Jesus Changed the Fishermen—But Not for Long (Mark 1:1-20; 4:35-41; 6:45-56).
For our first changed characters, we go to a ragtag band of fishermen in a hillbilly town of Galilee. These aren’t your pleasant old-man-by-the-creek type of fishermen. These are the rough, rugged, low-class thugs that somehow make a living out of the depths of the equally-rough Sea of Galilee. They spend late nights—er, all night out on the lake, in rickety boats that go up and down, up and down, up and down…past midnight. 2 AM. 6 AM. And into the day. Catching every tiny guppy they can find. And their boats weren’t the nice fishing boat your Grampa used on the pond. They were basically small curved planks with poles sticking out. More like a surfboard than the Santa Maria.
Mark picks up his epic biography with a man named John the Baptist. An equally-rugged desert dweller. Interestingly enough, some of these fishermen were attracted by John’s simple “repent and be baptized” message and left their trades for a time to be his disciples (according to a different Gospel). Who knows, perhaps they heard John’s messages about the coming Messiah, whose sandals John wasn’t “worthy to loose.” Indeed, they encountered this supposed Messiah at some point, known locally as Yeshua (in the Greek, Jesus). And they liked what he said. But apparently not well enough. For, here in Mark, we find these dudes down by the lakeside, back at their menial day (and night) jobs.
Perhaps it had been a late night for Peter and his bro, Andrew. No fish. Only lake algae and driftwood in their nets. But nevertheless, they cast it out again. Much as they had done day after day. Growing up with their father (likely a fisherman also), from whom they learned the task. Throw the net out. Wait. Pull it back in. Groan in frustration because nothing’s there. Throw it out again. Repeat until you bring in a meager load. Then take it to the market and sell it for enough money to put bread on the table. Now, Peter was married (contrary to popular but heretical tradition), and he had to provide for his young wife (and children?) the same way his father had. Thankfully, he had his brother to help.
“Shalom!” Peter heard a cry coming from the shore not too far away. There stood a man. The man that John thought was the “Lamb of God.” Peter stifled a groan and yelled back, “Shalom! How can I help you?” Then, the Teacher yelled something he couldn’t quite make out. “What’s that?”
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”
The change was so sudden that Mark uses the word “immediately” (one of his favorites). They left it all. Left their empty nets. Their measly boat. Their crummy day job. For what? To follow around a wandering Teacher. Didn’t seem like a step up. But there were more fishermen to join the journey. James and John, some of Peter’s fishing buddies, also left at the call of Jesus. Their poor old father was abandoned to scratch his head. Why did his sons just pick up and leave all they had known?
Seems like a very drastic change. But we must remember that Jesus had met them earlier. They knew who He was. Probably had seen some miracles, or at least his amazing baptism. They saw Him as Who He was and wanted to be a part of the action. So they up and left. Left it all. Talk about a change!
One would think they’d be perfect little protégés of Christ from here on out. Haha! That’s funny. Cuz they most certainly weren’t.
A couple chapters later, we find them terrified of a massive storm overtaking the ship. Meanwhile, that great Teacher they were following…He was fast asleep. This had not turned out how they hoped. They expected to avoid the death of the typical fisherman—at sea—in exchange for an amazing life of glory with the Messiah. But now it looks like Fate had caught up to them.
They were supposed to be experts in times like these. Fishermen were the closest thing the lake had to a friend. They should’ve known how to handle this storm—but it was even too great for them. Thus, the faith that had led them to forsake all was now sinking in the sea.
Jesus woke up and, without even a cup of coffee, told the sea to “Hush!” And it obeyed Him like a faithful servant. Those “rough and fearless” fishermen were amazed. He knew how to handle the fisherman’s life better than they did. He rebuked them for their faithlessness.
And did they learn their lesson? Goodness, no! Two chapters later it’s the same thing. Even after a day full of miracles, they lost faith in their Teacher. He told them to go on ahead—He’d catch up to them. What they didn’t realize is that He’d catch up with them…on the sea. Walking like a stroll in the park over the roar of the waves. And, on top of everything, it was raining…er, storming.
When they saw the shadowy figure walking on the wake, they panicked. Had a good ol’ freak-out. Jesus turns to them, and, standing on the waves as they splashed and crashed about, He said,
“Take courage—it’s me! Don’t be afraid.”
Or, as I like to think of it, “Stop freaking out.”
Once again, here were these fishermen in a situation they should’ve known how to handle. But they didn’t. It was too much for them—and at least they knew it. But it was not too much for the Change-maker…
Maybe, like these fishermen, you’ve been saved. You’ve left your past life behind. You’re following Christ. He’s changed you—changed your nature, your destiny, your life’s purpose. But have you let Him change everything? Have you cast all on Him? Or are you still holding on to that fear? Freaking out at every bump in the road—er, lake. Storms come to us all—but Christ can change any storm. He is sovereign. So sovereign, in fact, that He can use the storm…to change you.
It’s time to trust the Change-Maker. If He’s strong enough to handle your salvation, He’s strong enough to handle your little or big afternoon showers. He’s strong enough to handle the storms of your doubt, your temptation, your tragedy. He’s strong enough to keep changing you…keep making you more a fisher of men than a fisher of fear.