We might conjure up in our minds an image of someone sitting in a boat on a lake, whittling away the hours, hoping to catch a slimy northern pike, or a delicious pickerel. However, this passage has a lot less to do with fishing than it has to do with calling. Many of us might look at this passage and think, “of course, we should be fishing for people as well. We should be evangelizing the world.” Funny then that when we read of other disciples being called to Jesus, they are not also told that they will be fishing for people. In fact, for many of the stories that we read, whether in Matthew or one of the other disciples, we are not told what the other disciples are being called to, only that they are now following Jesus.
Matthew 4:17 says that, “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” The text then moves to this passage of Jesus calling two sets of brothers away from their vocations fishing for fish, to new vocations of fishing for people. If Jesus is preaching that people should repent for the kingdom of heaven is near, then this is what that repentance looks like. Who is apart of that kingdom that has now come near? What does repentance look like? These are the questions that our text is answering for us. Fishermen, tax collectors, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, slaves, free, Jew, and Gentile. The kingdom of heaven is made up of ordinary people going about doing their ordinary lives, until Jesus calls them from their lives and careers. For these fishermen, Jesus calls them to continue to be fishermen. Jesus does not say come and I will make you carpenters of people, He does not call them to be farmers of people, He calls fishermen to be fishermen. Who is apart of the kingdom? You, and I, despite our different skill sets.
Repentance is not simply an apology to God for our sins, although it is that. For these fishermen to repent, means to follow Jesus. Whatever they were doing before Jesus came into their lives, they were called at one point to follow Jesus. The same is true for us today. Whenever it was that Jesus came into our lives, He called us to follow Him. In the Christian calendar, the season of Lent confronts us in such a way that we are able to live true lives of repentance. Day by day, and with each passing moment we are confronted with the opportunity to repent and follow Jesus, regardless of how tediously ordinary, or remarkably extraordinary we feel our lives are. We are called to follow Jesus. In the text, these two sets of brothers say yes, and follow Jesus. How will we respond today?