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Discipleship: A Fishing Story Matthew 4:12-23

By Kenneth L. Gibble
As I remember it, the weather that day was grey and raw and windy. It was spring, but too early spring to be warm, so most of us boys were dressed in sweaters and light jackets. It was early afternoon on a Saturday, and I was excited. I was going fishing with the gang.

The word "gang" these days has a disreputable sound. It brings to mind pictures of drugs and inner city violence. But the gang I'm talking about was a group of boys my age and a few years older who attended Airy Dale, the country school where I received my first years of public education. I didn't spend much time with the gang because most of the boys in it lived in the little village near the school, while I lived way down the road next to the feed mill where my dad worked. The oldest boys in the gang, like Henry Cassel and Dickie Rohrer, usually decided who was to be included in their outings, and this time they had decided I could go fishing with them.

I had never gone fishing. My dad and older brother didn't fish, so I didn't know the first thing about it. I showed up at our meeting place empty-handed -- no fishing line, no hooks, no bait. But I didn't care about that. I was happy just to be included.

I followed the guys as they headed down to the creek. I listened to their tales of past fishing expeditions, stories mostly of big ones that got away. I watched, fascinated, as they baited their hooks with earthworms, attached sinkers, and unwound their fishing lines into the water. Then they sat and waited. While they sat and waited, they traded insults and told jokes, the kind of jokes I was pretty sure my Sunday school teachers would not have approved of. Every now and then someone would say, "I think I have a bite." But no one ever really had a bite.

Fishing, I discovered, was mostly sitting around with the gang. If fish showed up, okay. But you didn't need to have fish to go fishing.

Getting chilled, I got up and walked around. I was standing at the edge of the bank when it suddenly gave way. I slid down into the cold, muddy water, much to the delight of my companions. A few of them hauled me out, soaked up to my armpits. Embarrassed and miserable, I headed home, my career as a fisherman ended the same day it began.

My experience with fishing has made it hard for me to appreciate the fishing story that is our text for today. As a youngster, I never understood what the big deal was about Peter, Andrew, James and John leaving their fishing to go with Jesus. To my way of thinking, just about anything was more fun than fishing.

It wasn't until years later that I understood what following Jesus must have meant for Peter and the others. The fishing they did was not a Saturday outing with the gang. Fishing was what they had been trained to do, what they did for a living.

So when the man from Nazareth came walking by the lakeside that day and said to them, "Follow me and I will show you how to fish for people," why did they go with Him? The Bible doesn't tell us. It provides no clues about why they went with Him. So let's ask some questions.

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