Matthew 4:18-22: “I will make/send you”
Sunday morning worship, July 8, 2018
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-22).
There are a couple of reasons I wanted to begin this morning by reading that Scripture passage. The first is that those of us who were raised on the KJV and Sunday school songs are more familiar with the phrasing, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” So when we read different words—“I will send you out” versus “I will make you”—different images may come to mind. When we only have English Bibles and want to understand why different translations create these different images, I recommend going to biblegateway.com and looking at all the translations as I have listed below.
If we compare over 50 different translations, 39 chose the word “make,” 5 chose “teach,” 1 chose both, 3 use “show how,” 1 “turn into,” 1 “transform,” and 3 variants of the NIV alone chose “send.” Obviously the KJV and those Sunday school songs have had a significant impact on our understanding of Jesus’ promise to the four fishermen. So why did the NIV choose “send”? Let’s first study the context of this word and then come back to find our answer.
With no context beyond “he saw two brothers,” Jesus issues an invitation to Simon and Andrew. At this point it’s not appropriate to go to John 1:35f for additional context. We must interpret Matthew’s Gospel from a stand-alone position because we are trying to interpret Matthew’s account as if it were the only Gospel account we have. John’s Gospel more than likely was written later and for a different purpose and audience.
I have been recommending as a goal for all of us to choose to live by the words Jesus lived by: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). From that approach to “following Jesus” we can accept that Jesus “saw” what His Father wanted to do in and through the lives of Peter, Andrew, James, and John when Jesus first “saw” them. Seeing the hand of God upon their lives was the basis upon which Jesus could faithfully make this promise.
Jesus’ promise to “make them” fishers of men or to “send them out to fish for people” was contingent upon two facts. First, these four need to leave their old lives behind and then continue to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives. Today it has become more common for pastors and lay people to believe such a simple command from a God we don’t know at that time can result in a lifetime commitment. I personally have witnessed individuals who responded to Billy Graham altar calls, went through the Billy Graham salvation literature, and then almost immediately began to live like it never happened. So I can understand the reluctance of some to issue similar types of calls.
Yet for all of us, Scripture teaches there must be a moment in our earthly lives when we pass from eternal death to eternal life, when in the very words of Jesus “you must be born again” (John 3:7). John 3:8 the very next verse can either provide clarity or confusion depending on our perspective: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Today some might argue science can map the formation of the winds, but we still cannot control the wind. From my perspective, Jesus is telling us there are mysteries of the Spirit of God and even of the will of God that we will never completely understand this side of eternity. How God decides what role each of us will play in advancing the kingdom of God, I believe, is one of them. Here in Matthew 4:18f, Jesus doesn’t explain very much if anything to His future Apostles. His command is simple: “Come, follow me.” In reality, that is still the command with which Jesus called to each of us. Jesus asks us to follow Him for the rest of our lives when we personally know so very little about Him.
Think of this call of Jesus as a very extensively researched online dating experience. Jesus’ profile is contained in the four Gospels. We have an additional 2000+ years of testimony from His followers. Many of those testimonies are quite scary, even terrifying if all of the things that have been done supposedly in the name of Jesus were actually done at the command of Jesus. Other testimonies are incredibly pure and welcoming.
As we examine page after page of entire Bible and page after page of world and church history, a voice comes to us in a personal way saying, “Come, follow me.” Despite all the research we have that was totally unavailable to Peter, Andrew, James, and John beyond the Old Testament Scriptures, there was something about Jesus that led them to “at once” and “immediately” leave their previous lives behind and follow Jesus to the cross and beyond into the accounts we have in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Was that something, “I will make you fishers or men” or “I will send you out to fish for people”? Somehow I doubt it. From my personal and pastoral experiences, I believe it was simply encountering Jesus Himself. We could say it was love at first call. It was hearing the voice of Jesus and internalizing the intimacy of the Creator of all that exists speaking personally to anyone of us. What Jesus promises to make of us or to do with us pales in comparison to the sound of His personal call. And yet, if we respond to the call of Christ, our lives will be dramatically different if we do indeed continue to follow Jesus as He continues to call us. Look at those other translations: “I will teach you how;” “I will show you how;” “I will transform you into;” and “I will turn you into.” Add to all of those the NIV’s “I will send you out to fish for people.”
Now for a moment, instead of focusing on what’s different, focus on what’s the same: “I will…you…” The point of Matthew’s Gospel account of the call of the four fishermen is that their job was to respond to Jesus’ call by following and Jesus’ job was to change their individual character and the course of their lives. Do we really understand that truth? Can we really internalize the truth that we are simply to see what Jesus is doing in us and around us and do what He asks us to do—nothing more nothing less?
Every morning we are to get up, go through our routine which should also include a personal time with God that opens the lines of communication and gives us blessed eyes because they see, and blessed ears because they hear (Matthew 13:16). If we receive new instructions, we are to follow those. If we hear nothing new or God doesn’t open our eyes to see something different, we are to continue through our day as if nothing new was asked of us. If we are faithful in this approach to life, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, Jesus promises to make us into what He wants us to be so we can go out into the world and influence people for the kingdom of God.
Our job is to report for duty, get our marching orders, and to follow them. Jesus’ job is to transform our character and bless the work we do so we are conformed more and more to the image of Jesus over time and the work of our lives bears good fruit (Matthew 7:17). The process of our transformation promises some painful pruning. Certain parts of our hearts and minds, our emotions and our feelings have to be cut out and thrown into the fire so that new hearts, minds, emotions, and feelings can replace the old.
This process should excite us. Jesus as the Master Healer needs to remove the parts of our spirits and our souls that have been damaged by what we have experienced in this world. We have been cheated, abused, and rejected. Paul said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but now destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
Nothing worthy of our best efforts should be easy. Athletes train endlessly for their prizes. Students go thousands of dollars in debt to obtain the necessary training to get the jobs they desire. Parents make countless sacrifices to raise healthy children. Scientists spend countless hours researching the cures and procedures that allow us better lives. Skilled craftsmen develop their skills over countless hours of pains-taking labor. Why should becoming like Jesus Christ cost us anything less?
Jesus’ call to the four fishermen didn’t promise them an easy life. Jesus’ only promised that He could deliver a complete transformation in their lives if they left the world behind them and followed Jesus. Jesus lets us make a choice. Sometimes we only get one chance; sometimes we learn to follow after many painful experiences. Either way, there must be a moment when we pass from death to life. Don’t wait too long. If you hear Christ calling your name, even this morning, please respond and begin a wonderful relationship that will transcend time and space. You’ll meet a lot of wonderful people along that journey. I know I have.
BRG: And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
CSB: “Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fish for people.”
CEB: “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.”
CJB: Yeshua said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men!”
CEV: Jesus said to them, “Come with me! I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish.”
DARBY: and he says to them, Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.
DLNT: And He says to them, “Come after Me and I will make you fishermen of people”.
DRA: And he saith to them: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men.
ERV: Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you a different kind of fishermen. You will bring in
people, not fish.”
EHV: He said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
ESV: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
ESVUK: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
EXB: Jesus said, “Come ·follow me [be my disciples], and I will ·make you [teach you how to] ·fish for people
[T fishers of men].”
GNV: And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
GW: Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me! I will teach you how to catch people instead of fish.”
GNT: Jesus said to them, “Come with me, and I will teach you to catch people.”
HCSB: “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!”
ICB: Jesus said, “Come follow me. I will make you fishermen for men.”
ISV: “Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fishers of people!”
PHILLIPS: While he was walking by the lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (Peter) and Andrew,
casting their large net into the water. They were fishermen, so Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will
teach you to catch men!”
JUB: And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
KJV: And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
AKJV: And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
LEB: And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”
TLB: Jesus called out, “Come along with me and I will show you how to fish for the souls of men!”
MSG: Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew.
They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come
with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead
of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
MEV: And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
MOUNCE: And he said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
NOG: Yeshua said to them, “Come, follow me! I will teach you how to catch people instead of fish.”
NABRE: He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
NASB: And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
NCV: Jesus said, “Come follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
NET: He said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.”
NIRV: “Come and follow me,” Jesus said. “I will send you out to fish for people.”
NIV: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
NIVUK: ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’
NKJV: Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
NLV: Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!”
NLT: Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
NMB: And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
NRSV: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
NRSVA: And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’
NRSVACE: And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’
NRSVCE: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
NTE: ‘Follow me!’ said Jesus. ‘I’ll make you fish for people!’
TPT: Jesus called out to them and said, “Come and follow me, and I will transform you into men who catch
people for God.”
RSV: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
RSVCE: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
TLV: And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
VOICE: Jesus: Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.
WEB: He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men.”
WE: Jesus said to them, `Come with me. The work I will give you will be to catch people.'
WYC: And he said to them, Come ye after me, and I shall make you to be made fishers of men.
YLT: and he saith to them, `Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men,'