Fox hunting began in the 15th century in England. Men on horses with hounds scour fields for foxes in traditional “kit” or clothing. An upper-class pastime, it is not without controversy. There are huntsmen or huntswomen, kennelmen to look after the hounds, and terriermen to manage the foxes.
As a non-hunter myself, I only bring up this style of hunting because it begins with an invitation from the master, who initiates the hunt and is responsible for its overall management and conduct.
I like that imagery.
In the gospels (Mark 1:16-18 and Matt 4:19), Jesus calls to brothers who are catching fish with nets.
“Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Simon-Peter and Andrew, smelly, sweaty, curious, and instantly obedient, do indeed follow Jesus.
And every child knows from Sunday school that the men who caught fish for a living would now give their lives to “catch” people for Jesus.
But there’s more to the story. There’s always more.
Jesus didn’t arbitrarily choose that phrase, “fishers of men,” and Peter and Andrew weren’t random fishermen. Both the phrase and the profession were the fulfillment of a promise given by God centuries earlier.
Did God really promise fishermen and fishers of men? He did. And being the Master of the Hunt, he promised hunters too.
Jeremiah 16 is a gloomy, gleaming passage of scripture. It hurts and heals at the same time.
Jeremiah the prophet writes of looming judgment for God’s beloved people. They have abandoned his love and his law and walked after, served, and bowed down to handmade idols. Their rejection of God will lead to God’s rejection of them. And yet, even in the cauterizing warning is covenant promise. Because after God hurls them out, God will gather them back in.
The nation whose deliverance from slavery in Egypt was so foundational to their identity that it was celebrated every year and told to generations would one day change, Jeremiah said. Instead of being known as the nation God brought out from Egypt, they would become the nation God gathered from the globe.
And how would God collect his people from “the land of the north and from all the countries He had driven them?”
You guessed it. He would fish for them, and he would hunt for them.
As the Master, he would deploy his fleet of followers over land and sea to hunt and fish for covenant souls who had been scattered far and wide.
“Behold, I will send for many fishermen,” says the LORD, “and they will fish for them, and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain, hill and out of the cleft of the rocks…” (Jeremiah 16:16)
So now Peter and Andrew being fishermen who became fishers of men hopefully has more significance. Jesus was bringing about what His Father had already told Jeremiah He planned to do.
And guess what? The hunt continues. Those who profess Christ are called to hunt for others who are part of the family but don’t know it yet. Not in a predatory sense (I’m going to take your life) but in a sacrificial sense (I’ll give my life for your restoration.)
So there you have it. Follow Jesus, the great Master of Hunt, and get your very own fish story.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "