Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
— Mark 1:16-17
Jesus recruits his first disciples, fishermen from amongst the peasant classes. The "fishers of men" statement is most commonly, almost exclusively, taken to mean that Jesus is inviting Simon Peter and Andrew to become missionaries, proselytisers, saviours of the sinful. But if we connect Jesus's life to the scriptures, as all the gospel writers did both explicitly and implicitly, a different meaning suggests itself.1 In the book of Amos—a prophet not unlike Jesus in his passion to call out the hypocrisy of the priests, scribes and wealthy landowners—we read:
The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.2
Perhaps then, Jesus is inviting the fishermen to partner with him in a peasant revolution. The call is to overcome oppression by removing the rich and powerful rulers (with fish hooks!) thus preparing the way for the new Kingdom. This idea resonates more if we look at the immediately preceding verse:
Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.3
If Jesus, in prophetic tradition, has come to restore God's law, confront injustice, overcome oppressive rule, and raise up the poor, as the synoptic gospel writers, especially Mark, indicate, then Jesus could quite likely be using language directly from Amos to express this intent—language, and imagery, that his contemporaries would also have been familiar with. It's an intriguing idea. Jesus and disciples as revolutionaries in no way detracts from their work as missionaries. The two roles merge without conflict, each supporting the other. Political change was badly needed, of that there seems to be no doubt. The oppressed people of the land needed both to turn against their oppressors for dignity and survival and turn towards God for the strength to carry this out.
1 I first came across this suggestion in Binding the Strong Man: a political reading of Mark's Story of Jesus, by Ched Myers, 2008, Orbis Books
2 Amos 4:2 — and see also the reflection on this verse, Injustice
3 Amos 4:1