In John 21 there is that wonderful story of Jesus meeting with seven of His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He has a fish breakfast with them, and then talks to them about mission and service. It’s a fitting meeting between Him and those disciples, for fish played a key role in His dealings with them over the previous 3 years. Of the seven in this story, at least 3 of them were fishermen by trade. The others could have been as well. It was along these same shores that Jesus had called them to be His followers. And like in John 21 Jesus had earlier directed these fishermen to an abundant catch of fish. In fact He had told them that He would like to use them in catching people like they were use to catching fish. On another occasion He fed 5,000+ people with a fish lunch; using that event to teach them to trust Him with even the impossible tasks. Still another time was when a fish became the messenger of money for Jesus to pay His taxes…Yes, fish seemed to play a key role in His calling and training of His disciples.
It is not a surprise that the fish became a very popular symbol of Christianity, especially in the early church. It was, behind the cross itself, perhaps the most popular Christian symbol, and remains so today. The word “fish” in the Greek language of the New Testament, is spelled ICHTHYS. Christians used the word as an acrostic in which each letter stood for a Greek word beginning with the same letter.
Iesus = Jesus
CHristos = Christ
THeou = of God
Yios = Son
Soter = Savior
When read as an acrostic, the Greek word fish took on special meaning, having a very profound meaning for Christians; Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. So when a Christian drew a fish in the sand or inscribed it on a wall in underground catacombs, the meaning was clear: Here was a Christian or Christians have met here. Even in hiding to avoid persecution, they were not ashamed to proclaim their faith.
Here we are in free America, where we don’t have to hide from persecution. Yet are we hiding our faith? What evidence are we giving our family, our neighborhood, our community, and our workmates about our faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior? Is it evident to everyone we know that we are in love with Jesus? Are we embarrassed to be known as His followers? Is there something fishy about the way we proclaim, in the church house, to love the Lord and act like we don’t know Him outside the church house? Does Jesus think we were a good catch for Him or might He consider throwing us back? (Of course He’d never do that, but are you and I pleasing to Him? Are we doing what He called us to do?)
As He called His first followers to be fishers of men, He has called every other follower since to be fishers of men. Are you His follower? Then how many people has He been able to catch through you? If we are not catching fish then perhaps we are kidding ourselves into thinking we are His followers. Jesus is out seeking/fishing for the lost, and to follow Him means we will be doing that too. If we’re not fishing for men then we probably don’t really believe He is Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.