The Best Fishin’ Holes You’ll Ever Find

Jesus said to Peter "I will make you a fisher of men." In this article, Rev. Matt W Leach teaches on how to take the gospel to your world.

Matthew chapters 3 and 4 tell about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  John the Baptist had been preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  Following his baptism, Jesus went into the desert where the devil tried and tested Him.  Jesus passed each test by rebuking Satan with the Word of God.

Following this Jesus began preaching the same message as John had been preaching:  “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Peter and Andrew and James and John.  He called to them and said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

 Luke tells this story a little differently, and with more detail.  I want to tell you Luke’s story in my own words. Before I begin I need to give you a couple words of explanation.

Some scholars think that James and John were cousins of Jesus.  There is no proof one way or the other.  But it is evident from the scriptures that the disciples and Jesus knew each other before Jesus called them to be disciples.  In the two stories I tell this morning I am going to assume that Jesus and James and John are cousins.  Whether or not they were isn’t important.  It just makes the story a little more fun to tell.

A Family of Fishermen

The Sea of Galilee is a heart shaped body of water lying in a dip in the earth’s surface, some 680 feet below sea level.  It is about 13 miles long, 8 miles across at its greatest width, and 4 miles at its narrowest.  Its waters vary in color from green to blue.  It is encircled by a ring of green or yellow, depending on the season.  Mountains of considerable height surround the lake so that is like a vast bowl, about two hundred feet deep.

On the east the cliffs rise steeply to the Jaulan Plateau.  On the west the mountains form an amphitheater, backed by mountains with valleys and gullies.  When a wind comes from the west these valleys and gullies act like gigantic funnels.  They compress the wind, so that when it comes out, it bursts forth with savage violence upon the lake.  The sea, calm one moment, can be instantly whipped into a raging torrent.  Its foam crested waves can swamp the strongest boat and overcome the toughest men.

Fishing was the main industry of the nine large cities on the shores of the lake.  There were over 330 fishing boats on the lake.  The city of Fishhouse, on the northeast end, processed tons of fish that were shipped north.  On the west, the city of Saltfishplace, was famous for its salted fish, which it shipped as far away as Rome.

One of the biggest fishing companies was the Zebedee Wholesale Fish Company, headquartered in the city of Nahum on the north.  Like many a successful and respected business, this had started as a family enterprise, and had grown into a large operation employing a sizable number of people.

Zebedee was a well to do man.  Some, considering the size of his operation, estimate that Zebedee (who was Jesus’ uncle) was a millionaire!  He was sufficiently wealthy to have servants, and his wife, Salome contributed towards Jesus’ support.

The Zebedee Wholesale Fish Company specialized in deep sea fishing.  The boat used in this kind of fishing was large, equipped with both sails and oars, and required several men to handle both it and the heavy nets.  One of Zebedee’s sons, James, had a crew of five men in addition to hired servants.

The brothers Peter and Andrew were partners with Zebedee’s sons, James and John,.  Peter and Andrew also employed large crews to man the big boats and handle the heavy nets.

These four men, uneducated in a formal sense, were by no means poor.  Neither were they stupid.  They had the rough-cut wisdom of men who are hard working, sharp dealing businessmen.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can outsmart them, or you will find yourself coming up on the short end!

Jesus was a cousin of James and John.  Along with Peter and Andrew, they had all grown up together.  Jesus had deeply impressed them.  They had played with him, and yet they really didn’t know him.  But one thing they knew for certain, when Jesus was there, it added a big plus to life.  Jesus was a man they deeply loved and admired.

A Day Like Any Other

One morning after Peter and Andrew had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing, they brought their boats in to shore.  They were busy mending their nets, and talking about Jesus and the mighty things that had happened.

They had been there when John the Baptist had baptized Jesus in the Jordan.  They had heard John tell about Jesus in glowing words.  They had seen Jesus go into the water.  Something had happened during that baptism.  Jesus came out of the water, changed.  Then he had gone off alone, into the wilderness.  “To pray,” he’d said.  Meanwhile, John and James and Peter and Andrew had gone back to their fishing.

Jesus had been gone about forty days.  Ever since his return, the stories about him were flooding the countryside.  He was traveling from town to town teaching the scriptures.  He was such a fantastically good teacher that people could sit and listen to him hour after hour.  And he had the power to make people well.  There wasn’t a sick person left in the City of Nahum by the time he left there.

But, boy did he stir up a hornets’ nest in Nazareth!  They said they tried to kill him there.  The story is that he was standing on the edge of a hill, the towns people ready to throw him off the cliff, when suddenly no one could see him anymore.

Jesus returned to the City of Nahum.  Everyone was amazed when even unclean spirits obeyed him.  He had even stood over Peter’s mother-in-law, as she lay sick on her bed, and commanded the fever to leave her, and it did, right then.  She got up immediately and cooked diner.

That day they brought every sick person they could find, and he touched them and they were healed.  He cast devils out of a lot of people, and as they left the devils called him the Christ, the Son of God.  It didn’t seem like the people would ever leave.  But, finally they did.  The next morning Jesus left, saying he “must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43).

These were the things Peter and the others were talking about as they worked on their nets.  They would have liked to have gone with Jesus, but there was work to do, a business to run, a living to be made.

Jesus Interrupts Their Plans

As they continued to talk, they heard noises in the distance.  It sounded like some sort of celebration, or a big parade.  As the crowd grew closer they heard shouts of “Jesus,” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Just then they caught sight of Jesus’ robe, and saw that it was Jesus coming, followed by a large crowd.

The crowd kept pushing closer and closer to Jesus.  They were about to crowd him right into the lake.  “Peter, give me a hand.  Help me into your boat.”  Peter scrambled into his boat, and then, reaching over the side, he took Jesus’ hand, and helped Jesus into the boat.

“Thank you, Peter,” said Jesus as he hugged his friend.  “Now, if you’ll push back from the shore a little, I will speak to these people.  They are like sheep without a shepherd.”

Peter pushed off a little from shore.  Jesus sat down on the cushioned seat at the stern of the ship near the helm.  From there he taught the people, his voice loud and clear above the lapping of the waves.

When Jesus had finished speaking to the crowd, he turned to Peter.  “Peter,” he said, “put out into the deep water, and let down your nets.”

Casting a Net

Peter knew the sea, and he knew fish.  All his experience told him there would not be any fish out there.  In the daylight, and under the hot sun, the fish go down to deeper, darker waters.  That was why he had been fishing at night, the time when the fish come to the top.  But Jesus said to do it, and if Jesus said to do it, he’d do it.  Gathering up his crew and his nets, Peter put out into the deep water.

They looked.  There was not a sign of fish.  But Jesus said, “Let down your nets.”  And when they had done this Peter was utterly amazed to discover that his nets had enclosed a great multitude of fish!  The nets began to break.  They motioned to the other boat to come and help them.  They came.  And they filled both boats so full of fish the boats rode dangerously low in the Lake.

It had happened so quickly no one had time to think.  First, not a fish could they see as they looked down into the water.  But they did what Jesus said to do.  And suddenly there were more fish than Peter had ever seen in one catch.  As the nets started to break every man worked hard to harvest the fish and save the nets.  Still the fish came.  They eased the other boat up, and carefully transferred the net to it.  Still the fish came.

Peter looked.  Goosebumps stood out all over his body.  Chills ran up and down his spine.  The very air was charged with electricity as though lightning was crackling all around.  There was no way to explain what had happened except to say that God had worked a miracle through this Teacher.  Just as Isaiah, when he saw the Lord, cried, “Woe is me! for I am…a man of unclean lips” (6:5), Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and cried, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Looking at Peter, Jesus said, “Peter, don’t be afraid.  From now on all of you will be catching men.”  As soon as they got the two boats to land, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Trust, Confidence, & Action

Peter is a tremendous example for us.  He demonstrated three conditions that must be met before Jesus can give us miracles.

The first condition is trust.  Trust comes from knowing a person.  Peter knew Jesus.  Peter had taken the time to get to know Jesus.  He had listened to his teaching.  He had watched Jesus come into his home and heal his mother-in-law.  By experience Peter knew that Jesus was a man you could trust.  If we will take the time to get to know Jesus we, too will discover we can trust Him.

The second condition is confidence.  Peter was confident that Jesus would not do anything to embarrass anyone.  He knew that if he went out to the deep water and let down his nets, Jesus would see that they caught something.  He didn’t have to be concerned that someone might see him out there and make him the butt of a lot of jokes about crazy Peter.  The more we learn about Jesus the greater our confidence will grow.

The third condition was action.  There would have been no miracle without action.  Trust and confidence would have been empty words without action.  Peter was willing to make the effort even when his mind said it wouldn’t work.  Peter obeyed, and discovered that when you obey Jesus, when you infuse your trust and confidence with life by obeying, the results are amazing.

Trust, Confidence, Action.  We often make a lot of trouble for ourselves.  Jesus said he would teach Peter and Andrew and James and John how to catch men.  If we want to learn how to catch men it’s only logical that we do it the way Jesus taught them to do it.  We need to trust Jesus, and have confidence in His teaching, and back up our trust and confidence with action.

How To Reach Others

The first step in learning from Jesus is to see what He did.  What He did was to practice a simple 3 step formula.

The first step is praying and blessing.

The second step is building a relationship.

The third step is to meet the needs of the person.

Did you know that the first recorded miracle Jesus did was to save someone from being embarrassed?  Let me tell you the story.

Jesus At a Wedding Feast

The dirt road, packed solid from the many feet and the many caravans that had passed along it, wound its way down the hill from Nazareth.  It led around the western edge of the Great Reed Marsh, up the hill a little ways to the village of Cana.

The breeze was delightfully fresh, full of the fragrance of flowers.  At times it rippled among the reeds, wave upon wave, transforming the reed grass into an ocean of gently rolling waves.

The blue sky, dotted with billowy white clouds, made a perfect background for the feast of colors below.  Among the reeds the flowers were a rainbow of colors of purple and yellow and red and blue.  On the hillside there was hardly room for the green grass amid the blanket of flowers.

Children had great fun laying in the grass along the edge of the marsh; smelling the sweet smells of the flowers and herbs; bathing in the warm sun; watching the billowy clouds and imagining all sorts of animals in the cloud shapes; listening to the melodies of the birds and trying to find their nests.

A perfect day.  A perfect day in June.  A perfect day for a wedding.  The kind of day for which every bride hopes.

And so it was, on that beautiful June Wednesday, that Jesus and his disciples were walking along the road to Cana, enjoying the peace and beauty.  A beautiful day. A glorious occasion.  And Jesus, who loved to laugh and have a good time, was looking forward to the celebration of his beloved cousin’s wedding.

John was as nervous as a bridegroom could be.  He was glad his cousin, Jesus, would be there.  Already Aunt Mary was working on the provisions, seeing that everything went just right.  It took a lot of planning and a lot of food and wine for a Jewish wedding feast.

What a feast it was!  This wedding was the social event of the year.  The evening was as fine as the day had been.  The gentle breeze was warm, but comfortable.  The moon was full.  The food was most excellent.  Everything seemed perfect.

Out of Wine

That is, almost perfect.  That kind of night, and such a joyous occasion, caused people to drink much more heartily of the wine than had been planned for.  “Without wine,” the Rabbis said, “there is no joy.”  It wasn’t that they became drunk.  Drunkenness was an evil thing – not allowed by respectable people.  As a matter of fact, the wine was mixed with water, two parts wine to three parts water.

But this night, so perfect in every way, had called for drinking much more wine than had been anticipated.  The most horrible disgrace that could come upon a Jewish family, was to run out of food and drink at a wedding feast.  That would be a terrible source of shame for the family and cast a dark cloud over the rest of the celebration.

You see, during the next week, the bride and groom, dressed in their wedding robes, wearing crowns, would be keeping an open house.  They were to be treated as king and queen, their word was law.  It should be a splendid time.  But if the provisions ran out, the bride and groom would be terribly humiliated that whole week.  People would talk, maybe even make fun of them.

Mary knew this.  So she told Jesus about it.

“My dear Lady,” Jesus said.  “Never mind; don’t be worried.  I must wait for the right opportunity.”

Once in a while mothers see things a little bit more clearly than we do!  It’s hard to admit, but sometimes they do.  And mothers don’t take “No!” for an answer.  Mary knew her son.  She knew, from experience that Jesus would do the right thing.

Knowing this, Mary immediately ordered the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

Water Turned To Wine

What did Jesus do?  Did he panic?  Did he rush off to see if he could buy some wine somewhere?  Did he go on a three day fast?  He did what he always did.  He did what was as natural to him as breathing.  He talked to his Father.  “Father, John is going to be terribly embarrassed if we don’t do something.  Would it be alright with You if I turn water into wine?  I know that that is what You would do.”

And Father God said, “Son, you do that.  But, make it the best.  Make it Helbon vintage wine.  And make so much of it it can’t possibly run out.  I want to bless young John and his bride with this wine.”

There were six stone water pots that held about 20 gallons apiece.  “Fill them to the top,” Jesus said.  And so the servants filled them to the brim.

“Draw some out, and take it to the Master of Ceremonies.”  This they did.  Now when the Master of Ceremonies tasted the water that had been turned into wine, he was amazed.  And he said to the bridegroom, “You know, most people serve the good wine first, and then end up with cheap wine.  But you saved the best wine ’till last!”

Because water became wine, a humble family was saved from a terrible embarrassment, and young John and his bride were able to begin their married life in favor and honor.

Isn’t that amazing!  The very first miracle Jesus did, the very first demonstration of his glory, was at a wedding feast!  It wasn’t to heal some devastating illness.  It wasn’t to confound the authorities or prove that he was God’s Son.

The very first miracle happened at a fun time, a time of feasting and laughter and merry-making.  It involved turning water into WINE, of all things!  And its purpose was to save some people from public embarrassment.

You Matter To God!

Do you see it?  That first miracle says YOU matter to God.  It says YOU are the object of God’s Love and Care.  God cares about you and for you in deed and action.  Does your big toe hurt?  God cares.  Do you need to let out the hem of a skirt?  God cares.  Is a zipper stuck?  God cares.  You can’t get your hair to look right?  God cares.  Is there a hole in your pants?  God cares.

All too often we talk ourselves out of God’s help by thinking, “God couldn’t possibly be interested in such a thing as unruly hair, or a stuck zipper.  He’s too busy with important things.”

Mary knew that everything that concerns us is important to God.  Wine running out might seem unimportant to us, but Mary knew God.  God wouldn’t want anyone to be embarrassed.  She had learned that from Jesus.  That is why it was so natural, so instinctive for Mary to tell Jesus the wine was running out.  That is why Mary EXPECTED God, through Jesus, to replenish the wine, and immediately told the servants to do whatever Jesus said to do.  And that is why Jesus turned instinctively to His Father, EXPECTING God to approve of His first miracle being done to help with a simple problem of hospitality.  (See Matthew 7:9-11; 10:30.)

Whatever the need, whatever the situation, how big or how small, how monumental or insignificant, we can turn to Jesus, and He will do the right thing.  Mary shows us that those who know Jesus intimately, instinctively turn to him when things go wrong – and never find him wanting.

This incident tells us some other wonderful things.  It tells us Jesus was perfectly at home at a wedding feast.  He loved to share in the happy rejoicing of a home.  For Jesus, and for God who was in Jesus, a home is a place for which nothing but his best was good enough.

We also learn that we must be willing to do what Jesus says, if we want Him to do the thing we ask.  Mary knew she must be ready to do whatever Jesus told her to do.  What a tragedy it would have been if Mary, or the servants had stopped to argue over filling up the water jars with water, when it was wine they needed!  What Jesus tells us to do may not seem to be the thing we want done.  Yet, in obeying him, in trusting him, it turns out to be the right thing after all!  We must learn to bring our needs to him, trust him to do the right thing, and then do what he says to do.

Lastly, we learn that whenever Jesus comes into life, he brings a quality that is like changing water into wine.  When Jesus comes into life, life becomes vivid, sparkling, and exciting.  With Jesus life is thrilling and wonderful and exhilarating.  Even the persecutions are worth it (Mark 10:30).

Sharing the Good News

A bible laying open with a key on top

Now let’s see what we can do with this message.  We have learned that if we want to be on the receiving end of miracles we must provide trust, confidence, and action.  And we have seen Jesus doing the four steps of evangelism:  blessing, fellowship, meeting needs, and only then giving the Gospel.

With that in mind, I want to share with you a parable I once heard:

The Parable of the Shoes

I arrived there early one morning. It was cold, there were flurries of snow on the ground and as I stepped from the train on the platform I noticed that the baggage man and the red caps were warmly dressed in heavy coats and gloves, but, oddly enough, they wore no shoes.

My first impulse was to ask the reason for this odd practice, but repressing it, I passed into the station and inquired the way to the hotel. My curiosity, however, was immediately enhanced by the discovery that no one in the station wore any shoes. Boarding the street car, I saw that my fellow travelers were likewise barefoot, and upon arriving at the hotel, I found the bellhop, the clerk and all the people had on no shoes.

Unable to restrain myself any longer, I asked the manager what the practice meant.

“What practice?” said he.

“Why,” said I, pointing to his bare feet, “why don’t you wear shoes in this town?”

“Ah,” said he, “that is just it. Why don’t we?”

“But what is the matter? Don’t you believe in shoes?”

“Believe in shoes, my friend? I should say we do. That is the first article of our creed, shoes. They are indispensable to the well-being of humanity. Such cuts, sores, and suffering as shoes prevent. It is wonderful!”

“Well, then, why don’t you wear them?” I asked, bewildered.

“Ah,” said he, “that is just it. Why don’t we?”

“Though considerably nonplussed, I checked in, secured my room, and went directly to the coffee shop, and deliberately sat down by a friendly looking man who likewise conformed to the convention of wearing no shoes. The first thing we noticed upon walking out of the hotel was a huge brick building. To this he pointed with pride.

“You sec that?” said he. “That is one of our outstanding shoe manufacturing establishments.”

“A what?” I asked in amazement. “You mean you make shoes there?”

“Well, not exactly,” said he, a bit ashamed, “we talk about making shoes there, and believe me, we have got one of the best and most brilliant speakers you have ever heard. He talks most thrillingly and convincingly every week on this great subject of shoes. He has a most persuasive and appealing way. Just yesterday he moved the people profoundly with his sermon on the necessity of shoe-wearing. It was really wonderful.”

“But why don’t they wear them?” said I, insistently.

“Ah,” said he, putting his hand upon my arm and looking wistfully into my eyes, “that is just it. Why don’t we?”

“Just then, as we turned down a side street, I saw through a cellar window, a cobbler actually making a pair of shoes. Excusing myself from my friend, I burst into the little shop and asked the shoemaker how it happened that his shop was not overrun with customers. Said he, “Nobody wants my shoes. They just talk about them.”

“Give me what pairs you have ready,” said I, eagerly, and paid him thrice the amount “he modestly asked. Hurriedly I returned to my friend and said to him, “Here,’ my friend, ‘one of these pairs will surely fit you. Take them; put them on. They will save you untold suffering.”

“But he looked embarrassed, in fact ” he was well-nigh overcome with chagrin. “Thank you, “he said politely, “but you don’t understand. It just isn’t being done. The front families, well, I… “

“But why don’t you wear them?” said I, dumbfounded.”

“Aha,” said he, smiling with his accustomed ingratiating touch of practical wisdom, “that is just it. Why don’t we?”

“And coming out of the “City of Everywhere” into the “Here,” over and over and over that question rang in my ears: “Why don’t we? Why don’t we? Why don’t we?”

Put Your Faith In Action

Prayer is to the church as shoes to the feet.  I’m calling you, inviting you to join me in putting on shoes.  Will you commit to praying for others, fellowship with them, and seek to meet their needs to share the gospel?  Will you join me?

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