From fisherman to 'fisher of men'

Lunminthang Haokip *

CALLED TO BE FISHER OF MEN: Once, in Kolkata, I came across a newspaper lead, "72 hour bandh in greater Kolkata. No fish coming from Vizag and Gujarat. Local fish production not sufficient. Acute shortage of fish in the market. That's why "Banerjee and Chatterjee have no energy. Bose and Ghosh have turned morose." Fish curry pampers the palate of habitual takers as a delicious food item.

Such foodies cannot do without it. Fishing is the hobby or occupation of many that bring fishes to the market. To Peter and Andrew, it was a means to eke out a living for themselves and their parents. Fishing was just making something alive dead. No big deal.

Jesus knew better and foresaw greater things the brothers could do, if groomed under His wings. They had the capacity to work hard with sincerity of purpose. He wanted the duo to make something dead alive, and make a profession out of it.

Matthew 4:19 records the calling of the believing disciples, "Come, follow Me," "and I will make you fishers of men." So long as Peter was a repeater of his own 'inconsistent' nature, he couldn't be a 'fisher of men.' Things changed for the better when 'Peter became a repeat repent-er.'

TRAINING DISCIPLINED DISCIPLES : Peter, and for that matter, most of the disciples, were ordinary laymen. Judas, comparatively, was a learned man. He was an Economist (Wikipedia). But his knowledge about money matters became his nemesis. The special quality of Peter was his teachability. In the beginning, like us, he fumbled, stumbled and could not grasp what his Master meant.

When Jesus told His disciples, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise (Mark 9:31)." Peter and Co could not understand the spiritual implication.

They had fleshy ambitions in following the Lord. Jesus had to train and correct His followers. We too need constant correction by the Scripture and the Spirit if desire is to effectively witness the Gospel.

Peter could have been a 'repeater' of 'faux pas,' but his heart was in the right place. At the end, he came out shining like gold tested by fire. At times he was 'petulant'. But his intent was full of good content. The words he uttered could have sounded irrelevant to others but he always meant well.

JESUS TURNS YOUR RIGTSIDE UP: In 1995, I was invited to preach in a village near Sugnu in Manipur. The local Church appreciated the messages God revealed to me. For a moment, I became over-confident. When I was asked to pray for a devil-possessed girl who kept on mouthing obscenities day and night, I foolishly ventured out to 'rush in where angels feared to tread.'

My rootedness in Christ was not deep and strong enough to take on the counter-attack of the devil. I had the nightmare of my life. I was under furious attack of the power of darkness. My head swelled up many folds in size (imagined) and in fear, I ran for cover by the 'blood of the Lamb." Peter was over-confident.

When Jesus said, "This very night you will all fall on account of Me (Matt. 26:31)," he gave a Don Quixotic reply, "Even if all fall away on account of You, I never will (Matt 26:33)." When the hour of reckoning came, Peter fell flat. He became a 'repeater' of succumbing to the weak streak in the flip-side of his lopsided persona.

Matt. 26:75 records that "And he went outside and wept bitterly." This scene of broken open weeping was proof of the disciple's sincerity. It was like admitting that 'he was honest about his dishonesty.' He got back his spiritual balance. His right side was up. Later Peter was one of those who turned the then world 'upside down (Acts 17:6).'

Judas too betrayed his Master. He took it as some kind of a mistake he should not have done. Repentance and banking on Jesus were missing in his skin-deep remorse. He placed no hope in the Lord he followed. "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Matt. 27:5)."

Many farmers in India, when crops fail and they know they are in no position to repay the loan they took from banks, hang themselves. That is not the solution. Their death cannot write off the debt of loans. It's a gross mistake of perception. The devil is behind every desire to take one's own life. Only if they know that if they accept Lord Jesus, the living God can send rain the next year for a bumper harvest.

"And surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth (Hosea 6:3)." There's no sorrow too severe for God to heal. Hanging is like saying there's no God to address and redress my distress. "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me? (Jeremiah 32:27)."

It's the guilt factor that strips the guilty of the last straw of hope. In situations where there's 'zero faith' there can't be 'heroic repentance.' 2 Cor. 7:10 says, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."

SOUL WINNING MAKES A SINNER A WINNER: Jesus was not happy with the way the disciples went fishing after He left them. They were chosen to fish for men, not fishes. Their training was oriented to win souls. How often we too forget our calling to 'launch out in the deep," and feel contented wallowing in the mire of shallow waters?

Like the prodigal son, Peter came to his senses when His Master encountered him in John 21: 15-17. The last counsel of the Lord to His beloved disciple was, "Feed My sheep." Peter repented deeply. He took His Lord's Word seriously. In Acts Chapter 2, we read about the 2.0 version of the erstwhile fox-trotting Peter.

He appealed to his people, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)." He became bold as a lion. The Word of Jesus that Peter would be made a 'fisher of men' was fulfilled. "Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41)."

A man said he was going to fish in the river. His wife, packed some dabas of tin-fish for him. The man got riled up and shouted at his wife, "I'm going for fishing. Why pack these fish-tins?' The wife replied, "Because I know you'll catch no fish.!" Many labourers in the Lord's vineyard catch no soul. Why? Because the 180 degree about-turn of Peter is missing. No one knows that better than our spouses.

WHAT'S GOD'S WILL SHALL PREVAIL OVER WHAT'S NOT: They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing (John 21:3)." In many ways, fishing can be likened to soul winning. The disciples might have justified their return to their old profession. When they were being shepherded by their Master, they got a lot of freebie material support for their daily needs.

Now left to fend for themselves, the need to do something to sustain themselves could have arisen. But that wasn't their calling. They were called to catch souls, not fishes. Jesus commanded them to disciple nations. Matt. 28:19, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father. and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

The Lord's last commandment ought to have been their first commitment. But petty concerns like 'what to eat or what to wear?' distracted the focus of their zeal to obey. Nothing worked in their favour when they went outside the will of God. It's also a lesson for all of us later believers of Lord Jesus. Certain ideas may appear wonderful and promising. But anything done in fleshly steam doesn't work out as desired.

The disciples were old hands in fishing. Yet their experience came to nought when they did things on their own. Jesus said in John 15:5, "For without me, ye can do nothing." But when they cast their net as the Lord directed, they caught plenty. John 21:6, "They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes."

* Lunminthang Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an IAS (Retd)
This article was webcasted on April 29 2023 .

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