Matthew 4:19 He said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.”
The new semester has started and I have sat through my first week of classes. Each day I would record lessons and type vigorously to make sure I would not miss a moment. My view of faith and Christianity is being shaped and reshaped. Particularly in my Gospels class, thoughts that were once speculation, inquisition, or even confusion are now being brought into a new light with great clarity and force.
One of my assignments is to read through all the Gospels. Gospel is a term that means “good news.” Never before have I understood just exactly what is so good in the news of Jesus. It is gripping.
In Matthew 4, Jesus has officially kicked off his earthly ministry. When I say ministry, really I mean mission. Jesus had moved from his home in Nazareth to Capernaum so that he would be a beacon of truth to that region. In doing so, he fulfilled prophecy of Isaiah saying that the Messiah (the King who would come to restore justice, mercy, and righteousness to the Kingdom of God) would come as a light to the Gentiles- “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and on those who sit in the region and shadow of death a light has dawned.”
The people who sit in darkness are the Gentiles. They were despised and scorned by the religious elite. Gentiles were outcast as ceremonially impure people less than the dogs of Israel. That is not what Christ thought of them. Jesus does not single anyone out in regards to his big plan. We are all on a level plane.
The Big Plan…
When Jesus starting working his plan before mankind in Capernaum, his message was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” God is building his Kingdom. That is the Good News, and this message precisely correlates with the mission of his disciples as described in Matthew 4. He told them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” Jesus’ disciples fish people. But what does this mean?
While Jesus’ disciples were probably not aware of what they were about to embark on, I believe with certainty that in the phrase fishers of people, Jesus was directly speaking historically of the judgment of Israel. The people of Israel were insurrectionists to the Kingdom of God. This is recorded in Jeremiah 16:16. Check it out. Israel did not keep her part of the Covenant. Injustice, lack of mercy, unrighteousness as well as idolatry filled the land. Israel prostituted herself to other gods and committed treason against her King! God has promised to fish out the wicked because of their rebellion.
What that has to do with the disciples…
When Jesus called his disciples they did two things. They left what they were doing and followed Christ. What is remarkable to think about is not only that the disciples left their ways of doing things, but that they too were insurrectionists. They were just as guilty and immoral (if you will) as God’s people, if not, more. Jesus’ message of repentance is directed towards traitors. This is worth pausing to think about.
I am an insurrectionist. I have a rebellious spirit towards God’s ways. I have not fed the hungry, clothed the poor and healed the sick in a consistent way. My heart has even been angry towards people and God at times. I have been plagued by lust, greed and other forms of evil. My heart has been found coveting, being selfish and discontent. This is absolutely not in accord with the good path that God has given to his people so that they may have fullness of life. In fact, this is outright rebellion against God.
Article III Section III of the United States Constitution is what Americans hold to be the standard for responding to treason against the United States . It states,
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
In our country Congress gets to determine the penalty for treason. Historically, many nations over the years have required death as the penalty for treason. While such a penalty may seem grim for the offender of such insurrection, how much more devastating the circumstance for the one who has betrayed the King of the Universe who decrees death as the penalty for treason? People, we are in trouble. All is not well. Our situation is grim at best. What should I do, what should we do, when we know the King is coming and we have committed a capital crime against his Kingdom. All is not well.
In a moment of humility- hopelessness and dread should fill our hearts, let us lift our chin to Christ who said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” Believe it or not, this is Good News. The King knows about the rebellion of his stewards who have plundered His wealth and betrayed his Kingdom. Jesus knows of the hardness of rebels. But even while we were still in our rebellion, Christ died for us. He came and shone his light on those who sit in the region and shadow of death. A light has dawned. There is an opportunity to be spared. There is hope for those who repent and return to the King.
Disciples are simply people who leave what they are doing (committing insurrection) and follow Christ. It sounds ridiculous that this is even possible. It is shocking that this opportunity exists. But Jesus invites us to stop doing the evil and injustice we were doing and to turn our allegiance back to the King. A Disciple is one who turns from his rebellion against God and goes on mission with God.
Jesus called his disciples to follow Him to become fishers of people. While the disciple will not pluck out the wicked and drag them into bondage, the disciple will be the voice to rebels who are about to be squashed by the blows of the King. The judgment of God will not be escaped. The King will fish out and hunt down those out who have not turned away from their rebellion and joined forces with Him. A disciple fishes out the rebellious to give them the message of Christ, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.”
Many of us think that we are disciples because we have been part of a religious function where we once prayed a prayer of Salvation. We think that we are saved from an awful place called hell. While there is some truth to this idea, there is little substance to support any notion that such a prayer will save anyone who does not live for the King. That idea does not exist in Scripture.
The overwhelming majority of Scripture that relates to any idea of salvation primarily has to do with the deliverance from bondage on a national level (for the nation of Israel) and the institution of the Kingdom of God where the Messiah will reign. People, this Kingdom does not yet exist. But do not loose sight of the message, the Kingdom of heaven is near. As we are, we are at a junction of history, a fulcrum that hinges between an old world that is broken and jaded and a new Kingdom that will usher in peace, goodness, righteousness, justice and everlasting mercy and grace. Do not miss out. If you are counting on a prayer, don’t. Count on a life that pledges allegiance to Christ.