do in the world is fish. Some of my greatest joys and memories have been experienced with a rod in my hand. And I’m not picky - I like to fly fish for brook trout in Newfoundland rivers, jig for codfish in the Atlantic, fish for bass in Ontario lakes, pike fish at Pine Lake, or troll for walleye at Slave. It’s one of my greatest joys - just sitting in a boat, canoe, or from the shore, surveying the water, casting out and feeling the tug of the line. It’s one of the places where I can truly unwind. Truth be told, some of my best sermons were mentally composed from a canoe - especially if the fish weren’t biting! For me, fishing will always be something that I can do to gain some perspective and just figure things out.
I wonder if that’s why the disciples went fishing after Easter Sunday - to figure things out. John 21 records the account. Jesus had been crucified, and raised from the dead, leaving an empty tomb. Upon hearing this news, Peter in particular races to the grave, finds the stone rolled away and sees the empty linen used for wrapping Christ’s body. But he, or any of the disciples, understand what is really going on (see John 20:9).
And so, I can’t help but wonder what Peter was thinking as he says in John 21:3, “I’m going out to fish.” Was he just trying to get some perspective? Did he need some space to figure some things out? Or was it something else?
Something amazing was happening with Jesus and his disciples, and yet, rather than embracing it, Peter seems to go back to the old ways. You know, Christ had called Peter from a fishing boat in Matthew 4, saying, “Come follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people (or from the KJV, “I will make you fishers of men”). Jesus had journeyed with his disciples for three years and during that time, they had witnessed countless miracles and experienced Scriptural teaching from the very One who inspired the writers of Scripture! And now, at what must seem to be the greatest miracle yet, Peter decides to go back to his old ways - back to the fishing boat.
But here’s the thing: when you encounter Jesus, when you honestly and fully have an experience with the Risen Saviour, you can’t go back to the old ways. Truly knowing Jesus changes everything. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Peter was no longer to be a fisherman, but a fisher of men: called to nurture, foster and care for the followers of Jesus in the days that would come. He was a new creation, the old ways were gone, and Christ had a new job for Him to do.
Peter would be the one who gives testimony to the religious leaders (the ones who crucified Christ) in Acts 4:1-21. He would stand and address the crowd, sharing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:11-26). He would perform miracles (Acts 3:1-10), bring others into a saving knowledge of Jesus (Acts 4:4), and would be the Rock that Jesus would build His Church upon (Matthew 16:18). Things were different, because of Peter’s encounter with the Risen Lord, Jesus.
But, where does that leave us today? Well, I think Christ still calls people to be fishers of men. I believe that He still changes lives for the better, that He brings purpose and meaning, and that He equips His followers to live with hope in a way that inspires others to seek Jesus.
As well, I believe that Christ continues to change lives in a way that glorifies God. So, if you’re searching for something more, if you’re struggling to understand your purpose, or if you feel your life needs to change, hear the voice of the Risen Saviour calling, “Come, follow me.” I promise that things will never be the same, because “in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”