What kind of associations does the idea of fishing raise for you? Leisure time? Quiet? Peace? Stillness? (Hopefully not a few beers.)
That’s not the kind of fishing that Simon and Andrew did. (James and John, I’m not so sure about. They had a boat. And servants. But I’m sure they worked hard, too.) Simon and Andrew have one or more nets. Each one is about 10-15 feet across. The edges are weighted down with stones. They stand in the water and hurl the nets. The stones make it fall quickly, hopefully with fish in it. A rope cinches the net, trapping the fish inside. A big haul is a mixed blessing: lots of fish, but lots of weight to lug back in. The process is repeated after the net is emptied. It is repeated all night long.
Mark 1:16-17 not only mentions the casting of the net, but repeats the idea that they were fishers. Jesus invites them to become fishers of men. There are a lot of symbolic meanings that might be at work here, but I want to look at something else: Jesus is calling them to hard labor. Whereas almost without exception, students chose their own rabbis/teachers, Jesus chose them. Whereas other students would have studied and learned, sedentary, Jesus is calling them to hard physical labor, at least metaphorically, but also, as it turns out, literally, as they actually follow him from town to town, grabbing raw grain on the way.
When we think about being disciples of Christ, we can’t think about 20th century American recreational fishing. We are instead called to stand in the water, hurl the heavy net, tug it back, again, again.