Tag Archives: fishing

A Fisherman’s Kind of Trust

I know that I’m supposed to trust God and all, but sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I find myself resisting that trust and depending on my own juice. Peter was bad about that sort of thing, which makes the story at the end of Matthew 17 so intriguing. After a discussion of paying taxes, Jesus sends Peter out to catch a fish, find a coin, and thereby pay the tax for the two of them:

“But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for me and you.” –Matthew 17:27

That’s the last verse in the chapter. Notice that the Bible does not say that Peter obeyed Jesus and grabbed his fishing pole. It doesn’t say that he stopped by the bait store, and it certainly does not say that he caught a fish and found a coin in its mouth. I’ve heard this story reported numerous times as if that’s precisely how the Bible indicates it went down, but in reality, this account concludes with Jesus’ instruction.

Did Peter go fishing? Did he catch anything? Was there a coin in the fish’s mouth? We can assume that if this thing did not work out to be a miracle then it wouldn’t have found its way into the pages of scripture. What would be the point?

It’s odd that Jesus sent Peter out to fish with hook and line. Nowhere else in the Bible, despite all the fishing that goes on, is there a reference to fishing with a hook. These people fished with nets. Peter, a professional, would have been excused for saying, “Lord, I think I’ll have better luck fishing my way.” Presumably he didn’t say that. Presumably he took a hook and caught a fish and drew a coin from its mouth.

Fishing is almost always a work of faith. We throw a lure into the water once, twice, a dozen times, and we hope that some creature, unseen in the murky waters, will respond and strike. Sometimes that faith is rewarded and sometimes it is not.

God provides for us when we walk in faith and obedience. He isn’t impressed when we lean on our own strength, our own understanding. He wants us to demonstrate the faith of a fisherman, following his lead no matter how implausible success might seem.

Did Peter catch a fish with a coin in its mouth? That I can’t answer, but I am certain that if he put a line in the water that day, then such a fish was waiting for him. What is the step of faith that God wants me to take today? It surely won’t be as difficult to believe as Peter’s.

To Fish or Not–Mark 1:16-18

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.At once they left their nets and followed him.

I enjoy fishing. I enjoy fishing sufficiently that I wrote my doctoral dissertation about fly-fishing literature. We don’t know whether Simon Peter and Andrew really enjoyed fishing or simply did it as the family business, although the fact that they went back to it after Jesus’ death seems to suggest that they at least tolerated the occupation.

Whether they enjoyed the work or not, these men must have been smart enough to know that you don’t run off and leave a perfectly good job to follow some broke and homeless fellow who’s offering to make you a “fisher of men.” I can’t imagine leaving my current job simply because some clever fellow walked down the hall offered an exciting–although awfully hazy–future in teaching “the language of love” rather than English.

We know that Peter was married. What did his wife have to say about this sudden career change? Perhaps more to the point, what did his mother-in-law say? Yes, Jesus would heal her, which surely scored some points, but can’t you imagine some fairly tense moments in the Simon Peter household?

Proverbs 14:12 tells us that there is a way that seems right to man but that leads to death. At the risk of adding to the scripture, let me suggest that there’s also a way that seems foolish to man but leads to everlasting life. (Of course, this notion is no novelty as 1 Corinthians 1:18 shows.)

Notice that Jesus did not call every fisherman around the Sea of Galilee to come follow him. For most of them, their best choice was to keep fishing. After all, had all the fishermen become preachers, the people would have had no fish to eat. For some, the call of Jesus was to keep fishing, but to these two, it was to do something else: to become fishers of men. In all cases, the call of Jesus was the call to the right thing, the best thing.

It might have seemed discouraging to the fishermen Ephraim and Jabez as they watched their friends wander along after this man Jesus. “Why didn’t he want us to go?” As so frequently happens with God’s matters, the answer isn’t completely clear. But while the answer might not be clear, the action is: Put down your nets or take them up as Christ commands. It will be the best choice.