Leaving Our Nets Behind

This past Sunday we had the reading from Mark 1:14-20 in which Jesus calls the apostles away from their work as fishermen. In hearing that gospel, I was reminded of a 4th Day Letter that I wrote about a year ago and felt that it was worth repeating today.

When the Apostles were called by Jesus they left their nets behind and followed him. When Paul was called by Jesus he responded to that called despite the thorn that constantly plagued him. We too have been called by our Lord. Do we allow our feet to get tangled in the nets of our everyday lives so that we are prevented from answering God’s call? Perhaps we have our own thorns either currently or something from our past that keeps us from following Jesus. Today I want to examine two separate passages from the Bible to see how we should respond to God’s call in our life.

As you read the two passages below pay particular attention to the urgency of these two statements: “At once they left their nets and followed him”, and “The Lord answered me get up and go“. How urgently are we responding to our call?

Matthew 4:18-20

“As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Acts 22:6-10

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.”

In the first passage we read that familiar verse “I will make you fishers of men.” In the second passage we read “there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.” I suspect that no one reading this email today has any doubts about the fact that Jesus called the apostles at the Sea of Galilee nor about the fact that He called Paul on his way to Damascus. I do believe that many of us may have doubts about how we are to respond to our call by Jesus.

The Gospel tells us that Peter and Andrew left their nets behind. Large fishing nets if the fishermen are not careful can become a tangled web of rope. If they are careless when casting the net overboard it is easy to catch a foot or hand in the net and accidently go overboard too. Simply stated it is easy to get caught in your own net. It is so important that when we read “they left their nets behind” that we dig deeper into its possible meaning. I think it might mean more than they simply just left their fishing equipment behind.

Just like every person in life, I believe that Peter and Andrew had a web or a net of personal entanglements that could have captured them and caused them to tell Jesus: “not today…not now”. They could have told Jesus that they were involved in many things with their families, and their Synagogue, and their children and their businesses, and that they would have to wrap all of those things up before they could follow him. That is not what the Bible tells us though. It tells us they left their nets behind at once to follow him.

Can I ask you this, what are the nets in your life that are holding you back? Rather than following at once, have you told Jesus you need some time to get things in your life in order before you can follow him?

Paul was called in a much different way than the apostles. He also turned out to be a great fisher of men, perhaps the greatest evangelist of all times other than Jesus himself. While being knocked off the horse may have been a spontaneous event, we all know Paul paid a heavy price to follow the Lord.

I find Paul to be a fascinating and inspiring person. I have been blessed to go both to Ephesus where Paul preached and to Malta where he was shipwrecked. I read with great interest about Paul’s perseverance in spite of the torture, shipwrecks, and imprisonments. He was relentless is his response to our Lord’s call to share the message of Jesus and salvation, all the while we read Paul suffered with some type of thorn.

Scholars have debated for centuries as to the nature of Paul’s thorn. I have read everything from it being epilepsy, an eye problem, a stalker trying to disrupt his ministry, other physical ailments, and some writers on the internet even put forth the theory it was homosexuality. The fact remains God chose not to reveal to us the nature of Paul’s thorn. By not revealing the thorn we can all see our thorn as Paul’s thorn. The key point to notice is that despite his thorn Paul answered the call of Christ.

So here is the question, are you tangled in the nets of daily life? Do you have a thorn that is preventing you from saying yes to our Lord’s call in your life? Prior to Paul’s conversion he was a persecutor of Christians, yet not even his past deeds held him back. Do you have some past deeds that are holding you back? Do you use them as an excuse not to be a better disciple?

My friends our Lord and savior Jesus Christ is calling you and I to be fishers of men. How are we doing? Are we bringing people to Christ? How many people did you share the good news of Jesus with last year? What about last month or even last week? Did we share Jesus with anyone yesterday? We can’t change how we have responded in the past but we can change how we respond going forward.

Jesus is calling us to come after him, what does this require of us? It requires this: We need to love as He loved, we need to forgive as He forgave, we need to think as He thought, we need to listen as He listened, and we need to reach out as He reached out. If we do these things and if we freely speak about our love for Jesus we will naturally draw people to Him. This is how we become fishers of men for Christ.

The apostles left at once, and the Lord told Paul to get up and go. We need to do the same! There is a beautiful song that captures our call. I invite you to read the lyrics below and to listen to the video by clicking here.

The Summons
Words: John L. Bell & Graham Maule

Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray’r
In you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free
And never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
And do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean
In you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.

 We have been called! How and when we respond is now up to each of us. Let’s not wait.

Dear Heavenly Father, we know that your precious Son Jesus has called us to be fishers of men. Father, please send forth your Holy Spirit to untangle the nets at our feet that are holding us back. Help us to willingly go forth in your service even if we too have our own thorns. Amen.

Brian Pusateri
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