“The Big Fish and The Big Call”

Written by Glen Dawursk, Jr. -- 2/3/04



In the very popular movie series, “The Lord of the Rings” we meet a character Frodo the hobbit.  In the first book or movie, “The Fellowship of the Rings,” Frodo receives a call to destroy the evil “one ring” before its power is able to corrupt and destroy all of the Middle Earth.  This “calling” will require Frodo to take a journey which will be tedious and dangerous at times and there is a good chance that Frodo may not return alive from the journey.  At one point in the story, Frodo expresses his concern, his fear, and his uncertainty by wishing that the ring had never come to him. 


It is at this time that Gandalf, the wise wizard reminds Frodo, “We can not choose the time we live in.  We can only choose what we do with the time we are given.”


Just like Frodo, we each have received a call from God, a call which many of us choose to ignore – a call to live differently as a Christian in all that we do.  A call to demonstrate our Christian morals and values in the decisions we make at work, at home or at play.  A call to be the salt of the earth and the light on a hill.  A call which requires commitment, tenacity and endurance.  A call that God has given you for your life’s journey.  Within the “Lord of the Rings” story, written decades ago by the Christian author Token, is the simple message Jesus speaks to us this morning through our Gospel.  It is about our calling to act, and speak and live the life of Jesus in all that we do. 


In our Gospel, we see Rabbi Jesus teaching the people who have gathered to hear him.  The scripture tells us that they “pressed upon Him” to hear His words.  In order to better speak to the crowd, he climbed into a boat owned by Simon whom Jesus later renamed Peter.  Now Simon and his pals were cleaning up from their unsuccessful night’s work.  They were fisherman and yet they caught no fish.  Fisherman in Jesus time and even today get their best catches at night.  It is then that the water is coolest, the activity on the lake is less disturbing to the fish and frankly, the fish can’t see you. Note: it was while Simon was at work that Jesus called to him – not while in the synagogue or at the Torah study group, but at work.


Simon and Jesus were not strangers to each other.  Simon knew Jesus before the boat incident.  In the verses prior, Luke tells us that Jesus had already been to Simon’s house and healed his mother-in-law and most likely healed other sick and possessed people there as well.  Besides, it was not uncommon for Jesus to simply hang out with the fisherman.


Fishing was after all a significant livelihood in all the cities and small villages around the Lake of Tiberias, better known by us as the Sea of Galilee.  During Jesus’ time, fishing was done predominately by the lower social class of the community.  These fishermen did not have much of a culture of their own and due to their strange hours, were less conscientious about the religious duties of the Jewish law. Even Luke described Simon and John as “uneducated and ordinary.”  These ordinary working fishermen were often considered unclean sinners by the Pharisees.  Yet, it was these ordinary men that Jesus came to that day and it is ordinary people that Jesus calls to today as well.  He calls us at our jobs, at our homes, at soccer practices, and in our car pools.  Jesus comes to us wherever we are and calls to us to be His own. 


Now note that Jesus’ call to Simon interrupted his work.  After all, Simon was cleaning up and probably was hoping to go home, when suddenly Jesus climbed into his boat and asked him to float out a ways – it was an interruption to what Simon was doing; it was not part of Simon’s plans.  Yet, Simon responded by taking the boat out on the Lake.  Possibly because it was a privilege for this ordinary man to have a Rabbi teaching from his boat or maybe he too desired to hear what Jesus had to say.  Never the less, it was still an inconvenience to Simon – and yet he did anyway.


Very often we find that God’s calling to us is not convenient. After all, it is much easier to sleep in on a Sunday morning, skip a “Purpose Driven Life” Bible study or even forget to thank God before we eat.  It is much easier to avoid standing up for a Christian value or moral at work.  It is more comfortable to not invite an un-churched friend to Divine Redeemer.  We have become a society which prefers to not interrupt our lives for the sake of Godliness and we avoid interrupting other’s lives under the umbrella of tolerance.  But God never said that His calling to be a Christian was to be convenient.  Instead, we are told that it requires conviction and commitment – no matter what; even amidst suffering and testing.


“Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. However, their conviction (toward their cause of freedom) resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families. Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty. At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson's home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered General George Washington to open fire on his own home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and mill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in forest and caves, returning home only to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion.” (Kenneth L. Dodge, Resource, Sept./ Oct., 1992, p. 5.)

These men knew that their calling for freedom would not be convenient and yet they maintained their commitment and conviction to their cause. They knew that they might have to endure suffering for what they believed in and yet they chose to fulfill their calling for freedom nevertheless.

Interestingly, when Jesus had finished teaching to the crowd, he asked Simon to push into the deep water and let down the nets.  Simon, a professional fisherman probably thought that Jesus was crazy – that Jesus didn’t understand how fishing worked.  After all Jesus was not a fisherman, but a carpenter and these professional fisherman had not even caught a minnow that night.  However, Simon respected Jesus enough to call Him “master.”  He knew that there was something different about this man and while his common sense rejected the suggestion to go out again, his simple faith in this carpenter persuaded him to venture out anyway.  After all, as a fisherman, Simon knew that fishing was depending upon the unseen – to be at the mercy of what was hidden under the water.  It was about faith and hope.  Yes, there was always a risk involved but it was the hope for success that drove Simon to comply with Jesus’ request.  Simon didn’t sit back passively – he acted upon Jesus’ request.

Author John Holcomb once wrote, “You must get involved to have an impact.  No one is impressed with the won-lost record of the referee.” (The Militant Moderate) We too must get out of our comfortable pews and chairs of Divine Redeemer and act upon God’s request.  We must choose to make an impact for Christ in our homes, at our work and in our community. And yes, in our calling, there is always a risk involved – a risk of being taunted or harassed for being a Christian in an unchristian world.  But God asks us to simply trust Him, to follow His direction no matter – and He offers us eternal hope when we do.  Unfortunately though, too many Christians get lost in the “fish stories” of life.  Fish stories -- those stories that 99% of the time are not true but instead are deceptions or exaggerations intent on getting us to believe a lie.  A comedian once said that “There are more fish taken out of a stream than ever were in it.” 

As Christians, “fish stories” are the lies or deceptions that Satan would have us to believe in order to pull us away from our calling to be “little Christ’s” in the world.  Fish stories are the New Age ideas that we can be god, that we can save ourselves, that a psychic hot line will give you peace or that as a Christian we have the freedom to do whatever we want and God just doesn’t care. Satan’s fish stories tell us that Jesus really did not suffer and die for us.  That He did not rise on Easter morning.  That Jesus was just a man and a sinner like us. And that we really have no hope for a future in heaven.  Satan would have you believe that everything God says is a myth and that the world’s stories offer us our only hope.  But we know from scripture and from what He has written upon our hearts that God does not tell fish stories.  His stories are absolute truth.  His promises are real. His forgiveness is everlasting. God can not lie (Titus 1:1).

A new movie that just came out at Christmas time called “Big Fish” is all about Fish Stories.  In the movie, the main character becomes known for amazing stories that he has told to people all his life –especially to his only son. 

These stories seem to be too impossible to really have happened; so the son questions and then even accuses his father on his deathbed of telling blatant lies.  It was not until his father’s funeral that we find out that the impossible was plausible. That these supposed big fish stories were really the truth.  God’s “Big Story” is that he has called you to catch His fish.  He desires for you to witness to others by how you live.  He desires for you to be his fisherman – but it requires us to “go outside the boat” to catch a fish.

When I was about 6 years old, my parents took my sister and me on their motor boat. The boat had a hollowed out area in the front below the steering wheel where my sister and I would sit while my parents fished.  My mom was not paying any attention and she swung her rod and as she tried to cast out, she heard me scream. You see two of the four prongs on her hook had imbedded themselves into my nose.  Every time my mom pulled, I screamed louder.  Who says that as a “yuthguy” I’ve never been “pierced?”  I started the fad when I was six!

Too often, we act like a Christian at church only.  We find it easy to fish inside the comfort of the boat, but fail to cast our Christianity outside of our comfort zones – outside the boat – into the real world around us.  But God tells us that He will supply the fish if we just go outside of our individual boats.  He is already preparing the heart of person – a big fish for you to catch.  Sometimes you may not even know that you are “hooking” someone for Christ. Amazingly, how we fish determines our impact on others and the blessings we will receive for being faithful to God’s calling.

When Simon dropped the nets into the water, God supplied an abundance of fish. So much that it took two boats to carry the catch.  Luke tells us that the boats were so full, that they almost sunk.  A non-Christian would look at this part of the story as “awful” – they could have drowned; whereas a Christian sees how God blesses His people and claims: “awe – full!”  Even in a simple “attitude of gratitude” we can daily give witness of our faith in Jesus to others.  

But the story doesn’t end here.  Simon falls upon his knees and for the first time calls Jesus “Lord.”  But surprisingly, he also asks Jesus to leave.  The one who offered Simon the biggest catch of his fishing career – Simon asks Him to leave. Why?  Simply, Simon realized that this man was not an ordinary man like himself.  This man was the Christ.  He humbled himself and in fear of Jesus’ power – confessed his sins before Him.  The scripture says that Simon and the others were “amazed” by what they had witnessed. The Greek word for amazed can also be translated as “alarm” when the reaction is more negative than positive.  Simon did not totally understand what Jesus was doing.  And Jesus seemed to sense Simon’s fear and Jesus’ response was to comfort him – “Don’t be afraid – for now you will be fishing for people.” Jesus was preparing Simon not just for a career change, but for a life change; a change that still brings fear to many believers.   A change from the status quos of our life toward a choice to live the life of Christ in all we do and say. It is an uncomfortable and often scary change.  It is awkward to be different in a world that expects us to conform to their standards and tolerate their opinions and live the way they live.  But I remind you again of what the wise old wizard told Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, “We can not choose the time we live in.  We can only choose what we do with the time we are given.”  Will we choose to show the light of Christ in our daily life or will we “hide it under a bushel” – oh no!  Salvation is a choice from God to love us, but our response to participate actively as a fisherman is our choice.  We decide if will fish with pride or hide!

Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti once said that "When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song. He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, 'Shall I be a teacher or a singer?' "'Luciano,' my father replied, 'if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.' "I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it's laying bricks, writing a book--whatever we choose--we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair."   (“Guideposts” as quoted from http://www.christianglobe.com/Illustrations/theDetails.asp?whichOne=c&whichFile=commitment)

Choose to fish with pride or hide.  It is a choice we need to make everyday as Christians.

Yes, Jesus called Simon.  He entered into His boat, into his life.  He gave that ordinary man the hope of salvation and Simon could have rejected it.  He could have told Jesus to “get out of my boat.”  But by the power of the Holy Spirit working through Jesus’ words, he became a real fisherman for God.  As Martin Luther once said, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”  Now, Simon was willing to give it all in order to catch God’s fish because He knew that nothing was impossible with God.

“A number of years ago Norman Cousins wrote an editorial in Saturday Review in which he reported a conversation he had on a trip in India. He was talking with a Hindu priest named Satis Prasad. The man said he wanted to come to our country to work as a missionary among the Americans. Cousins assumed that he meant that he wanted to convert Americans to the Hindu religion, but when asked, Satis Prasad said, "Oh no, I would like to convert them to the Christian religion. Christianity cannot survive in the abstract. It needs not membership, but believers. The people of your country may claim they believe in Christianity, but from what I read at this distance; Christianity is more a custom than anything else. I would ask that either you accept the teachings of Jesu in your everyday life and in your affairs as a nation, or stop invoking His name as sanction for everything you do. I want to help save Christianity for the Christian." (B. Clayton Bell, in Preaching, May-June, 1986.)

Praise God that we are sending 8 members from our congregation as missionaries to India in August -- Praise God for that.  But, in reality – God is calling each of us to be missionaries here, now, fishers of men and woman, and youth and children at our homes, at our work, and in our community. He is calling you right now to be His witness by how you live the life of Jesus. 

So grab your rods and reels – we’ve got some serious fishing to do!