Even though I can probably count the number of times I’ve gone fishing on two hands (ok, maybe three), somehow I grew up thinking I was a pretty good fisherman. Maybe that says less about my skill and more about how my dad encouraged me whenever we’d go out. Or maybe it’s because I had relatively low standards for success. You see, I equated success with casting my line into the water rather than getting it stuck in the shore brush behind me (or someone else’s hair behind me!) Sure, actually reeling in a fish was the climactic evidence of a job well done, but because a catch was so few and far between, the young fisherman in me found joy in the simple, repeated act of casting a good line. There was something satisfying about holding the line against the rod just so, timing the overhead release of the line, and then hearing its subsequent sounds — bzzz, splash, click, click, click. Good fishing for me was all about good casting.
And maybe that’s why I had missed this simple but significant detail in Scripture until just a few months ago.
16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
Mark 1:16-20, NKJV
NOT JUST CASTING
Did you see it? As Jesus steps into His public ministry to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom (Mk. 1:14-15), the first partners He recruits to this weighty mission are fishermen — men who are experienced in both casting nets and mending nets. Truth be told, I’ve never tried net fishing, but I’ve always assumed I understood these men of Galilee. There’s water, there’s waiting, there’s casting, there’s catching. It’s all in a good cast, a timely cast, etc.
But no, the first disciples knew that to effectively cast their nets, they must intentionally mend their nets.
As a follower of Jesus, I see myself as a fisher of men, commissioned to connect with others in a way that leads them into a saving relationship with Jesus for themselves. But while I have been diligent about casting “nets,” while I’ve spent time and energy to extending myself to others and leading churches to do the same, it recently dawned on me that I hadn’t been as diligent to ensure the wholeness of the nets I was casting. Instead of reinventing different ways or places or times to cast nets, maybe I ought to be still and carefully mend the nets around me. After all, an unmended net only leads to unfruitful fishing.
NOT JUST NETS
So what all could this point to in the experience of a disciple? If we’re to take this metaphor seriously, what all needs mending in our lives? Interestingly, the word translated as “mending” in Mark 1:19 comes from a verb that literally means “to properly, exactly fit; to adjust to be in good working order.” Apparently, the New Testament points to several other things besides literal fishing nets that need to be adjusted and restored — our praise to God (Mt. 21:16); the blind, judgmental, hypocritical disciple (Lk. 6:40); a divided church (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11); an erring brother or sister in Christ (Gal. 6:1); anyone who wants to do God’s will (Heb. 13:21), just to name a few!
Here’s the point: WE need mending! We need the restoring power of the gospel to be applied to our relationship with God, our love toward others, our growth in unity, and our effectiveness to do good works for the kingdom. I believe God has called us to more than just fruitless nights of fishing. And over the next few posts, I hope you’ll join me in exploring how we can actually let God mend our nets in order to be effective in casting our nets for others’ salvation.