What Jesus' Words "Fishers of Men" Means for Us Today
Do you love to go fishing? The possibility of catching the big one can cause your adrenaline to pump at high rates. I know that I love to fish with my children. It is always a wonderful time whether we catch anything or not. But, in our Bibles, we read Jesus’ thoughts on fishing in Mark 1:17. The verse states “Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Becoming a fisher of man meant that Jesus was going to use his disciples to grow the kingdom of God. Let’s take this time to look further at what it means to be fishers of men and how we are to be a fisherman today.
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Who Wrote Mark and What is Happening in This Story?
The Gospel of Mark has been identified to be written by a man named Mark. This man was not just any ordinary man though. From Scripture, we learn a lot about the life of Mark. William Barclay writes “He was the son of a well to do lady in Jerusalem, named Mary.” His mother’s house had been a rallying point for the early Church. Mark would have been present at the meetings of the Early Church and would have known about the man we call the Son of God.
Mark was also the nephew of the apostle Paul’s missionary partner, Barnabas. In Acts 12:25, we learn that Mark went with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. To Paul’s dismay, Mark leaves them before they entered Perga. We are not sure why.
Mark was a close friend to Peter, and it is believed that most of what he wrote came from Peter’s preaching after the death of Christ. We know that Peter cared deeply about Mark when he refers to Mark as his son in 1 Peter 5:13.
Shortly after the death of Peter, around 65 AD, Mark would have written the words we call the Gospel of Mark. The date Mark’s writings come together also coincide with the first Jewish Revolt. Jews began fighting Rome in 66 AD and the war lasted for five years. During the first revolt, the Jews expelled the Romans from Jerusalem. By the end of the war, Jerusalem had fallen, and the Temple was burned.
Mark chapter 1 is interesting in that it does not start with the story that depicts the birth of Christ or even his boyhood. Mark starts his gospel by jumping into the life of ministry Christ lived out. At this point, Jesus is grown.
We begin with John the Baptist as he is preaching baptism in the wilderness. Jesus is baptized by John and then spends 40 days being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Meanwhile, John the Baptist is put into prison and Jesus begins his journey to Galilee. Along the way, Jesus is telling others of the good news.
We then reach the point of our desired text. Jesus calls his first disciples when he is walking on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Simon and Andrew were casting their nets into the water when Jesus says “Follow Me.” In the region of Galilee, there would have been many fishermen on the water. This was the staple diet of the people as they rarely ate meat. It would not have been hard to find a fisherman because this was an area dotted with fishing villages.
The rest of Mark 1 shares the miracles Jesus did: driving out an impure spirit, healing people, and healing a man with leprosy. The entirety of Mark 1 lays out the early days of Jesus’ ministry. He is choosing his disciples and beginning to preach to others regarding the love of God.
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Does Translation of the Word "Fisher" Impact Meaning?
Oftentimes, we find that different translations can alter meanings of Scripture. Sometimes we get a better understanding and other times we can experience a different meaning altogether. In the case of Mark 1:17, I don’t believe translation affects the meaning.
Let’s look at four of the most known translations and consider the points they have in common.
- And Jesus said unto them, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” KJV
- Come follow me. Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people. NIV
- Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” The Message
- And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” ESV
The first point they all have are words commanding to follow Jesus. Each translation states that in order to become a fisher of men, you must follow Jesus. While the ESV uses the word follow and the others use the word come, they mean the same thing. We must walk with Jesus.
Second, each verse states the purpose of the calling – it is to become fishers of men. The wording may be a little different, such as The Message translation, but the purpose is still there. Jesus has stated what the disciples must do and why they must do it.
Third, we see what the disciples, and now us, are going to do. Jesus says they are going to fish for men. The Message translation says they are to catch men and women and the NIV uses the word people. I don’t believe the addition of the word women or change of men to people changes the meaning. For some readers, it will only enhance the meaning of the Scripture.
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What Does It Mean to Be a Fisher of Men?
After first glance we may wonder what Jesus was talking about when he tells Simon and Andrew that they will become fishers of men. For these men, who were lifetime fishermen, this was the perfect analogy. The region they lived and worked in was a fishing village. Most likely, they had a legacy of fishing in their families. For this reason, they would have understood fishing and the catch.
What was probably more titillating, was the notion of fishing for men. At first, they must have thought this was a bit crazy. My belief is that Jesus was smart enough to use what these ordinary men would have known to share His reason for being on Earth. He would not have asked them theological questions, because they would not have understood. They were fishermen, not Jewish leaders or teachers of the law. Jesus used language that they would easily relate to.
In Scripture, we will not find this phrase anywhere else except for Matthew 4:19. Matthew is speaking of the same event as Mark, the calling of Simon and Andrew. In the Old Testament, we do not find as many mentions of fishing as we do in the New Testament. This is likely because we are in different regions of the world during the time of the Old Testament. During the physical life of Christ, we are in the regions of Jerusalem and Galilee where fishing was more prevalent.
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How Can We Be Fishers of Men Today?
Becoming a fisher of men is not something assigned to just Simon and Andrew. It is a holy assignment by our Lord. Since all of us are not fishermen, it may be difficult to understand how we can do this.
Let’s first look at what a first-century fisherman was. They were men who spent their nights on the water to bring in a big catch in the morning. It was not just their occupation – it was their life. They worked on the water and then mended nets on the shores. Usually, they were rugged people who could be harsh at times.
Are we not like those first-century fishermen? We often work all day and sometimes into the night just to pay our bills or purchase something we desire. We can be harsh and rugged at times too. Our lives without Christ are filled with sin that leaves us rough around the edges. Our view of what is important is skewed by the tunnel vision we have. Material wealth becomes more important than spiritual wealth.
First-century fishermen were just ordinary men who worked to support their families. They probably did not think of themselves as righteous or important. But Jesus still called on them as he calls on us. In a book by William Barclay, he says we should not think about who we are. We should only look at ourselves through the eyes of Christ. Simon and Andrew had to do the same thing.
To be a fisher of men in the 21st century means we must expand our horizons, we must look beyond the bubble we live in. We are a part of family and friends, but we must be a part of our community and world. Our purpose in life evolves and we see that the rise of human values is more important than material wealth.
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Sharing This Good News
The good news of Christ is to be shared with all we meet. If we are to be fishers of men, we need to think in terms of growing the kingdom of God. Taking the love of Christ to others is what being a fisher of men is.
The fishermen of the disciples most likely thought they would never leave the sea. In reality, Andrew traveled to all countries surrounding the Black Sea. Thomas and Bartholomew went as far as India. Peter even traveled to Rome. We can be just like them when we expand our horizons beyond those in our close circles.
My final thoughts about being a fisher of men are simple. Jesus came to share the way we could have eternal life. He came to die for all of us. If we repent and allow the Holy Spirit in our lives, then we are fishers of men. It is essential that we share Jesus with all we meet and everywhere we go.
God calls us wherever we are. Simon and Andrew were fishing. You might be at church, at work, or taking a walk through the woods. Jesus wants us to help him bring others into the kingdom. We don’t have to be socialites or wealthy. We just need to love Jesus and obey like Simon and Andrew did as they threw down their nets and followed Him.
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Ashley Hooker is a freelance writer who spends her time homeschooling her two children, supporting her husband as he finishes school to become a pastor, and writing about her faith. Currently, she is a contributing author for Journey Christian magazine. She has taken part in mission trips with the NC Baptist Men during the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey in Mississippi and Texas. In her local church, she has served on various committees focusing in the area of evangelism along with traveling to West Virginia and Vermont to share the Gospel. Her dream is to spend her time writing and sharing the love of Christ with all she meets.
Ashley Hooker is a freelance writer who spends her time homeschooling her two children, ministering alongside her husband as he pastors a rural church in West Virginia, and writing about her faith. Currently, she is a contributing author for Journey Christian magazine. She has taken part in mission trips with the NC Baptist Men during the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey in Mississippi and Texas. In her local church, she has served on various committees focusing in the area of evangelism along with traveling to West Virginia and Vermont to share the Gospel. Her dream is to spend her time writing and sharing the love of Christ with all she meets.