Walking by the Sea of Galilee, Christ "saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed Him." Mark 1:16-18. He calls these two fishermen in such a persuasive way that they ask no questions; they do not even hesitate. Leaving their fishing tackle to their helpers, these sun-tanned, barefooted fishermen pull their boat to the shore, and leave all to follow Him who called them. They ask not about their wage; they make no inquiry about the conditions of following; they seem indifferent to such matters as food, clothing, and shelter; they require no outline of the work to be done; they exact no promise of reward for service: but, forsaking all earthly prospects, they are content to follow this Man. If Andrew had suggested that he continue the business, and support Peter and his family, while Peter followed Christ and gained what he could by this arrangement, it would have seemed more like what we often see today; but he did nothing of the kind. No hint is given that the brothers even went first to tell the home folks good-by. No; they both immediately "forsook their nets, and followed Him."
Jesus requested service from Simon and Andrew, and on His part He made them a promise. If they followed Him, He would make them "fishers of men." Just how He proposed to do this is not stated. The first thing they had to do was to "follow" Him, and this they did at once; there was no delay. Their obedience was complete, full, whole-hearted. Now they were to be made fishers of men. Christ seemed in no hurry to fulfill this promise; for He knew that the disciples would learn by association and contact with Himself. He would be their instructor and teacher in all things that pertained to the service that He required of them.
Christ understood men. John tells us that "Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man." John 2:24, 25. Christ was the great Teacher because He possessed the first essential for any great teacher,—He understood those whom He taught. He who does not know men will never become a real teacher of men. Christ "knew what was in man." He understood even their thoughts. This stood Him in good stead on more than one occasion. In the closing part of His ministry He was watched and suspected, and often questioned by the shrewdest men of His day. But never man answered as He. His chosen men were to learn of Him, and themselves become "fishers of men."
Simon and Andrew knew fishing as a business. Their fathers before them were fishermen, and they had been trained in fishing from their childhood. They were masters of their trade; they knew when was the proper time to fish, and what kind of fish they would catch each season of the year. Now they were to learn a new vocation; henceforth they were to be schooled in the art of fishing for men.
They learned by seeing and hearing. Soon they saw that this young Man whom they followed was a miracle worker, and that with Him dwelt divine power. They found Him often away from the city in earnest prayer.
He knew the Scriptures as neither priest nor rabbi knew them. He spoke of God as His Father. The disciples were impressed that He was the Son of God, the long-looked-for Messiah. This conviction deepened as the days went by. They heard Him in the synagogues every Sabbath day; often His sermon was followed by divine healing the like of which had not been seen since the days of Elisha. Everyone around them was talking about this young Man whom they were following. Blind men were seeing, deaf men went from His presence hearing, leprous men were cleansed, and paralytics arose and walked at His command.
Soon the disciples found that they were following a man whom the people proposed to make King in the stead of Caesar. Wherever they went, there was a stir; men were moved by His teachings and convinced by His wondrous miracles. Even His chosen twelve were swept off their feet by the enthusiasm of the crowd to make Him King. "Jesus for King of the Jews!" was on every lip, for who was such a leader as this wonder worker? Was not God indeed with Him? Many times the chosen twelve forgot that they had been called to become fishers of men; they were so concerned about the coming kingdom and who should be first, that being made fishers of men seemed to them inferior to holding an office in the new kingdom. But Christ never forgot the objective for which He had called His disciples.
Men can learn to be fishers of men. None is so poor or unlearned that he cannot become proficient in this divine occupation. Said Christ, I will "make you fishers of men." He would teach them the truth, and by contact with Him and hearing His teaching they would be continual learners.
During Christ's lifetime the disciples were learners. They were students under the greatest Teacher the world has ever seen. No other men have had such a training as the twelve. Young in years, lithe and strong of body, clearheaded and stout-hearted, they were called to follow the Master. During His ministry they heard and saw as no students had heard and seen before them, and none since. Thus the disciples who once were expert fishermen were trained to become expert fishers of men. It is not fair to call them untrained and uneducated. The disciples grew into fishers of men unconsciously, by their association with the Son of God, the greatest Teacher who ever undertook to train men. He trained them by living with them, praying with them, and unfolding to them the plan of salvation.
The day of Pentecost reveals what kind of men they had become. Let those who make light of the disciples of Christ and call them uneducated, reproduce the sermon that Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. Let any man who looks upon himself as trained and educated, follow the disciples in Jerusalem after the ascension of Christ, and produce similar results. There has never been another movement like that following the descent of the Holy Spirit. Observe how the city was stirred; note how the priests and elders were moved; count the number of converts and how these converts were soon turned into missionaries, going everywhere proclaiming the message they had received; and then answer, Did not Christ make the disciples fishers of men?
That is what Christ can do for men today as well as when He was with them on earth. The Holy Spirit persuaded and moved men to repentance then as now. It was after Pentecost that the fruitage was gathered in. And the Holy Spirit can do as great a work today as He did then—if He can have the men with whom to work. "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men," is the promise, and back of it is all the power of the Godhead. Who would not willingly obey the command, and become a learner?
I. H. E.