And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea…
The Sea of Galilee, on the shore of which Jesus walked, was an inland lake of about six miles broad and seventeen long. It was surrounded by a varied scenery of mountain and valley, amidst which were embosomed several populous villages and towns. Henceforth this region was destined to become the theatre of many a wonderful history. The history before us invites attention to a vocation, a voice, and persons called.
I. THE VOCATION.
1. The call was to the Christian ministry.
(1) The persons now called were already disciples of Jesus. They were, in the first instance, disciples of John, and upon John's testimony to Jesus they accepted Jesus as the Christ of promise (see John 1:35-42). John does not mention the name of the second disciple of the Baptist who followed Jesus, which is presumption that it was himself. Nor does he tells us how, doubtless, he brought his brother James, as Andrew brought his brother Simon.
(2) The call here, then, was not to piety, but to work. Some call to holy service has come to you. Have you heeded it? Have you discerned in it the voice of Jesus? Have you neglected it?
(3) Hitherto their discipleship was consistent with secular business. They were with Jesus at Cana. They accompanied him to Jerusalem, and were with him in Judaea. Yet they kept hold of their trade.
(4) Now they are to be separated from the secular.
(a) They have to forsake their property. They left their nets and boats by which they had their living.
(b) They have to sacrifice their worldly prospects. Simon and Andrew, when called, had their nets in the sea; but they did not wait to haul them in. The call of Christ to work for him, like the call of death, breaks the thread in the shuttle before the piece is woven.
(c) They have to renounce the comforts and endearments of home. They left their father and the servants (cf. Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 14:26, 27).
2. The call was a promotion from the secular to the spiritual.
(1) The fishermen are to become "fishers of men." Their business henceforth is to be with men - rational, emotional, immortal, God-like men. How much is a man better than a fish?
(2) Their employment henceforth is to be eminently beneficent. Their fishing is not to be the gaining of a living by the death of God's creatures. It is to save the precious life of men by bringing them out of the waters of worldliness. It is to transfer them from an element foreign to their true nature, and brighten them with the congenial prospects of a blissful eternity.
(3) Note: ministers of Christ are out of their calling when they fish for wealth. Though the Lord hath ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of it, the minister who makes merchandise of his office proves himself to be a hireling (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:14-16; Hebrews 13:17).
3. It was a call to holy association.
(1) In the first place, a more intimate and constant association with Jesus. If ministers have not closer communion with Christ than other persons the fault is their own. Their very profession brings them into the closest relations to him, as they lead the devotion of the Churches, and carry the messages of God to men. The message of the true minister is not simply from the written Word, but, in the written Word, from the living God.
(2) It is also a call to ministerial brotherhood. Here we have the disciples called in couples. So when Jesus sent them forth to preach he sent them in company - "two and two" (Luke 10:1). Twelve of them were constituted into a college of apostles.
(3) The religion of Christ is eminently social. Disciples congregate in Churches. Churches congregate into a universal Church. This "Church of the Firstborn" is associated with "an innumerable company of angels" (Hebrews 12:22, 23).
II. THE VOICE.
1. It is a voice of authority.
(1) The words are peremptory and without preamble. Follow me; literally, "Come behind me." It is the same voice that said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden." The same that said, "Lazarus, come forth!"
(2) The words are inspiriting. "And I will make you fishers of men." Here already the "kingdom of heaven is likened unto a net" (Matthew 13:47). "Fishers of men" (cf. Jeremiah 16:16; Ezekiel 47:8-10). Memorably fulfilled (see Acts 2:41).
(3) Those who follow Christ take a difficult way. The example is high. Yet the way is made easy, viz. by his companionship, guidance, help.
2. The authority of the voice is certified.
(1) The claims of Jesus are the highest. He claims to be Messiah. Immanuel. But here is no presumption.
(2) He has the seal of prophecy. Born at the right juncture, when the Roman power was at its zenith (Daniel 2:44). Born in the right place, Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2). Brought up out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). A resident of Nazareth (Judges 13:5; 1 Samuel 1:11). The Prophet of Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-7). Had the testimony of Elijah (cf. Malachi 4:5; ch. 11:13, 14).
(3) He had already wrought many miracles. He had turned the water into wine at Cana. He had read the heart-secrets of Simon, of Nathanael, of the woman of Samaria. He had wrought "signs" at the Passover in Jerusalem (John 2:23). He had healed a nobleman's servant at Capernaum.
(4) Have you duly considered the authority of that voice of Jesus which hath called you to his service? Have you duly weighed the responsibility of refusing him that speaketh from heaven (Hebrews 12:25)?
III. THE PERSONS CALLED.
1. They were not men of rank.
(1) Social rank is much esteemed by men. "Have any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees?" was the confident question of the unbelieving Pharisees (John 7:47-49). Had Jesus followed the wisdom of this world, he would have enlisted the rabbis.
(2) He makes the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. "On the humble shoemaker's bench Carey laid the foundation of the British Baptist Missions. John Newton found in his congregation an unfriended Scotch boy, whose soul was then aglow with new-born love to Christ. He took him to John Thornton, one of those noble merchants whose wealth, whose piety, and whose beneficence increased together. They educated him; and that boy became Claudius Buchanan, whose name India will bless when the names of Clive and Hastings are forgotten. John Bunyan was a gift of poverty to the Church. Zwingle came forth from an Alpine shepherd's cabin; Melancthon, from an armourer's workshop; Luther, from a miner's cottage; the apostles, some of them, from fishermen's huts" (Dr. J. Harris).
2. But they were men of character.
(1) They were religious men.
(a) Disciples of the Baptist. Therefore repentant as to sin, expectant as to salvation.
(b) Disciples of Jesus. Those are welcomed to the joys of faith who have been disciplined to repentance.
(2) They were industrious men. Jesus found them busy at their callings. Christ does not want louts for ministers. Some of them were letting down their nets; others were mending theirs. Ministers are best employed either in preaching or in study.
(3) They were men of decision. Jesus called. "Straightway" - "immediately," they responded. They had something to lose. They did not hesitate to lose it. They lost nothing. They gained everything. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.