The above was a recent reading given at our local church service, and what particularly struck me was the word straightway – no hesitation then! No ‘Oh well we must finish what we are doing first’, or, ‘well tomorrow would be more convenient’…! He called them – and they came.
We find another interesting piece in Luke chapter 5, whereby Jesus asks Simon Peter to take the boat out and cast down the nets. Simon tells Jesus they had already been out all night to no avail – “nevertheless at Thy Word I will let down the net.” And of course, they catch a multitude of fishes – so much so that their nets broke.
This act shows that as fishers of men these, and other disciples were going to be the catalyst for the spreading of the Word and the gathering of many peoples.
It seems to me that both Our Lord Jesus Christ and His people, Israel, are symbolically linked to two types of creatures; Sheep and Fish.
Our Lord is the Lamb of God, Who laid down His Life for His sheep – to open the door to lift us back to the realm of Adam before the Fall – before that first sin. He is of course the Door. But also, He is the Good Shepherd of the Sheep, and we are those Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.
A shepherd looks after his sheep. When one goes astray, or gets lost, he will go and find it and bring it safely back into the fold. Equally Our Lord tells us, My sheep know My voice. In other words, His people would recognise Him and accept Him.
When Joseph of Arimathea brought the young Jesus to the shores of the Tin Isles – Albion – Britain – the Druids were expecting a Saviour whom they called Yesu. Again, when after the crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, Joseph and his little band came again to Britain, this time to stay, he was welcomed, and his message of Christianity accepted. My sheep know My voice indeed!
The small remnant of Judahites and of Benjamin in the land of Palestine were but a tiny percentage of the overall peoples known as Jews, the rest being of Idumean and other mixed stock, and these did not know the Lord, although as descendants of Esau they could rightfully claim to be descendants of Abraham. This is why, even now, many of those ‘Jews’ living in the land they have renamed Israel, still do not know Jesus Christ – the Saviour of the World.
When Our Lord walked this world, He called His special helpers forth – those who Almighty God the Father had given to His Son Christ Jesus. These were personally trained by Him to spread forth the Word, after His earthly ministry had finished. These were the willing vessels to whom the Comforter or the Holy Spirit would alight upon after His ascension into Heaven.
Fishers of Men were needed to seek the scattered lost tribes of Israel after they had been taken into captivity over three waves of attack by the Assyrians. These lost tribes, once the Assyrian’s power had been broken, made their way across Europe, leaving pockets of settlers here and there along the way. And over the centuries arrived in the British Isles where they unknowingly joined others of their Israelite race already there from earlier migrations of descendants of Dan and Zara of the Scarlet Thread. All of these would recognise the Word of Truth.
Now a fisher – or fisherman – has a different role to that of a shepherd. A fisherman is out to catch fish. When I was a little girl, my dad would sometimes get up very early on a Sunday morning and go fishing. His was with a rod and hook, and he would bring my mum a nice rainbow trout for her breakfast. But Jesus’ disciples were not fishing in the rivers and the streams, no they were out in their boats – fishing in the sea.
It is interesting that the Fish is a Christian Sign. And indeed, God’s people Israel are portrayed in the heavens in the constellation of Pisces. Dr Bullinger in his Witness of the Stars, tells us; “…the ancient Egyptian name, as shown on the Denderah Zodiac, is Pi-cot Orion, or Pisces Hori, which means the fishes of Him that cometh”. In fact, we also read that “this sign of Pisces has always been interpreted of Israel. Both Jews and Gentiles have agreed in this. Arbarbanel, a Jewish commentator, writing on Daniel, affirms that the sign Pisces always refers to the people of Israel.”
Thus when Jesus tells Simon and Andrew He will make them Fishers of Men, and instructs them to go back into their ship and cast down their nets in a particular place – which then become inundated with fish, we can know that their task was to be led by the Holy Spirit, and to take the Word of God to scattered Israel. The fishes dwelling in the sea – in the world – and Israel had been scattered abroad.
Jonah was supposed to be a fisher of the men of Ninevah, but he chickened out – probably because these men were not considered very friendly! He fled in a boat trying to escape his destiny, but you cannot do that with God! So, he was cast into the sea and a great fish swallowed him up! And then vomited him out just where he was meant to be – on the shores of Ninevah. And these people worshipped a fish god!
Much to Jonah’s dismay the men of Ninevah listened to his words and repented of their sins, so God did not destroy them. This shows us quite plainly, that even if we doubt that certain people will come to the Lord – if the Lord tells us to speak unto them – we should!
And so we come to the Fisher King. Who is this – and is he connected? A part of the Arthurian legends reveals, he is keeper or guardian of the Holy Grail, – the Cup of the Last Supper – said to contain some of the drops of blood from Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is c0nsidered a descendant of Joseph of Arimathea and said to have resided in a castle in Wales. Joseph himself is reputed to have brought the Grail/Cup with him when he made his final journey to our land.
Sometimes the Fisher King is said to be Arthur himself – the once and future King – thus by this association, Christ Jesus Himself (King of Kings and Lord of Lords).
The first time Jesus tells His disciples to re-cast their net into the sea, the net brake. After His resurrection, in John 21, we read that He does the same thing again, and this time they catch and count 153 fishes – and the net did not break. This surely tells us that not one of His peoples would be lost amongst the tares.
And finally, it is a funny thing, but if you make a three-sided triangle with each of the sides made up of 17 little circles, and then infill the space in between, you will have 153 circles.
Dr Bullinger in his book Numbers in Scripture shows that 17 is a number associated with Israel, and also that 17 and 153 are strongly linked with each other. So likewise, does Bonnie Gaunt in her book on “The Apocalypse”. Ed: It is interesting to examine the link. 153 is 9 times 17. Ed F. Vallowe in his book “Biblical Mathematics” demonstrates that “9” stands for ‘Divine Completeness from the Lord” and 17 stands for “Victory”. He references 1 Cor, 15:55-57, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
So, the fishes are God’s people, and not one shall be lost. The Fishers of Men are God’s workers who proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who hear His Voice.
Let us then pray most earnestly that our eyes and ears are opened to His Word, whether we be fishers – or fish!