I think the first thing I’m going to do when I meet Peter, Andrew, James, and John in heaven is to get them to sit down and tell me their best fishing stories. What were their favorite lures and best times of day to fish? And especially, how big was the biggest fish that got away? And maybe ask for some good recipes for fixing them over an open fire. Yes, that will be heaven for sure. Can you tell I’m getting a little housebound in this frigid weather?
The first people Jesus called to follow him were fishermen. Common folks. And I think an important part of this story is how it ends. It’s the part where Jesus demonstrates the lures he uses for attracting people and getting them into the boat.
One of the most famous bass fishermen today is Kevin Van Dam. If you were able to sit in the boat and watch what he does, you’d be sure to learn a lot about catching fish.
First, he’d tell you to find an area where you expect your target might be. He recommends using lures (like this little crankbait that rattles as it runs through the water). You can retrieve it through a lot of water in a short time to locate the fish. If you get one to bite, you pull the fish in fast and cast the lure immediately to get more active fish from that group as fast as you can.
When things slow down then you can put on lures that can be worked slower – like this plastic worm, and try to catch the ones that are leery and not so ready to grab the first thing that is placed in front of them. These fish may have been hooked before and they aren’t so ready to go through that experience again.
Jesus must have used different lures to attract people than we use today. His first lure was the good news of the kingdom. Don’t you think a lot of people are starving to hear some good news?
You won’t find much of that in the newspaper or on television news these days. I looked at the front page of the Wall Street Journal in last weekend’s edition (18-19th). These were the headlines:
Taliban Attack in Kabul Kills Foreigners, Officials (showing a full color picture of two men, one with a rifle, helping a man injured and blood covering his face);
Little Progress on Uninsured for Exchanges
Obama Shakes Up Surveillance Program
For Movie Producers, a Golden Age Fades
Profits Show Biggest Banks are Back from the Brink
and then the kicker:
Lobbyists Bake Potato Recognition into Congressional Budget – explaining in a subtitle: Growers Seek to Reverse ‘General Animosity’ Toward White Spuds; Yam Rivalry.
They’ve got potatoes fighting each other! That ought to get your blood boiling. People pay good money for this kind of news when they could be buying fishing lures!
(1) Jesus’s first lure was the good news of the kingdom.
It wasn’t news like this: “Hey, if you get in the boat with us, we’ll tell you what you’ve got to do and believe so you don’t end up in a frying pan for a billion years. And we’ll repeat it every week to make sure you don’t forget it.”
That’s not very alluring, is it?
What’s the good news about the kingdom that Jesus was talking about? The kingdom of the heavens is a state of perfect order and harmony among all things. Everything is working together for the good of everything else. It’s the way God designed things to work from the very beginning of time.
Perfect peace and harmony. Isn’t that what we expect will go on in heaven ? Jesus said, “That’s available and possible for us in this day and age. You don’t have to wait until you’re dead to have peace. Follow me and I’ll lead you to that peace and harmony now.”
Once he caught the fast biters with the good news of peace and harmony in life, Jesus pulled out his go-to lure to catch the people who weren’t as easy to get to bite. (2) He healed them of their sicknesses and frailties. He helped them get out of their dis-eases so they could be restored to peace and harmony in their lives. He helped them get stronger so they could feel more productive, to gain some self-esteem and self-respect. When you feel like you are an important and needed part of a community, you’ll jump out of bed in a heartbeat to maintain that feeling.
That’s not the way the religious people of the first century were treating the sick and weak. The sick and weak were getting beat over the head with accusations like this: You’re sick because God is punishing you for your sins.” “God is mad at you and that’s why you’re in the sorry state you’re in. In fact you’re so worthless, that we don’t want any part of you. Don’t come near us if you haven’t straightened up and gotten back in God’s good graces. We’ll know you are favored by God when you come dressed the way we are dressed, when you’ve got a good job to support yourself and we don’t have to share any of our stuff with you; when you do and believe what we tell you to do and believe. Then you can eat at our table.”
Using lures like this is like fishing with hand grenades and dynamite. You’ll get some fish into the boat, but they won’t be much good for helping you get their friends or neighbors in the boat. Most of those will be long gone.
Jesus didn’t have those kinds of lures in his medicine bag. Jesus touched people, even the untouchables. He laid his hands on people with gentleness, with kindness, with compassion. The energy of love flowed through him as acceptance and kindheartedness. I’m sure he needed to put some of the antiseptic of the law on open wounds. That stings a little and a lot.
Healing isn’t always painless. But if you’re going to keep out infection, you need something to help fight against the negative things that make people susceptible to greater problems.
So, as the people of God, trying to develop perfect order and harmony in the world, we first have to go to places where people want to hear good news, and where people are hurting and not at peace. Then we give them what they need.
We start in our own community, sharing our peace, joy, and love. And then, we go out and heal people right where they are. We serve them with compassion, without judgment or condemnation. We don’t expect payment for our services. We help them because they are children of God and they are in need. If they decide they want some more peace and joy and support in life, then they are welcome to follow Jesus with us.
This kind of fishing has no pressure attached to it. If you bring some fish in, that’s great. If you don’t, well – it was a great day to be out on the water and enjoying God’s creation.
Peace and harmony are possible today. That ought to be a headline!