Jesus was able to connect to the people of his community first because he demonstrated that he understood their situation and their needs and he helped them, then he offered them the Good News of the Gospel.
Jesus proved that if you want to attract someone to your message, you need to first speak his or her language and show that you are worth listening to. Jesus does this in the gospel story in Luke chapter 5, where he first convinces Simon Peter to cast his nets into the water after an unsuccessful night of fishing and they bring them in full to overflowing and then Jesus convinces Simon Peter and two others to follow him to be “Fisher’s of People.” In this story and for these experienced fishermen, Jesus, basically, made fish appear where they knew none existed. He asked them to drop their nets where they knew there was no fish because they had just fished there. In a way, this story is like Jesus saying to someone today who has just left the bank to go back and look in their bank account, only to find that their account was now full of money.
Yes, I know, dream on that for minute or two. OK, come back.
If money or fish were what Jesus was really about, then he and his disciples could have just gone around filling people’s empty nets or bank accounts. Yet, what Jesus did with the miracle with the fish was to acknowledge their physical needs and to get their attention. And then, when he had their attention, he could make his point about the Good News of the Gospel. The whole aim of the miracle was so that Jesus could prove to them that he is and was the real deal, that he is more than a teacher, that he is God’s Son. Jesus wanted to prove to those that he hoped would follow him that with him anything was possible.
What I want to make clear is that the goal of the miracle was not to fill the fishermen’s empty nets, but to be able to get their full attention by making a real and tangible difference in their lives. Once he had their attention, once he had proved that he was able to understand what they wanted and needed, then he could challenge them to live a life with a higher purpose, God’s purpose. I also want to make it clear that I believe that that too is the ultimate goal of our church. Our mission as a Christian community, our job, our most important task has two steps to it. First, it is to get folks attention but showing that we understand their needs by making a difference in their lives and then secondly, when we have proven ourselves to them, it is to pass on to them the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The story of Jesus filling the fishermen’s nets, reminds us of that very important first step of communicating God’s message about Jesus. We need to get their attention first by meeting their need. If we are going to reach out in his Name, as Jesus reached out in God’s name, then we need to able to get the attention of the people around us. These “people” are our neighbours and friends. They are everyday folk, who are just trying to make the best of their life. As Christian’s we need to be able to demonstrate that we can understand what they need, and then show them that in Jesus they can have something worth so much more. If and when we are able to do something practical for them to show them we care and understand, then we they will give us the chance to present them with something deeper and more meaningful. We need reach out to them first, we can’t just wait for them to come to us and ask. If we do, then we have forgotten that our invitation is to be fisher’s of people and not just keepers of the boat. We must be calling others into relationship with God and not just making sure the lights are on and the roof doesn’t leak.