October 2, 2016
I’ve got a simple question for you this morning. What is the best thing you’ve ever found on the beach? Finding things buried in the sand is one of the great simple pleasures of walking on the beach. The waves tumble in and stir up lots of little creatures that scurry about and bolt for cover. Sometimes you might see a crab snapping his claws as he backs away slowly. Or a big dead fish some fisherman tossed over board. And of course there are all those delicate shells that glisten with a captivating iridescence when you hold them up to the sun.
**For six years I served a church on the Eastern Shore. One of my favorite past times was to walk the beaches on the Bay with Alice and my Irish Setter. (I hesitate to tell his name but I guess I’ll come clean. I named him Reverend since I never liked to be called reverend). There was a secret spot near the Bay Bridge Tunnel where I used to go. Mr. Boze Kellam, one of my members, had a potato farm that stretched to some huge bluffs that overlooked the Bay. One day he took me on a ride through the fields in his old pickup down to the bluffs and showed me a secret path through some woods that led down a narrow trail to the beach. I used to go there. (I’m going to break with church protocol and show you the picture I took myself of this magical spot).***************
I walked beneath a chimerical canopy of interlocking tree branches breathing the salt air that hung heavily in the trees. The trail was speckled with sunlight and the mood was surreal and enticing. It was magical under the dark canopy. But in a minute or so I emerged into the brilliant sunlight and there suddenly was the blue Bay with roiling white caps. I followed an almost hidden trail down the cliffside, the little sandy steps crumbling beneath my feet until I tumbled out on the beach as white as Christmas snow. As I walked closer to the water the sound of the surf grew louder and broke over the glistening beach. I stood there just staring at the wonder of it all. (How you could you not love the Shore)?
This particular day followed a storm the night before. and there were traces of debris washed up here and there. Alice had gone on ahead of me and had spottoed something just barely protruding from the sand. about 10 feet from the water’s edge. I saw her bending down diging so I joined her wondering what she had found. (If this was my class of kids I would have them all guessing what it was it was but I know you’re all too sophisticated for that–right)? I began to dig and after a few minutes I yanked up out of the clutches of the beach a perfectly preserved—What? Anybody know?)—a ships wheel. Oh how my imagination soared and I wondered where in the world it had come from.******Hold it up. I just happened to have it here and I thought I would show it to you.
As we turn our attention back to our text, we see Jesus doing something similar to what I just described. He was strolling along the beach by the Sea of Galillee. The Sea is about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide (about as wide as the Shore). The Sea has always been considered by ancients and moderns alike as a jewel of nature. Josephus, the remarkable first century historian, said this about the Sea:
“Seen from any point of the surrounding heights, it is a fine sheet of water, a burnished mirror set in a framework of surrounding hills and rugged mountains, which rise and roll backward and upward to where hoary Hermon hangs the picture on the blue vault of heaven.”
There are some beautiful pictures on the internet of the Sea today. It shows manicured rows of fruit trees running almost to the shore with the mountains in the distance. (When I visited this spot years ago I tasted some of the fruit grown by theSea and it was amazing).
It was along these beaches that Jesus was walking early in His ministry. And as He strolled along he too discovered treasure. It was a common sight to see fishermen at work along the shores. Josephus tells us that at the time of our text there were 230 boats regularly working these waters. So along his day stroll He would have passed boat after boat with fishermen scurrying about, some mending nets, some hauling in the night’s catch some standing and bantering about news of the day or some family issue.
He too had His own thoughts. His life was completely changed now. He had just been baptized in the Jordan by John and had launched His public ministry. The die was cast and He knew that His days were numbered and that every moment counted. His every deed, His every word, His every action had meaning and purpose.
*That is one thing I am becoming more aware of as I slowly get older. Time becomes more and more important as birthdays multiply. As we get older, we become more reflective. We value time differently. We see the tunnel of life narrowing and we focus more on the important matters of life.
Surely some thoughts similar to these would have crossed the Savior’s mind as he walked the shoreline beside the Sea of Gallilee. But then in the midst of his strolling contemplation something startling happened. He stopped and noticed two fishermen casting a net into the sea. ——-This net was a smaller circular net that would be tossed like a lariat in great circles and then released over a small school of fish several yards away. The weights would plunge the net to the bottom and capture the fish. The word used for this net in this text is ἀμφίβληστρον and it is used only one time in the Bible. There are other more general words for nets used even in our text here. But this unique net—the amphiblestron—is the one that Andrew and Peter are using. And as Jesus stands and watches the skillful tossing of the net He knows he has found beach treasures. I found a waterlogged helm; He found two fishers of men!
What is it that Jesus sees in these two fishermen that so intrigues Him? This isn’t the first time Jesus has seen them. In fact, these men have already supped with the Savior in His home. Simon and Andrew had been followers of John the Baptist. But John had introduced them to Jesus and Andrew and Simon had followed the Lord home and spent time with him conversing and getting acquainted.
And so now as Jesus observed them casting their nets into the sea He had time to reflect on them. He realized that these were the very kind of men who could help Him establish His church and further the work of the Kingdom. And so like treasure on the beach, he harvests two disciples from the sea. “Follow Me,” he shouts to them across the water, “and I will make you fishers of men.” What a startling proposition. But something was burning in these two brothers ever since they had spent the day with Jesus at his home. And so when the call came it was almost as if they had been waiting, hoping, expecting it. And without hesitation they left their nets behind. The Greek text says they left εὐθέως (immediately). No hesitation. The decisions had been made earlier.
And then down the shore they went, a little band of brothers committing to the unknown, plunging into the mysteries of discipleship, a life without the typical certainties of fishing, without a clear routine. And before long they stopped and Jesus once again picked up his net ἀμφίβληστρον and flung it like spindrift (my word of the day–the spray from a wild ocean wave breaking on the beach) over two more treasures in the sea. Jesus cast his net and hauled in two more men whose lives would never the same —(James and John his brother who were mending nets with their father). The Master fishermen hauled in four prize possessions and promised to teach them the secrets of fishing for men. And when the sun set on the Sea of Galilee Jesus had plucked four treasures from the sea.
Now it’s time to turn this story toward us for a minute. I want you all to gather up your belongings–get your purses and your Bibles and anything lying beside you and lets walk on down to the beach where Jesus waits for us. It’s like a field trip. Let’s go on a field trip! My school kids love getting out of the building. We’ll go on a field trip and kick our shoes off and step on into the water. Not the Bay we know here. Not Onancock or seaside surf. No let’s step into the Sea Jesus knew intimately and pick up our nets. Be ready now for Jesus is coming. Yes, this is better. Now we aren’t just reading the story of Matthew 4; now we are in the story. And this is how it should be. Now it’s more personal. Now it’s you and me and and the Sea and the nets and Jesus standing on the shore. Now it’s real. And He’s ready to toss the net over you.
But I have to stop here and prepare you for this moment. Do you qualify to be a fisherman for the Savior?
There are a few conditions you must meet to successfully enter this story and join Simon and Andrew, James and John as fishers of men.
Please answer yes or no to these questions and try to be honest:
- Do you have absolute confidence that this man standing on the shore calling out to you is in fact the Savior of the world, is in fact your Savior? In other words do you believe in Him with all your heart? For without this belief you cannot join him and you will not feel the net tumble over you. Please answer YES or NO.
- Are you able to love someone other than yourself? Or are you a narcissistic person capable only of your own interests? “For God so loved the world…” the Bible tells us. Are you able to look beyond yourself to the world about you with sympathy and love? YES or NO.
- Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe God can touch a hopeless man or a broken woman and breathe life into them? In other words, do you believe in mirabilia–miracles of salvation? YES or NO.
- Finally, do you believe Jesus who holds the net can toss it over you and use you to change lives? Is God able to imbue divine love into your heart and divine power to touch others? YES or NO.
Now, tally up your score card:
If you answered YES to these questions then you qualify to be a fisherman aloang side Peter and Andrew. Remember, there were 250 fishing boats on the shores of the Lake. Jesus didn’t call them all to serve Him. He called those whom He knew would make effective servants in work of the Kingdom.
The challenge of our text this morning is to become a fisherman, to love Jesus and fish in His name for the lost about us.
I would like to conclude this message this morning with a little side thought to this sermon:
Thirty years ago- in 1986–I first came to the Eastern Shore. It was then that I walked along the shoreline and found an old helm buried in the sand. Today I feel as is I have stumbled upon a greater treasure. It rose several months ago from the sand like the spokes of a hidden helm. It was hard to recognize at first as if I was looking through a glass darkly and I couldn’t make out its shpe or meaning But as I explored and investigated and made repeated visits here to the Drumondtown Baptist Church I pulled you up and saw you for who you really are–a great treasure that God has blessed me with late in my life. You are my treasure on the shore. And I give thanks to God for this great discovery.
David R. Denny Ph.D.
Drummondtown Baptist Church