Finding Fishermen

Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.

Matthew 4:18-25

“And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”

Warning: This missive is known to the State of California to contain cause for a change of mind, proceed at your own risk.

Cultural appropriation is a hot-button, water-cooler, phrase making its way around the internet. Have you ever seen the movie, The Princess Bride? My favorite line goes something like this; “You keep using that word; I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Therefore, while I am sick of the statement, and probably don’t understand what it means, I choose to use it anyway and I’ll define it in a way that best suits me. After all, it’s the American way.

Cultural=relating to the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a society.

Appropriation=the act of taking something for one’s own use; Hijacking; overtake, etc.

While the world of inter-webbing would have us believe that cultural appropriation is the act of stealing culture from a minority group and using it as their own, I see cultural appropriation as distorting said stolen culture, minority or not. The inter-webbing would want one to think of a white man wearing dreadlocks as cultural appropriation. Whereas I see a white man wearing an “Odo Nyera Fie Kwan” symbol tatoo, as he enters the MMA ring, to knock out his opponent as cultural appropriation. Perhaps I should call it, cultural misappropriation? Nevertheless, what I intend to zoom in on is the way in which we hijack other cultures and customs, times and traditions and appropriate them to fit within our own understanding. However, this is secondary, the author’s aspiration to his audience is absolutely apex, but context comes first, after all, context is king.

For review, we will be using the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, often referred to as, taking out vitamins–C, A, G, E and D. Context, Aspirations of author, Genre, Exegesis and Divide the Word. Context is first, it is superlative in every respect. Therefore as we walk through the Scripture, we will automatically see the context but we must remember to consider it. Prepare to change your minds concerning the following context:

“And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers…” He, of course, being Jesus, was walking on the shore of Galilee. I do not believe he was wandering around, taking a leisurely stroll. I believe he was walking with a purpose. To explain why, notice my missive within a missive: 3 Reasons Jesus wasn’t Wandering:

  1. Israel wandered–Jesus is the ant-Israel
  2. He was finding fitting followers
  3. He was fishing for fishers of men

Now that I have given a great example of assuming facts not in evidence; that is, taking verses I have read and relaying them without quoting said verses or their context, then enumerating my points without Scriptural background. A situation I will now seek to rectify.

We have four books in the unique yet general genre of Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. While each author has different aspirations to his audience, they all tell a similar story, especially the synoptics. As I have stated, I believe Matthew’s primary aspiration to his audience is that of Jesus as the true Israel, that is to tell his Jewish brethren, steeped in their culture and customs, Jesus is the Messiah! We have seen a similar story unfold so-far in the life of Jesus as to the story of Israel. Luke primarily wrote to the Greeks, appealing to their culture. John’s gospel is written with an entirely different focus and in a distinct way, yet he does cover ground the others do not. Let’s look at John’s account of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus in John 1, starting in verse 35.

“Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).”

These are not two differing accounts of the same scene, they are completely different scenes. John met Andrew, who was first a disciple of John the Baptist. He then met his brother Simon. Now while the texts states that Jesus called Simon, Peter, it does not necessarily mean that he did it at that very moment. John writes this, I believe, so that we are familiar with Peter’s name from the get-go. Luke also, does a similar thing in Luke 6, saying, “Simon, who is also called Peter,” as we have also seen Matthew do. Remember, the Bible is literature, liberties are given. It’s only when the reader attempts to read the word in, as Hank Hanegraaff says, “a wooden literal fashion,” that confusion comes calling. All this to say Jesus sought out the two disciples he had met previously. We have romanticized that with just the words, “follow me,” Andrew and Peter left everything behind and followed him. John clarifies things by telling us that Andrew, through John the Baptist’s statement and ministry, at least assumed Jesus could be the Messiah. Still, notice that they left everything and followed him.

“And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'” Jesus intentionally sought out these two brothers who were fisherman. Look closely and consider the context. “He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. I hesitate to present the Greek word for, “net,” used by Matthew because it muddies the waters, so to speak. However, it also demonstrates the need for understanding the context. Therefore, quickly, “ἀμφίβληστρον.” That’s all Greek to me. Unfortunately, this is the only instance of its use in the New Testament. However, if we dissect this compound word into its two root words of, ἀμφότεροι and βάλλω, words that are used in the New Testament, we still don’t get, “net.” We have, “both,” and “cast,” respectfully. Obviously something gets lost in the translation. Nevertheless, the context of them being fishermen and the casting part and being on the sea, we realize that the word is used for the method of fishing they employed. We also can consider the context of other instances in the New Testament. Luke 5, “and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them, and were washing their nets.” In this particular case, the word net in Greek is, “δίκτυον,” and was used for any type of net for catching things, whether hunting or fishing. Therefore, we must not culturally misappropriate first century fishing to our sport of rod and reel, and our, or at least my, process of catch and release. Their goal was to catch as many fish as they could. These working men with mighty muscles made from landing large catches of fish. We remember reading in Luke 5, “they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break; and they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.” Even with two small boats, that is a lot of fish. They used nets. John tells us that they would strip for work. It was a very laborious task.

Here’s where my hope is that many a mind will be made new. First, let’s evaluate our old minds, mostly mine. I can remember as a child singing, “I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men. I will make you fishers of men if you follow me.” The theological thesis contained within the lyrics are baffling. All jesting aside, this is a sweet song sung to teach young children a meaningful morsel of Scripture–and for me, it worked. I still can summon the song from memory, having not sung it in 30 years. The problem is we culturally misappropriate Jesus words. We think in a rod and reel, catch and release mentality. But what does our Old Testament tutor have to say about fishing?

Jeremiah 16:14-18; “Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers. “Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will fish for them; and afterwards I shall send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and from the clefts of the rocks. “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes. “And I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.” Wow! Why didn’t Matthew quote this? Maybe he did. The tribe farthest north is mentioned, Naphtali. Keep considering the context, remembering that the fish are full of inequity.

“O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, And my refuge in the day of distress, To Thee the nations will come From the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood, Futility and things of no profit.” Can man make gods for himself? Yet they are not gods! “Therefore behold, I am going to make them know— This time I will make them know My power and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD.” And in Isaiah; “So the LORD cuts off head and tail from Israel, Both palm branch and bulrush in a single day. The head is the elder and honorable man, And the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail. For those who guide this people are leading them astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion. Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men, Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows; For every one of them is godless and an evildoer, And every mouth is speaking foolishness.”

We see strong similarities, nevertheless, this is about fishing. Ezekiel 47:9+10 reads, “And it will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there, and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.“And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many.” If one has read my missives on Revelation, or if one has read Romans, Ephesians or Galatians, they know that there are only two types of people in this world, the believers and the unbelieving. We may have different colors of skin and different cultures. We may speak different languages and enjoy different customs, but as descendents of Adam, we are all the same. If we have the faith of Abraham, we are now different, but brethren with other believers. The fish, the very many fish described in Ezekiel, are many, or a whole. The kinds can only be two, ultimately, but they started out as one–“all have sinned.” They will come from all walks of life and in many shapes and sizes, but in the end, only two types remain, saved and unsaved. God’s call to the fisherman was not to toss out a line with a bobber and bait, and wait patiently while sipping on suds. It’s a labor intensive, dragnet method to gather all the fish. The good ones are kept but the bad are thrown away. Consider the following from Matthew: “And as you enter the house, give it your greeting. “And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. “And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” And; “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, [the wicked go first] and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Now for the amazing part, which had confused, now comes to fruition. Remember the word, “ἀμφίβληστρον,” that only Matthew uses, that literally means, “both/cast?” Why would Matthew choose this obscure word? Could his aspiration to his audience be the imagery the literal translation represents? Wait, it gets better! Look at my oft quoted Ephesians 2:14. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…” Any guess as to the Greek word for “both?”

In our Old Testament tutor, we see verses such as, Ezekiel 29:4-6; “And I shall put hooks in your jaws, And I shall make the fish of your rivers cling to your scales. And I shall bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, And all the fish of your rivers will cling to your scales. “And I shall abandon you to the wilderness, you and all the fish of your rivers; You will fall on the open field; you will not be brought together or gathered. I have given you for food to the beasts of the earth and to the birds of the sky.” The hook mentioned is not a fishing hook to catch fish, but a used to keep and transport fish once caught in a net. Nevertheless, the context we have seen is that fishers of men is not what we have romanticized it as being, nor what we think of in our American, rod and reel, catch and release, fashion. The disciples were to drag the sea (symbolism of the evil earth), and fish for all fish. Much like their employment, which was to get all the fish they could possibly get, hopefully, they were to drain the sea of all fish. They were not plucking out a believer here and a believer there. They were after all fish, good or bad, yet all were at one time bad.

Back to the immediate context; “And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” Again, we have romanticized this condensed tale, and assume, without reason, that Jesus appears for the first time to James and John and they follow him on a whim. But that is highly unlikely. Much like Matthew, we have time restraints. As John has written, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” Matthew is giving a snapshot to people close to the situation, many of whom, may have been witnesses to some of these things. He doesn’t need to explain everything to them. They had an understanding of which we lack. Nevertheless, we have it better than they because we have the Spirit and the completed Scripture. Problem, we must read said Scripture to fully understand. Back to James and John–we don’t have time to examine this now, but one may certainly research the following: it is highly likely that James and John were relatives of Jesus. Hint: the women at the cross. James and John, most likely knew Jesus prior to their calling. Yet again, they still left their family business and followed Jesus.

I believe Matthew is painting a picture to resemble what Moses’s father in-law​Jethro, told him to do. Exodus 18 “Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. “When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and make known the statutes of God and His laws.” And Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. “You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. “Now listen to me: I shall give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do. “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. “And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. “If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”

Not that Jesus was weak, but that he wanted help. He wanted to train the fishermen to be fishers of men. Moses and the Israelites we’re highly flawed, yet Jesus was perfection personified. Matthew’s aspiration to his audience continues as Jesus didn’t settle disputes, but healed the sick, and he will teach his disciples to do the same. 12 of them, though one be a devil, like Dan in the tribe count of Revelation seven.

…….To be continued and confirmed……

 

 

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