Fisher of Men


The sky is pasty blue and slightly overcast, dotted with white streaming clouds. A light breeze flips off the water and floats through the air, cooling the humidity of the 80 degree spring weather. The Detroit River meanders along with calm ripples, reflecting the pale blue sky. Nearby, three fishermen busy themselves with line casts and retracts.

            Two of the gentlemen are seasoned elders, dressed in T-shirts that snug tight around their expanding bellies, and loose-fit jogging pants. Light sneakers and back-turned ball caps complete their respective ensembles. A cigarette dangles from the pursed lips of one of the duo. Both cast their lines toward one particular area off the dock, then wait patiently for the catch to come to them. They never move beyond that one spot. They never put much effort into jigging the line. They simply wait, choosing to let the catch find them.

            The third fisherman, is an unassuming young man. He’s dressed in an oversized black T-shirt, baggy jeans drooped over his dark shoes, and a scruffy ball cap turned backwards. Unlike the duo fishing 40 yards to his right, he continuously casts his line every 90 seconds, to a different spot from his setup. In between casts, he reels and jigs the line, keeping his bait in constant motion.

            From my perch on an adjacent bench, it appears the kid has no idea what he’s doing with his fishing pole. My bet would be with the old-timers. Then I see something amazing. At first, one of the old-timers hooks a small Silverbass, reels it in, frees the hook, and drops the tiny fish into his yellow five gallon bucket. The two men celebrate and heckle the youngster, down the dock. They all get a good laugh and I decide the kid is outclassed.

But suddenly, the kid’s line jerks. He effortlessly reels in a good-sized Silverbass of his own. The fish never struggles as he frees it from the line, walks down the dock, and drops it into one of the two buckets. He leisurely strolls back to his spot, casts his line and hooks another Silverbass, within two minutes of casting. This one is the same size as the first one he caught. Again, he unhooks the submissive fish, walks the dock, drops it into his bucket, returns to his spot, casts his line in a new spot along the river and hooks another Silverbass within five minutes of casting.

Now the old-timers are quietly checking their lines, reels and bait. While they stick to their customary ritual of cast-and-wait, they watch the kid from a distance. Meanwhile, the kid has managed to catch another three decent sized Silverbass, with little fuss. Intrigued, I inch off my bench to get a closer look at his bait, which he never changes between catches. While the old-timers chose to use live minnow, the kid’s bait of choice is a soft rubber, neon green fake minnow. There’s nothing special about his bait.

Finally, an old-timer hooks another small Silverbass. The tiny fish struggles and fights desperately, as the fisherman pulls his line from the water. Just as he reached for the fish, the little guy detached from the hook, and splashed back into the river. Ironically, the fisherman says, “I never had him hooked.”

As I feverishly scribble notes on this whole experience, the kid reels in a sixth Silverbass, effortlessly. He unhooks the calm fish, walks the dock, and drops it into the bucket. The kid says to the old-timers, “There ya’ go”. Then, he walks away from the dock, fishing pole in hand, and disappears into the parking lot. For the next 20 minutes, the old-timers continue their structured regiment, but never land another fish. Eventually, they pack up and depart. I hang around, contemplating what just happened. As I sit thinking, the gospel comes to mind.

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus tells Simon (Peter) and Andrew, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” So it was then, just as it continues to be today. Jesus is the great fisher of men. So many times, He went out into the world, against the traditions and laws coveted by the Pharisees and Sadducees. He effortlessly captured men, calling them to follow Him. Despite the splendor of their garments, the conviction of their preaching, and the sheer presence of their stature, Jesus went out among them dressed humbly, soft-spoken, and meek in stature by the world’s standards. Yet He cast His Holy line of truth frequently from place to place. Often, men were (and still are) hooked by the truth of the gospel; Jesus’ bait. They willingly allowed the Lord to pull them from the deceptive waters of sin.

Sometimes, men will struggle against the Lord’s subtle tug, jump off the Holy connection line, and splash back into the shimmering, enticing waters of sin. But Jesus never falters, and constantly casts His line in different places, pulling in men, wherever He is accepted. 

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