Bethsaida: Fisherman House by David Eck

“As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  [Mk 1:16-18, NRSV]

The first stop on my trip to Israel was the city of Bethsaida which literally means “house of fish,”  denoting the town’s principle trade. Indeed even Emperor Hadrian would later praise Bethsaida for the abundance of its fish. The most interesting find in this ancient city (which is still being excavated) is a building known as “The Fisherman House.” It’s a large house which measures 4,300 square feet. Archaeologists found many artifacts there that have to do with the fishing trade: anchors, lead and net weights, fishhooks, and needles for mending net and sails.

This archaeological discovery is important because it dispels the myth that Peter and Andrew, James and John, were peasant fishermen. In fact, they were middle class business men who most likely had a fleet of fishing boats and lived a comfortable lifestyle.

This changes the way we look at this familiar story form the gospels.  Peter, Andrew, James and John were NOT peasants who had nothing to lose in answering the call to follow Jesus. Instead, they were middle class businessmen who had MUCH to lose in following Jesus.

This leads us to an interesting question that the story asks of everyone who reads it: “What do we need to leave behind in order to follow Jesus?” The answer to this question may be different for each and every one of us.

Some of us will need to leave behind our need to simply make more money and feather our nests, and learn the values of service and generosity. Others will need to leave behind our need to be in charge our our own destiny and trust Jesus to be in control of our lives. Some will need to leave behind our fears of what the future will bring and venture into the great unknown. Others will have to leave behind our need to control or manipulate other people, and ask how we can best serve our neighbors.

I think you get the point. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will need to leave behind something in order to follow Jesus. And if you’re not leaving anything behind, if it doesn’t cost you anything or change the way you live your life, then it could be possible that you’ve not really answered the call to become a fisher of people.

Jesus, desires to transform our lives from the inside out. He desires that we have life, and have it abundantly.  But in order for this to happen, each of us will need to leave behind destructive patterns of living in order to follow Jesus.  We will need to leave the safety of the shore, get in the boat, and set sail with Jesus to places known and unknown.

Are we ready for the journey? Are we willing to say “yes” to Jesus invitation?  I hope so, brothers and sisters, because Jesus has quite an adventure in store for us if we are willing to follow him and learn to fish for people.

Copyright ©2016 by David Eck