Becoming Fishers of Men (People)

I was studying the passage Matthew 4:19, “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” The correct word in the Greek is ἀνθρώπων, which would be translated men, but it is a word that additionally used generically for mankind or humankind.  Jesus wasn’t just asking us to reach men but all people (Matt 28:19-20).  I had looked at that passage any number of times and always saw it from the human perspective: we need to be out reaching people with the gospel.  That idea is taught in many places in the New Testament, so I hadn’t paid much attention to the rendering of what Jesus was saying. 

Something New

As I studied the passage this time, however, something new (and what I should have seen all along) began to click.  It’s amazing how wonderful God’s Word is in times of study like this time.  The background to the passage is the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, where He shows us as the God-man that His total submission to the Holy Spirit and His command of God’s Word gave Him victory over the temptations of the flesh, the eyes, and pride.  Jesus as God, being impeccable, could not sin.  Yet He did not sin, not because He drew upon His divinity, but instead drew upon the power of the Holy Spirit in His humanity (see Bruce Ware, The Man Jesus Christ, for additional thoughts on this perspective). 

Now Matthew moves to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.  Here He sees Peter and Andrew and simply says, “Follow me (literally, come after Me).”  The Gospel of John gives us more insight into Jesus’ encounters with Andrew and with Simon Peter.  Matthew is more succinct:  “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people!”  Here’s what I discovered.  Jesus did not say, “Follow Me, and you will become a fisher of people,” or “If you want to follow Me you must fish for people.” No, He said, “I will make you fish (literally fishers of) for people.”  The focus is on I Will.  Christ will make us fishers of people, in fact, He will be making us fishers of people.

Chickened Out?

How many times have you gotten unnerved because you were in a situation where you needed to or wanted to talk to someone about Christ but didn’t?  You chickened out or just couldn’t seem to get the conversation moving in that direction.  We have all been there, if we will be honest.  So here’s what I learned.  The emphasis was not on me going out and trying to be a witness for Christ.  The emphasis was on Christ, not on us.  There is a two-fold perspective on witnessing here.

First, we must pursue Christ – Come after Me.  Becoming an effective witness is a process.  It doesn’t mean that you can be effective immediately upon conversion, because there are texts in Scripture (Mark 5) that teach us that fact.  To be effective, however, is something directly connected with your walk with Christ.  Go after Christ and He will make you into a witness.  It’s not about your ability, gifting, background, or the details of your conversion.  It’s about being connected to Jesus.  Do you remember what Jesus said in John 15:5 The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.

Second, Christ makes us the witness – He is the One who convicts and saves.  We are the instrument through which He works.  So often we focus on us – how well we share our faith and even the details of our abilities.  This fact does not mean that we don’t seek out training or help in being better witnesses.  On the contrary, because Christ is our Enabler and our Strength, we seek out ways to be more effective.  Don’t forget, though, that it is Christ in us, not us.  Learn that one fact and it will revolutionize your witnessing.  At that point, you become the seed-sower.  Christ is the One who brings about the harvest.  He releases you from the overwhelming anxiety that you might say something wrong or not know all of the answers.  He is the answer, and He works in you.  Remember this verse, Philippians 1:6, I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  

He Is Making You a Fisherman

That’s what Jesus is doing in you as a witness.  He is making you into a fisher of people.  So work on your relationship with Christ.  Study Ephesians 4 and John 15 and check out your walk with Christ.  Connect with Him, and He will make you the fisherman you need to be.