Follow Me and I Shall Make You Fishers of Men,
Etched by Thomas Vivares & Jean-Baptist-Claude Chatelain,
Etching on paper,
Etched and printed in 1769
© National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
Reflection on the Etching on Paper
Two parts to our Gospel reading of today: the first part is Jesus asking two disciples to ‘Come and follow Him’; in the second part He promises to turn them ‘into fishers of men’. When Jesus asks Simon and Andrew to follow Him, it was very different from the Jewish traditions of the time, where rabbis looked for followers as well. Yes, the rabbis also had followers, but a rabbi didn’t call followers to himself. When you became a disciple of a rabbi, you did not follow him personally, but rather you studied under him and interpreted the law as per the rabbi’s instructions. BUT when Jesus called the disciples, He called them to follow Him… to follow Him personally. This was not a call to simply follow a religion or a set of teachings, but a call to follow a person. This is the very essence of Christianity: Christianity is primarily about a person… the person of Jesus Christ. Yes, the Scriptures contain plenty of teachings and instructions for life, but none of that matters if these are not connected to the person of Jesus! If you take Christ away, you do not have Christianity.
A little while back, I was discussing this element of ‘following Christ’ with a young man. I explained that it was not just the same as following someone of Twitter or Instagram, where we just ‘follow’ brief, quirky, fun, even thought-provoking messages throughout the day, posted on social media. Following Jesus does not mean simply keeping up with him or checking in on him periodically like we do on social media. Rather, the call to follow Jesus is the call to discipleship which means that you give Him your complete loyalty, obedience and trust.
He does not only want your loyalty and trust, but he wants to change you. He wants to make you into something you were not before and make you into fishers of men. Now obviously Jesus used this phrase “fishers of men” with Simon and Andrew because they were fishermen. It was a play on words and a play on their occupation. They were used to catching fish. From now on they would catch men… Yes, the call to follow Jesus includes the call to bring other people to God… it comes with responsabilies…
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