“From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 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. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately, they left their nets and followed him.”
As a child, I found the idea of “fishing for men” odd. In Sunday School we sang the song, “I will make you fishers of men…if you follow me.” That never sounded like an enticing proposition. If I follow Jesus, I will get to fish for people?I will get to cast out nets in order to catch as many people as I could? No thanks. As a child, the idea of fishing for people was unappealing. It hasn’t grown in appeal over time.
The church’s interpretation of Jesus’ proposal to Simon and Andrew to make them fishers of people has taken on some dangerous forms in the church’s history. I've seen evangelism tracts that 'fish for people' by expounding upon the terror of what might happen if you don't jump into Jesus' net of salvation. Entire centuries have been dominated by Christian crusades that seek to convert through violence and manipulation. Subtler versions of guilt and coercion can be found in Christian churches all over the world, justified by the command to fish for people.
On Sunday, Pastor Bob reframed Jesus' command. What is Jesus truly inviting Simon and Andrew to be a part of? What is at the heart of Jesus’ missional longing to fish for people? Bob suggested that what Jesus is interested in is flourishing joy for his disciples and for the world. Jesus teaches his disciples “the true value of a human life.” The ministry of Christ and his disciples is not characterized by aggressive evangelism or coercion. It is characterized by Jesus’ great love for each person he comes in contact with.
Joy, Bob suggested, was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Christ came that human beings might have life, and life to the full. The joy of the flourishing life is at the core of what Jesus and his disciples are about.
Two weeks ago, Miroslav Volf preached on two infinities that keep us from true joy. On Sunday, Bob talked about two nihilisms that we must avoid in order to experience true joy.
Nihilism is simply extreme rejection. The first rejection, or nihilism, that Bob mentioned is the rejection of this world for an eternal and spiritual world. American Christianity has offered a brand of this nihilism. People with this posture view the world as a sinking ship. The world is going to “Hell in a hand basket.” The Christian's task is to save as many souls as one can before the ship goes down. Jesus is the life jacket of salvation that keeps us floating.
The second nihilism is a complete rejection of God or meaning. The earth and all that is in it has no purpose beyond the sensations of pain or pleasure. This nihilism leads to complete self-absorption. Since there is no purpose beyond my own experience, I should eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow I will die. This nihilism leaves victims in the wake of its selfishness. It leads to restlessness and anxiety that can be masked for a moment but can never be quenched apart from God.
Jesus offers us truth and life in between these two worlds. At the heart of Jesus' ministry and his desire to "fish for men" is a longing for human beings to experience true joy in the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants us to be fully human, living profoundly in this present world, seeking its shalom, while also resting in the reality that God holds all things in his hands. Jesus will make his disciples followers who experience true joy, and who point others towards the same joy that can only be found in Christ.
Prayers of the People
We continue to lift up to you our nation in this time. As we enter a time of transition and uncertainty we ask that your people would continue to lift up prayers for those in power. We thank you for our nation of freedoms and pray you would continue to raise up leaders who desire your wisdom, grace and power to be the true guider of our people.
Gracious God, we lift up to you those who are searching for employment. May you open doors to new and promising opportunities. Give wisdom to the search so that each finds fulfillment in the opportunities the job provides.
Lord in your mercy....Hear our prayer