Evangelism: Not fishing, but catching

Luke 5:1 one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,  “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6And when they had done this,( they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Vs. 4     Jesus does not tell these fishermen to go “fishing.”  He doesn’t ask them to seek a fishing location, or to search for fish, trolling, hunting,  hoping to find some somewhere.  Rather he tells them to put their nets in the water and make a catch.   And when they obey Him, they make the catch immediately.  In verse 10, Jesus doesn’t tell them they will be fishing for men (searching for them, hunting them, trying to find them), rather He tells they will be catching men.   The miraculous catch of fish is simply a sign of what they will be doing in their lifetime.  They will not be seeking but sometimes coming home empty handed.  Rather they will meet immediate success in catching people.

St. John Chrysostom notes on this passage, “The fish, when they are caught, are transported from life to death, but men from death to life.”

Christian evangelization is not done to devour the catch, nor to make a profit from the catch, nor to feed the fishermen.   We are to catch people to give them all the benefits of God’s grace and to bring them into the Kingdom of Heaven.   We are to catch them to benefit them as we have been benefitted.  Two sayings of Jesus which come to mind:  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 5:12).  “You received without paying, give without pay”  (Matthew 10:8).