Sermon for Epiphany 3 – January 24, 2021
+ 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany – January 24th, 2021 +
Series B: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church
“Jesus Goes Fishing”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last spring, when there was no hockey, soccer, or college basketball to be found on TV, my kids and I started watching reruns of bass fishing tournaments. An act of desperation? Perhaps. Turns out it was fascinating. One guy caught 27 large mouthed bass in under 2 hours. Fishing never looked so easy.
Now, anyone who’s been fishing, or knows a fisherman, knows it’s rarely that easy. You could have the finest boat on the water, the best equipment, and still fishing is hard, patient, uncertain work.
Fishing was even harder work in Jesus’ day. Peter and Andrew didn’t have depth finders or BassPro sponsorships. And Zebedee’s fishing company didn’t have tackleboxes full of specialized bait and bobbers. This was no relaxing day on the water. No fancy flies or hooks. No expensive reels and carbon fiber rods. No six-pack of PBR sitting under your bench. Just good old fashion nets, calloused hands, and hard work. Day in, day out. Casting your a broad net into the water in hopes of coming up with something in your nets. Sometimes you’d get a few fish. Other times you’d fish all night – like Jesus’ disciples – and pull your nets in only to find them empty. Nothing glamorous. No trophies. Just an uncertain, demanding, daily grind.
If we’re being honest, this kind of fishing, and the hard life of a fisherman in the first century, hardly seems like our idea of being Jesus’ disciple. Where’s the kingdom, the power, the glory? And yet, Jesus calls his first disciples then, and disciples now, to the same hard work.
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
As is often the case, what seems strange to us makes perfect sense to our Lord. It’s no accident the first men Jesus called to be his disciples were fishermen. Jesus doesn’t just angle this idea of fishing for men out of thin air. Jesus went trawling in the depths of the Old Testament. In Jeremiah, YHWH sent out many fishers to catch his people who were caught in sin and idolatry. In Ezekiel and Amos, YHWH himself is the fisherman, casting his dragnet over his wayward people of Israel, to haul them back to himself.
In the Scriptures, when God goes fishing, he catches his people, closes them into his nets and pulls them out of their sin and idolatry.
And if God is the fisherman, we his people, are the fish. And when you’re the fish; when you’re caught in God’s net, your sinful old life as you know it is over. He hauls us, flipping and flopping, out of our sin and idolatry, and into a radically new life. Into something completely different; a new life in his kingdom – his rule and reign – that is far better, full of grace and his love for you.
This is what’s happening when Jesus came into Galilee – the region of the Gentiles – preaching and proclaiming the Gospel of God. The good news that the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. The good and gracious rule and reign of God has come at last in Jesus. And even though Jesus’ victory on the cross will not happen for another 3 years from this point in Mark’s Gospel, with Jesus on the move, the battle is as good as over. In Jesus, God’s victory over sin, death, and the devil is assured. Every word he preaches, every prophesy he fulfills, every miracle he performs, every sick person he heals is yet another sign that our sinful life as we knew it is over. When Jesus goes fishing, he casts the net of his life, death, and resurrection over all creation, to catch sinners in his nets, and draw us to himself. Just as he did his disciples.
That’s what’s happening when Jesus calls his first disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Like fish, Peter, Andrew, James, and John are caught in Jesus’ nets – and life as they knew it is over. Jesus calls them to a radically new life. Jesus calls them to live as his disciples. To the hard work of fishermen serving the great captain of our salvation. To take up their cross and follow Jesus.
“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
As Jesus called his first disciples, they had no idea that the words “follow me” would lead to Jerusalem, to arrest, to trial, to the cross and the open tomb. They had no clue what it meant to be “fishers of men.” Fishers of fish, they understood. But fishers of men was a whole different thing. Fish you caught with nets and a little knowhow concerning the way of fish. But how do you catch men who don’t wish to be caught, and whose ways are far more complex than fish?
Jesus would teach them, and in teaching them, he teaches us as well. The net in which men are caught is the net of Jesus’ own death and resurrection. This is the net that drags everything to the shore of the resurrection on the Last Day when the catch is finally sorted out. Instead of casting nets they would cast the Word. Instead of boats there would be pulpits and congregations. Instead of fish flopping in a boat there would be men and women and children of all nations rescued from Sin, Death, and the Law by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Their fishing is a picture of the kingdom of God in action. They weren’t going to catch men for the kingdom by outsmarting them or by loading their hooks with attractive bait, but rather they were going to proclaim the kingdom of God in the crucified King, the Lord Jesus Christ, casting their net far and wide and deep, and letting the Lord and His angels sort out the catch.
But Jesus’ work of fishing for men doesn’t end with his disciples. That’s just the beginning. Jesus the Fisherman catches us in his grace and releases us with his grace just as he did his disciples. Sure, we each have different vocations, different callings in life. And yet, we who are caught are sent to go and catch. As a congregation, Jesus calls us to make disciples by baptizing and teaching in his name. To cast the net of His Word and catch men in the nets of his grace and haul them into the boat by his gifts of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
That’s how we live as Jesus’ disciples in this world, as fishers of men swimming in a sea of Sin and Death. We’re not called to transform the world, save society, or clean up its morals. But to make disciples. Cast the net. Haul in the world for whom Jesus died. Proclaim the Gospel, the good news, that in Jesus the Kingdom of God has drawn near.
And when Jesus goes fishing, you are delivered, rescued, and saved, hauled into his kingdom through his cross, and given a completely new life in Jesus.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.