I have begun a series on the multiple uses of the word follow (akoloutheo) in the gospels. The word is used in multiple ways, but one of the primary uses is to describe someone who commits to following Jesus as his disciple. We can learn a lot about what it means to follow Jesus by examining the different instances when follow (akoloutheo) is uses.
Posts in the series:
- Following Jesus means... We fish for something new
- Following Jesus means... Leaving some things behind
- Following Jesus means... Being more than just a fan
We have been given a new job
Following Jesus means that we fish for something new. No longer are we fully occupied by our current or former professions, but we invest our energy into a new task. In the midst of Jesus calling his first disciples, he makes a statement that has become well known and often repeated. Jesus tells his first disciples, "Follow (deute opiso) me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mt 5:19, see also Mk 1:17 and Lk 5:10)." It says in the following verse "Immediately, they left their nets and followed (akoloutheo) him (Mt 5:20)."
Note: For the integrity of this study (of the word follow), it is important to note that the Greek work that is translated as follow in verse 19 is different than the Greek work translated as follow in verse 20. Although, the usage is similar in the two passages, and does not prohibit us from extracting the lesson that followers of Jesus have been made into "fishers of men."
When you follow Jesus, you have been called to also help others become his disciples. The initial call to his disciples is at the beginning of his ministry, but Jesus gives a similar call at the end of his ministry. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... (Mt 28:18-19a)." Without a doubt, part of what it means to follow Jesus is to help others follow him too.
Fishing for men
I grew up in a family that loves to fish. My grandfather fishes, my mother fishes, my father fishes and they have made it a point to teach my brothers and me how to fish. Fishing is currently not a regular part of my life, but I enjoy getting the opportunity to fish when it does happen. I recall many times when my dad would be up late re-spooling our fishing pools, getting his tackle box organized or taking care of other miscellaneous tasks in preparation for a fishing trip. In this way, fishing is intentional. It is not passive. You cannot just show up on the shoreline of a lake with no preparation, knowledge or tools and hope to catch anything.
Jesus says that as his followers, we are now called to prepare and invest in the task of calling others to follow him. Do you think about this on a regular basis? How have you invested in Jesus' call to invite others to follow him?
What can we learn from the fishing analogy?
Jesus uses the concept of fishing to communicate the new and glorious task his disciples would be called to as his followers. While the analogy is not comprehensive, we can learn a few things about fishing for men when we think about fishing for fish.
1. We Must be Prepared
Fishing requires preparation. We need to get the right tools, know what sort of fish are common in the body of water, know how to tie a fishing line, etc. You cannot just show up and expect fish to jump into your boat.
Trying to share the good news of Jesus requires a certain degree of preparation as well. You might say, no it doesn't - you need only to know Jesus yourself and then the Holy Spirit will do the rest. While that may be true to some degree, the Bible also advocates that we are "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)." As we grow in our own faith, and desire to be increasingly more effective at sharing the gospel, we should be prepared.
Being prepared means that we know something about the worldview those around us - know their basic assumptions, their questions and their idols. Being prepared also means that we have answers for those questions. If someone has questions about whether we can trust the Bible, are we ready to give an answer? We do not have to know all the answers, but we should try to be as prepared as we reasonably can.
2. We Must Be Patient
Fishing also requires patience. I have been on the lake with nothing in the bucket one day, and catching my limit on another. You cannot always predict when the fish will bite, it requires patience. I personally like to go fishing when I know that I can catch fish. Others say that, "A bad day fishing is better than a good day working." Maybe you agree...
Patience is also required when we "fish for men." It can take time for barriers to break down, questions to be answered, wounds to mend and for people to come to faith in Jesus. You cannot always predict who will respond to the gospel, and we need to be patient when we invite others to follow Jesus. Don't give up though. Love people well, share the good news and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.
3. We Must Be Proactive
You cannot sit at home and expect fish to wonder up to your door. If you are going to catch fish, you need to go to the lake, get in a boat and put your line in the water.
Sharing the gospel also requires us to be proactive. We need to get into relationships with people that don't know Jesus. If you spend all your time with people that already follow him, you will never have the opportunity to invite new people into a relationship with Jesus. Not only that, if you never speak about your own relationship with Jesus to the people you already know, it will also be difficult to invite them into a relationship with him. Be proactive in the task of sharing Jesus with others.
What is your next step?
As a follower of Jesus, you are called to "fish for men." You do not have to be Mr. Evangelism. That is not what I am saying, nor is it what Jesus says. Just take a step toward a life of multiplication. It can even be small, but take a step. Before you leave your computer or phone, take a moment to write down one step you will take to be a more proactive fisher of men. And share it in the comments for others to read.