As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
- Mark 1:16-17
Today’s passage contains a powerful and confusing metaphor: “I will send you out to fish for people.” Metaphors create powerful explosions in our imaginations. They open mineshafts to allow us to move deeper into the mountains of possibility. They give us courage to delve beneath the surface.
At the core of Jesus’ call to Simon and Andrew stood this metaphor to fish for people. What do you do when you encounter a metaphor?
Jesus might have wanted to call to mind the image of a fisherman casting nets into the water full of hope that he’ll pull up fish into his boat. In this reading of the metaphor, the fish might represent people who are lost and disconnected from God. They might be pulled up into the “boat” by Simon and Andrew’s preaching or evangelistic ministry.
Could you see how this reading could work?
Let’s try another one that doesn’t end in fish sticks.
Simon and Andrew would have known from exhausting experience how much work went into the being a fisherman. Watching Jesus or other religious teachers strolling on the shore while the fishermen toiled with their nets, it might have been tempting for Simon and Andrew to imagine that an invitation to follow Jesus would be an invitation into a life of relative ease and privilege. But that wasn’t the case. The work they were taking up would be rewarding, joyful, but difficult work. Jesus may have used this metaphor to shake them free of their illusions of what following him would require of them.
What do you think? Could we be closer to a good interpretation of the metaphor?
Perhaps Jesus’ metaphor operated like a well-baited fishhook. Simon and Andrew may have had no clue what he meant. Striking the fishing chord might have been an insightful means to catch the attention of these men at work. Metaphors can be used to spark conversation just as readily as they can be used to distill information.
What do you do when you come to one of Jesus’ metaphors (or similes or analogies or parables)? Try some persistence with this today. What might Jesus have meant to fish for people?