I remember my grandfather taking me crabbing. We would go to the ship channels that came from Port Isabel to the Port of Brownsville. There was plenty of crabs that we would catch. We’d take a pair of pantyhose (not to wear!) and cut the legs off, place a piece of chicken in the foot of the pantyhose, and tie a string to the top of the leg. After swinging it out into the water, we would let it sink, drag it ever slowly back to us, and there would be at minimum two to five crabs with their claws clamped down on the chicken and stuck in the pantyhose! We’d turn them over, rub their bellys for about five seconds and the crabs would release and be sound asleep. Then we’d take them home, boil some water, and throw them in there to boil for about fifteen to twenty minutes and we’d have fresh crab for dinner. It was always a delight of mine to spend that time with my grandfather.
He also taught me how to fish. He had all sorts of lures, but we would always opt for live shrimp when we went fishing. I remember that my grandfather had a special hook to hold the shrimp in place. They’d be able to still walk and crawl and the live shrimp would then entice a fish to take a bite at it. It was exhilirating when we’d get a bite and were able to hook the fish. We’d catch flounder, sea bass, sea trout, and once in a blue moon a red snapper as we were fishing from the ship channels.
My grandfather would talk to me and tell me stories and he would teach me. Every afternoon, my dad would go to my grandfather’s house and drink coffee with his dad and mom. There my grandfather would teach him as well. He taught my dad the Bible and in turn my dad would take me to a place called “Mr. Donut” in the evening, have me read a passage of Scripture that my grandfather taught him, and he would teach it to me. It is a blessing in my life to have had time with both my grandfather and my dad.
And they taught me well. Every Sunday morning, my grandfather would go fishing. No, it wasn’t for fish or for crabs, but for people. He’d pick up people to go with him to church services. During the week he’d be out fishing for people. He had a lot of friends where we grew up. My dad did the same thing. Wherever they would go, they were always fishing for men. They would tell them Good News about how Jesus Christ died according to the Scriptures, how He was buried, and how He was raised again according to the Scriptures. They would tell them how Jesus Christ showed Himself to over five hundred witnesses after He was raised from the dead, how He ascended into heaven, and how one day He will return to catch us away to be with Him forever.
There would be men who would be look at the bait. They’d listen and start nipping at it, wondering if this Good News was really true. Then they would take the bait and would ask my grandfather or my father, “How can I have this? What do I need to do to be saved?” They would inevitably lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and He would save them.
The greatest of all truths as Christians is that we have Jesus’ message to speak. In Matthew 4:12-17, we see that Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry and preached His message: Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is a simple message that He preached. John the Baptist preached the same message of repentance. In the Old Testament “repentance” meant to have a change of action. In the New Testament “repentance” meant to have a change of mind. So as God in His Word developed the idea of “repentance” for us to understand it in its fullness, we can deduce that repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action. It is a whole new perspective. We are turning from living in the darkness to living in the light. We are now no longer dead in our trespasses and sins, but alive and walking in newness of life. Repentance is something that Jesus Christ commands of us. And for what reason? Because the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Jesus Christ had long established the kingdom of heaven. It was established in the Garden of Eden. But when man sinned in the Garden, he was cast out of the kingdom of heaven because of his sin. From that time forward, man has been trying to reach the heights of the kingdom of heaven by building towers, by working to achieve what he is unable, by doing good acts of righteousness, but to no avail. It is not by any of these things that a man is saved, but it is by repenting of sin and turning to the One who is establishing His kingdom on earth: Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ said that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, He was saying that He is now with us and we can be part of His kingdom–part of His domain. When a man is not in Jesus Christ’s domain, he is in the domain of darkness and needs to be translated from the domain of darkness to the domain of Light (cf. Colossians 1:13).
To be in darkness means that we are lost in our sin. It is our ignorance of this darkness that keeps us there along with the “god of this world who is blinding the eyes of those who are perishing” (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). It is a darkened condition to live in sin and trespass. This condition has affected every person who has ever lived. We have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (cf. Romans 6:23). We needed Jesus Christ to come into this domain of darkness and to break its barrier in order that we might see His great Light. He is the One who has come with the power of redemption, the power to save us from our sin and ourselves. And thank God He did come! He came to seek and to save that which is lost: every person who is willing to repent knowing that He has come to save us from our sin and ourselves.
John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. He came to save! He was sent to save! He came to fish for men and to save them from the sea of sin!
And this is great news! Matthew 4:18-22 teaches us that Jesus came to lead us! When He was walking along the seashore, He saw two brothers, fishermen, who were casting their nets. Their names were Simon (also known as Peter) and Andrew. He gave them these words: Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. Jesus Christ was calling these two men to be His disciples and the Scripture teaches that they immediately left their nets and followed Him. This is astounding! They didn’t give any excuses, they didn’t try to negotiate a time when to leave and follow Him; they simply left their nets as is and followed Him is the indication of the text. They followed and He led. It is John Maxwell that rightly states, “If you don’t have anyone following you, then you’re not a leader.” How true! In this case, the Leader–Jesus Christ–had followers. And what did He teach them? What was it that He desired for them to do?
Jesus Christ has given us His ministry to fulfill. Matthew 4:23-25 teaches us how Jesus went about teaching, proclaiming, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. Notice that He did these three tasks: teaching, proclaiming, and healing. This is the ministry that He was teaching his new found disciples. And people were following this Leader–this King who has His kingdom from heaven. However, many of them were following Him because of the healing ministry, not by necessity His teaching and proclamation of His kingdom being at hand. But the news about Him spread throughout all Syria! It means that there were those who responded to Jesus Christ! It means that there were those who came to believe Him unto salvation and not merely coming to Him for healing. Matthew 4:25 says, Large crowds followed Him. They followed Him!
So Jesus Christ has given us His message, He leads us, and He has given us His ministry to fulfill. He has given us everything necessary to fulfill what it is that He has left us to do. He has called us to be fishers of men. He has called us to go and teach, proclaim His kingdom, and to bring healing through Jesus Christ. We are fishers of men!