Follow & fish for people? (Matt. 4:12-22)

Last week we gathered round the table. We greeted each other with smiles and we opened in prayer. After saying “Amen” — the homework assignment was remembered — seeing how encouraging at least one person the week prior had gone.

People checked in with different experiences. One found that the encouragement (the homework assignment) seemed to open up opportunities for them to encourage many throughout the week. While another found that the only person (in person) they seemed able to encourage was their spouse. Another person shared a story that may or may not have been encouraging in the sense of the homework assignment (mixed reviews there, and full of smiles!). The theme I’d invite us to remember though was how we also discovered that there are many different ways that we can encourage others — it might be with our words, or perhaps a wordless smile, a welcome hug, a note sent along — it might be something shared in-person and it might be something sent along (like a card, a voice mail, a text, an email). We were reminded that encouragement looks different & at least to me, that’s encouraging too!

Then we turned to scripture, looking to Matthew 4:12-22:

12 Now when Jesus[a] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
    on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
    light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”[b]
18 As he walked 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. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

New Revised Standard Version

We listened twice with silence between — trying to discern where God was directing us right then to look more closely. And then we shared. Someone was drawn to considering, what exactly does it mean to sit in darkness (as compared to walking through it)? Many considered the father in the boat. We wondered how that father felt, was he encouraging of his sons; was he discouraged; did he know Jesus? Some asked questions about how quickly is “immediately” exactly? Which led to pondering if we would do the same, immediately follow Jesus if he called. Some thought yes, others no, still others thought when younger — of course to drop what you’re doing – leave the family business – and follow this Jesus. And while in some ways we don’t (& can’t) know how we would have responded, others named moments in their lives where a decision had to be made and when that moment presented itself indeed they left all to follow/to be obedient/to submit. Life is full of choices & decisions, and God continues to speak with & guide us (Amen?) — and so we do get invited to follow Christ again & again & again in our lives…if the model of those original disciples reveals anything to us it is there is grace to stumble & fall (away) & still by God’s grace be counted as one of God’s own! (Be encouraged! I know I am!)

And so perhaps the homework assignment should have been — would you follow? Immediately? Or are you following right now? But that was not the assignment, our work for this week is answering 3 questions:

  1. What does “Follow me, & I will make you fishers of men/people.” mean? *another way to do this would be to put it in your own words*
  2. Are we (you) effective fishers of people?
  3. What does it mean to be a fisher of people?

While the questions are seemingly direct, that doesn’t mean they are easy to answer. I know I’m looking forward to seeing what y’all are thinking come Sunday. Until then, happy wresting (with God).

In Christ ~

Rev. Sabrina Slater