Net Fishing

God calls us to follow him, to cast our net and become fishers of people.

Good morning. We are looking at a fishing story this morning because I've been thinking a lot about fishing. I don't know if you realize it or not, but this is fishing opener weekend here in Minnesota. Actually, probably if that was really important to you, you wouldn't be here this morning, right? I pastored for many years up in Brainerd, Minnesota. Brainerd, located in all of those lakes up there. Brainerd being kind of a fishing center, largest ice fishing tournament in the world is in Brainerd every January. This kind of weekend would approach. And it would often, by the way, be on Mother's Day weekend. What kind of cruel joke is that? But we'd suddenly see attendance take this big dip on fishing opener weekend because that's the culture up there. Maybe not so much here. But anyway, we are looking at a fishing story, and I think it's even appropriate as as we'll see in a little bit as we look at really one of our new core values here at Calvary. But let's dig into this fishing story a little bit and see the application to us. I need that back screen on, please, just so I can track. There we go. So we read at the beginning of the story that Jesus appears again to his disciples, OK, this is this is after his resurrection. And where is this particular appearance? We're told by John, it's by the Sea of Tiberius. That's the Sea of Galilee or the Lake Genesaret.

It's the Sea of Galilee in the northern region of Galilee and Israel. So just to set the setting, why is it that they are there and Jesus is appearing to them there? Well, Jesus has hinted this to them before. But then at the tomb, perhaps you remember in Matthew Chapter 20, what is it that the angel tells the disciples? The angel tells the disciples he, Jesus has risen from the dead and here it is. And he is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. So there has been a really an instruction to these disciples, go to Galilee, wait for Jesus. And that's what they do. And as the story opens, we find that they have been out fishing for the night. See if my slides will catch up with me here. If you to advance to the next slide, please. Early in the morning, we are told in verse four, Jesus stands on the shore. And what happens is, even though he's standing on the shore and they're out in the boat fishing, they don't recognize that it was Jesus. Are we not getting an advance? All right, wonderful. OK, as long as it's back up there. So you can all see that again. What's happening here is they have been waiting. They've obediently gone to Galilee, but they're not sure when he's going to show up. They probably at some point got tired of sitting around and remember who these men are.

They're fishermen. That's their vocation. And so they do. I don't think this is about saying we give up, we're done with following Jesus. I think this is they're there. They are obediently waiting. They're not sure when Jesus is going to appear. So they do what comes naturally to them. They go out fishing and that's where we find them. And they are fishing. As Jesus does appear, Jesus appears on the shore. But again, this is one of those occasions where when he first appears, those who see him don't recognize him as Jesus. Now, we're not told exactly why that is. It very well could have been because it's early in the morning. They have been fishing all night. This may have been just at dawn before there was enough visible light to recognize somebody from a distance on the shore that could have been it. Or this could have been a situation like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus where what are we told in that story that for a period of time when Jesus appears with them, they are prevented, providentially prevented from recognizing that it was Jesus. One way or another as this scene opens and Jesus is on the shore, the disciples don't recognize that it was Jesus. So, again, here is the setting of this fishing story. These men have come to Galilee looking for Jesus.

But when he appears to them, they don't recognize him. Now, what would you do if you were Jesus at this point, if you wanted to open their eyes, how would you go about doing it? I can think of a lot of ways I can think just humanly, you know, I might be tempted to cry out. It's me, it's the Lord. But that's not what he does, is it? How is it that we see him in this story opening their eyes? Verse five. It's subtle, but here comes. He calls out to them friends, haven't you any fish? Again, the story already tells us in verse three that they had gone out fishing. They fished all night. That was typically when fishermen did their fishing on the lake, the Sea of Galilee. And so they went out. They did all the things that they knew to do that they were experienced to do, that they were good at doing. And still, at the end of the night, as morning dawned, they had caught no fish. They had caught nothing. Now, that may have been, as we'll see a little bit later, a spiritual lesson that apart from him, they can't do anything. We're not sure exactly why, but but providentially, it sets up this encounter with Jesus because Jesus goes ahead and calls them in verse six, throw out your nets on the right side of the boat and you read over that.

And that seems like, you know, you may think of a little fishing net or something like that. Like that's a fairly simple exercise as we're going to see in a few minutes. This is no small request. As I'll explain shortly, the net that they were using was very, very large. The net that they were using took a whole team of men over an hour to deploy in the lake and tow back in. Normally, they did this over the course of an entire night, maybe eight times, because it was a lot of work. So he's not asking them for something insignificant and little. This entire process is a big process. I wonder if it's beginning to dawn on them that they have been here before. Deja vu. You know, the story that early at the beginning of the ministry of his ministry, we are told, and Luke Chapter five about a very similar incident. I won't read the whole thing to you, but let me just read the account. This is again at the beginning of Jesus's ministry when these same men first encountered Jesus. We're told this - one day Jesus was standing on the lake of Genesaret. That's the Sea of Galilee, same place, with people crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water's edge two boats left there by the fishermen who were washing their nets. And he got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, Simon, Peter, and asked him to put out a little from the shore.

And then he sat down and he taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, again, that's Peter put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch. Simon answered, Master, we worked hard all night and we haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets. And when they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Do you see the correspondence between these two stories, the one at the beginning of his ministry with these men and the one now as he appears in his resurrection appearance to them? It's the same place, the same lake may even been near the same part of the shore because that's typically where they brought their boats and their nets into. It's the same men or substantially the same men. It's the same set up. They've been out fishing all night long and they haven't caught any fish. And it's the same miracle they caught such a large number of fish that in this case in Luke Chapter five, their nets were breaking. There were so many fish. So again, Jesus is revealing himself to these men by bringing them back to what he had shown them about himself all the way back at the beginning of the ministry.

This is the way now in his resurrection appearance that he is opening their eyes. Why is it that he does it this way? I think personally, we find the answer in verse ten of again, Luke, chapter five. What is it that he tells them that the combination of this miracle from now on, you will be fishing for people. This is where he's been driving this miracle to. He tells them, here's why I have done this. You have been vocational fishermen and now I'm calling you to be spiritual fishermen. Now I am calling you to fish for people. And now here in his resurrection appearance, he brings them back to that. It's a reaffirmation of his calling to them. It's a reinforcement of here's what I'm calling you to be if you follow me, if you begin to follow me, if you were a follower of Jesus, I want you to fish for people. And by the way, that's not to just this small group of men. That call is to all of us, to any of us and all of us who follow Jesus. He calls us. It's not just a matter of we're saved. We got our fire insurance. We're good to go for the rest of our life. No, he calls us to follow him and become fishers of people. Now, I think if you've been in church any length of time, you know what that metaphor is a picture of? It's what we call evangelism.

And I know evangelism in our culture has very much fallen out of favor. Evangelism is very much looked down on in our culture. My youngest son, Grant, started his service with Avant missions. He is a missionary to the Tlinglet tribe in Alaska and Southeast Alaska. And it's over the last year that he completed his training and at the culmination of his training, he posted a picture where he's being presented with his commission. He posted that on his Facebook page. And he got a friend who I know, this young woman. She grew up with him in elementary school and in Brainerd, Minnesota. He's been in her house. She's been in our house. But of course, over time, they drifted apart and she went her way and he went his way while she went away. That's very far from the gospel. They hadn't had any contact for years. But when she sees that Grant is going to become a missionary, she uses that posting on Facebook and she responds on his Facebook page, pretty much blasting the concept, the idea that anybody would presume that what they believe should be pressed in any way on someone else. It's almost if you take the metaphor of fishing and you take it too far, you know, we're trying to hook someone. We're trying to hook someone and reel them in and catch them.

That's not the picture at all, is it? In fact, think of the physical picture of fishing. What are we doing? We are after something that is alive, a live fish. And as a result of our fishing, it becomes dead. Right. That's the metaphor or that's the actual picture of fishing. What is it that we do when we are spiritual fishermen? We are after people who are dead. We are going after people who are spiritually dead. And through the power of the gospel, they become alive. That's what spiritual fishing is all about. So so this whole idea that we are called to be fishermen, this is going to be something that is increasingly harder and harder in our culture. But it is part of Jesus's call, and he brings them back to this at this at this pinnacle point and his ministry. He has resurrected he is about to go to the father. What is it that he wants to leave them with and he wants to leave us with? I call you to fish for people. I call you to pursue spiritually dead people and be used by me, be used in the power of my spirit to bring them to life. Now, let me just touch on a couple other details of the story. First of all, this jumps back a little bit in the text, but in verse three of John twenty one, we see Peter taking some initiative.

Peter says to the other men, you know, I'm tired of sitting around. I know the Lord's going to come, but I'm tired of sitting around. I'm going fishing. And the other disciples with him says will come to now. Now, this may be stretching the metaphor a little bit, and I'm cautious about that. I don't want to take Jesus metaphor further than he intends them. But I've just thought through some application to the church, if Jesus calls us to fish for people, he doesn't want us sitting around on the shore. If Jesus calls us to fish for people, he wants us to go out on the lake. He wants us to cast our nets. Too many churches have either lost interest in fishing entirely. They become something else - they may do good things, but they're not fishing for people. Too many churches have either lost their interest in fishing or they act like they expect the fish to swim up and jump in the boat. You know, that's that that is the model that I was raised with. I've had to go through a real shift in my thinking. And I went to seminary and began pastoral ministry in the early and mid nineteen eighties. And at that time we had what is known as the attractional model just generally in evangelicalism. What's the attractional model? The fish will swim up.

If your boat is attractive enough, the fish will swim up and jump in the boat. And so that was the emphasis. That's the way that I was trained. You do your services creatively enough and you have the right kind of programs and people will come flocking to you and that's how they'll get saved. And whether that actually worked or not, I'm not here to debate that. What I am here to tell you today, that I've had to really go through a revolution in my thinking is the culture is changed. We don't live in that world anymore. The culture has become increasingly anti Christian and anti church. And if we think that we're going to effectively fish by drawing people to what we do on a Sunday morning, some will come. I'm not debating that. But if we think that our main strategy is to get the fish to come up, swim up to the boat and jump into the boat, we are going to shrink and shrink and shrink. We're not going to catch fish. That is not the model that works in an increasingly secular culture anymore. We have to, as Peter and the disciples did, we have to go out on the lake and we have to cast our nets. We have to we have to push beyond the attractional model that says our whole strategy is to draw people here. And instead we must gain a new vision for going out on the lake, going out into our neighborhoods, going out into our community and casting the net, building relationships with people, meeting real needs, meeting people where they are, and establishing the relationship from which at some point we are able to speak the gospel to them.

There were two ways of fishing on the Sea of Galilee. One of the ways was a single person could use the kind of net called I'm not good with Greek pronunciation. So don't don't quote me on this here. Here's my best try and amphiblestron. So an amphiblestron is a one person net. The net has a circumference or an opening of somewhere between 10 and 20 feet. So it's as big, but it's still not so big that that it takes more than one person to handle it. And around the circumference of the net are weights, are leaded weights. So the way you would fish with an amphiblestron is you would cast that net off from from your boat and the weights would make the opening sink down to the bottom, trapping fish in the net. And then you have a rope that's attached to the opening and you'd pull that net in and hopefully you'd get a few fish. And it was an effective way of of fishing with a few fish or of catching a few fish. Now, I want to suggest to you that this is the way many of us have typically think about evangelism, we think of evangelism as an individual effort, and for for many of us who don't have the gift of evangelism, I thank God that there are people in this church body who have the gift of evangelism.

But for the rest of us who know we're still called to evangelism, but we don't have the gift of evangelism, it's quite intimidating to think of evangelism as primarily an individual effort. I remember my own experience with this. I was in seminary. I had an evangelism class taught by Robert Colman, which if if that name means anything to you, he's the one who wrote Master Plan of Evangelism, just this tremendous evangelist. I had the best instruction possible. And yet when he would take us downtown to the streets of Chicago and have us approach people one on one, I was just shaking in my shoes. It was an incredibly intimidating experience for me to individually make those efforts one on one. Now there is a place for individual evangelism. All right. But that is actually not the picture here in John 21, the word for net here that John uses is not amphiblestron. It's diktyon. It's another kind of net. It's actually the kind of net and the kind of net fishing technique that was most commonly used at that time on the Sea of Galilee. This net was much larger. Think of a tennis net, you know, long but narrow, but much longer.

These nets could run up to a thousand feet. And along the top of the net, along that rope, there were cork weights and the cork weights would keep the top of the net floating on the top of the lake and along the bottom rope at the bottom of that net where lead weights. What would that make it do? It would make the bottom sink down. So you can imagine how this might work, the team is using this kind of net, a diktyon, would take it out on a boat and they'd deploy it in the middle of the lake and they'd spread it out and you'd have this long vertical wall of a net and then they'd have these tow ropes to either end of the net and they would either using one or two boats, they would begin to tow that wall, that moving wall of net in towards the shore. And it would trap as it as it moved into the shore. You can imagine it would trap if it was done at the right time, it would trap all kinds of fish. And so a team of men working in one or two boats over the course of about eight hours, doing this seven or eight times could bring in a large catch. Actually, they could bring in a much larger catch than somebody working individually with a net during that same time with a smaller net.

Well you see how this image is a different metaphor for evangelism? It takes a team of men to fish with a diktyon, but they can catch a lot more fish if they're working together. So how can we fish like this? Maybe, maybe evangelism is not your gift. And maybe when you think about doing it individually, you know that you should and you know that is God opens opportunities to you. You need to act upon those. But how is it that you could actually partner with other people as a team in casting the net in evangelism? How can you how can we work together to build relationships and meet needs in our neighborhoods and our community that lead to opportunities to share the gospel? I want to come back to that thought just as I close in a minute or two. But two more details of the story at the end of the story. We read that as a result of this miraculous catch, there was one hundred and fifty three fish that were caught in the net. Two observations that I would make from that. Here are these men, skilled men, trained men, experienced men and on their own, working all night. They catch nothing. It doesn't matter how much experience we have and how much training we have. Something else needs to happen if we are effectively going to fish for people. These men did not catch fish, but for the divine intervention of Jesus. And I think this is a reminder to us that, again, we can have programs and we can have strategies and we should. But apart from the spirit of God going ahead of us as we pray, we will catch nothing. Or more positively put this; as we pray and as we seek to follow the spirit. When we come together as teams of people to cast the net in our neighborhoods and our community, God will produce the fish. God will bring men and women who are spiritually dead to spiritual life. One other observation from the number of fish. I'm struck by the specificity. One hundred and fifty three fish. This is one of the few times in scripture where a specific and somewhat unique number is given. And I have to ask myself, why did somebody why is it that John recorded this? Obviously, somebody counted the fish, maybe to divide them between the fishermen? I'm not sure. And somebody remembered it. But John thought it significant, John, influenced by the spirit of God to record it for us. Why is it that it is significant that we know there's one hundred and fifty three fish? I don't have a definite answer here, but could it be that every fish being uniquely counted reminds us that every person that we we encounter in our relationships, in our neighborhoods and our workplaces, in our community is a unique person that we have to pursue relationship with them and conversation with them according to their uniqueness and the uniqueness of the relationship that we are building.

Could it be that God is even signifying to us that every year every fish, just like every fish, is uniquely important here? Every person we encounter is uniquely important to him. Anyway, that verse goes on at the end to say, even with so many fish, the net was not torn. And this is in contrast to the earlier account. And Luke, chapter five verse six, we're told us that there were so many fish that came in in that miracle that the nets began to break. Why is it that the nets were breaking and Luke 5 and the nets, even though there may be even more full here and John 21, they're not breaking? I think the difference is the resurrection. I believe it was the power of the risen Christ who kept the nets from breaking. And that, again, speaks to us as we fish as we go out and we build relationships individually and in partnership in teams. And we do that led by the spirit and in the power of the spirit we have because of the resurrection of Jesus, we have the power of Christ going before us. We have the power of Christ impacting those relationships and influencing the catch, so to speak.

So let me close with this. How does net fishing fit our values at Calvary? You may be aware of this one or not, but this is this is the first of our five new core values. This is what we hope we are. This is certainly what we aspire to be. Love the lost and proclaim the gospel, proclaim the hope of Jesus Christ. Now, I think that's consistent with the DNA of Calvary. So I think that is who we are. I also think there's an aspect in which this is something that we aspire to be. This is something that the flame is still burning, but the flame can be turned up quite a bit. And this is why it is. And now a stated value. We aspire to be a church that loves the lost, that wants to fish and what we aspire to be, a church that says we're just not going to sit on the shore. We're not going to wait and hope that the fish swim up and jump in the boat. We're going to get out on the lake because we love the lost and we're going to cast we're going to cast the net. We're going to proclaim the hope of Jesus Christ. So I want to challenge you to think and pray about how you can obey Christ's command to fish for people through this approach of net fishing. And maybe this will be helpful to you, as it has been for me.

Maybe if individual evangelism has been intimidating to you, this idea of fishing as a team of people, net fishing, maybe something that's new that the Lord wants to push you forward in. What would it look like if you did net fishing as a family? What would it look like if you took your kids with you as you pursued conversations with the neighbors as you served at a soup kitchen, as you did other works of outreach? What would it look like for you to do this as a family and use the different people in your family with their different giftings and different personalities together as a team to cast the net? What would it look like if you did this as your small group? Many of you are in small groups here at Calvary. And you open the word together, which is wonderful, and you pray together, which is wonderful, and you serve each other and you have fellowship with each other. What would it look like if you added the component of how could we cast the net together? How could we as a small group, how could we adopt someone, so to speak, go after someone that we're aware of that's a need and build relationship with them and meet needs and slowly begin to set the table to to share the gospel with them. What would it look like for us to do this in our neighborhoods? Our new neighbor, we moved into a new home in the other Rochester, Rochester, New York, became friends with our neighbors, found out they love Jesus.

They're very committed believers. We're already talking about. We live on a cul de sac. Hey, let's plan something near the end of the summer or early fall where we put our barbecue grills out in the middle of the cul de sac and we invite all our neighbors and we begin to build relationships with them and get to know them. What would it look like to cast the net like that with somebody else who is a believer in your neighborhood thinking of your neighborhood? What would it look like for us as a congregation to cast the net? I know we do that in some ways. What would it look like to do that even more intentionally, to come together as a church body and say, how can we use all of us with our unique abilities and gifts to reach out? I want to close with just one way. This is not like the way this is just one way, but this is something that the pastoral staff is dreaming about and taking active steps to plan. So I want you to actually put this on your calendar, August 1st through eigth neighbor fest week, maybe two years ago. If you were here at Calvary. I wasn't at the time.

You remember Neighbor Fest. That was a one day event. It was great. We invited all the neighborhoods around us to come on our property. We had inflatables. We had all kinds of great stuff. And the idea was to build relationships. We want to do that again, although we want to build on that. What about a whole week leading up to that culminating event? And during that week, you intentionally because you've been praying and the spirit has put people in your neighborhood or at your workplace on your heart, you are building relationships, you are serving them. You find maybe a way that you as a family or you as a small group can serve them and lead to not only opportunities for conversation, but opportunities to invite them to a culminating event on Sunday, August 8th, neighborfest. You're going to be hearing more about that. The pastoral staff has begun to dream about that. Maybe in God's timing, we may even have our new pastor here in time to be part of that and and participate in that. If God wills the plan for that. Put those dates on your calendar. Even if you can't attend, even if you're out of town, I leave you with the challenge. How can you go about net fishing? Does your heart burn for the loss burn or the love for the lost? Do you have an interest in fishing? Jesus calls us to fish for people. That's who we want to be as the Church of Calvary. We want to love the lost and proclaim the hope of Jesus Christ.

Let's pray. Father, we know that this love for the lost and only comes, first of all, when we first have experienced your love to us through Jesus Christ. So maybe there's some even here today, Lord, who who do not know you in this way yet. And I pray even this morning through your word and through the Spirit's activity as we worship together and now as we come to the table, that you would draw them to the foot of the cross and they would see Jesus as savior and Lord and embrace him as such. Lord, for those of us who that has happened at some point in our lives, perhaps this morning, what we need most is we come to the table is we need the renewal of that fire. We have maybe been people who have lost interest in fishing. We know we should do it. We rarely do it. We don't think about it much, reignite that fire and reignite Lord God, that love for the lost in us individually and us collectively as a church. Give us that vision, Lord, to fish for people. Give us that vision to get off the shore and get out on the lake in our neighborhoods and our communities and cast the net, build relationships individually and together, meet needs that will set the table to have conversations where the gospel could be shared. We pray this Lord in Jesus name. Amen.

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