17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
I understand that we can’t translate this as “fishers of men” anymore. But it sounds wrong to me when we change from a noun to a verb. “I will make you a painter” is a different thing than “I will make you paint.” The first is a about my transformation into an artist; the second sounds like an obligation. A painter finds his or her identity in painting; making me paint is a task I end up doing because someone else thought the room needed a fresh look.
God is making us musicians; he’s not making us sing. God is making us dancers; he’s not making us dance. With all due respect to Mrs. Boone’s Dance Academy in ninth grade, I learned the steps to the waltz and the fox trot – and how to properly escort a girl and hold my pinkie when drinking punch from a teacup – but it didn’t make me a dancer. Mrs. Boone was a dancer. When she and her husband took the floor we might have thought it silly (we were new and awkward adolescents), but we were watching someone express the very core of her being. No one was making her dance; she needed to dance. She loved dancing.
I don’t think Jesus makes his followers fulfill an obligation to gather others into the reality of God’s grace and life. I think that in their encounter with him they become fishers of people.
Visit a fly fisherman and you will know what I am talking about. They love their flies. They love their little containers. Those who don’t tie their own wish they could. They long to find new rivers and lakes and watch their line cast out and curl gently down to light their fly upon the waters. It fills them with joy and satisfaction even if they land nothing.
Every congregation I have served had an “evangelism committee,” a group assigned the unenviable task of persuading others to do their duty of sharing the faith. Jesus had no “evangelism committee”; he had a gospel. An evangel. A proclamation of grace and hope. A word that gathered people into the reality of God’s reign. And you can’t drink that water without wanting to share it. You can’t see that sunset without going in the house to tell everyone else.
My mother came home one October day when I was maybe 10 – this is a California story – and piled all the kids in the car and drove us to see a maple tree that had turned a glorious red. The beauty was too exquisite not to share. She had been captured by its glory.
Jesus is making fishermen. His followers are being captured by the glory of God. They are becoming a community of people who can’t help but cast wide the net that gathers all into God’s embrace.