Catch And Release (Matthew 4:18-25)

By | July 22, 2012

Not Just Another Fish Story: #2
What Can We Learn From The Great Fish Stories In The Bible?


Start with:  “Parable of a Fishing Trip”

     I’m glad the disciples didn’t react like that to the call of Jesus to Fishers for People. Matthew tells us how four of them reacted. Matthew 4:18-25 (NRSV)

[18] As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.  

[19] And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”  

[20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him.  

[21] As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them.  

[22] Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.  

[23] Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.  

[24] So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them.  

[25] And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.  

     I don’t know what kind of bait Jesus was using that day, but when he cast out into the Sea of Galilee that morning he pulled in four of the biggest fishermen in the whole district. They were caught. They dropped everything and immediately followed him. And then Jesus began training them in his Catch and Release program so they could “fish for people.”

     Jesus calls us into that same Catch and Release program so we can “Fish For People” too. In order to be “Fishers of People we have to PREPARE THE VESSEL, USE THE RIGHT TACKLE, AND THEN GO FISHING.


     A. When you go fishing, especially if you have a bass boat, you have to get it ready. It has to be fueled up. You have to have all your equipment in place. You have to have life jackets for everyone who’s going with you. You have to make sure you have an anchor. And you have to make sure all your gear is working properly.

     When President Grover Cleveland’s second child was born, the doctor asked Cleveland for a scale to determine the baby’s weight. Cleveland searched through the house without success. But finally, he remembered that he had an old scale in the basement which he always used on his fishing trips. He got it and brought it upstairs. Carefully, the doctor placed the infant on the scale and was amazed to learn that the newborn weighed 25 pounds. (1)

     You can make all the preparations you want but if your equipment isn’t functioning correctly you won’t get very far.

     B. We have to get ourselves ready as well when we go fishing for people. We have to be fueled up with the presence of Christ and the Power of God’s Holy Spirit. We have to make sure we are firmly anchored in Christ.

     Years ago I remember reading about a particularly huge stone in a Greek or Roman harbors it was called an “Anchoria”. The purpose of this stone was simple. A vessel caught in a storm or trying to come into the harbor against the wind was unable to safely navigate into that harbor. However, they could send a small boat with a rope and tie off to the anchor stone. Then the vessel could slowly and surely pull itself into safe harbor. But only after it had tied itself to the anchor stone. Jesus is our anchor stone. We tie ourselves to Jesus through the profession of our faith; through Bible Study, prayer and worship.


     The Second thing we need to do is make sure we have the right equipment. I remember Bishop Bob Goodrich telling the story about a man who took his 6-year-old son fishing with him one day. They put out the trot-line and then went up to the cabin. After an hour, they went back down to the river to see if they had caught anything. Sure enough, there were several fish on the line.

     The boy said, “I knew there would be fish, Daddy.” The father asked, “How did you know?” The boy replied, “Because I prayed about it.” 

     So they baited the hooks again and put out the trot-line and went back to the cabin for supper. Afterward, they went back to the river. Again, there were fish on the line. Again, the boy said, “I knew it.” The father said, “How?” “I prayed again.” So they put the line back into the river and went to the cabin. Before bedtime, they went down again. This time there were no fish. 

     The child said, “I knew there wouldn’t be any fish” and the father asked, “How did you know?” The boy said, “Because I didn’t pray this time.”  So, the father asked, “And why didn’t you pray this time?” The boy said, “Because I remembered that we forgot to bait the hooks.” (1)

     In the movie Bait Shop, Paradise Lake is hosting a Professional Bass Tournament. Bill Engvall plays local bait-shop owner and former amateur champ, Bill Dugan, who is in deep trouble: the bank wants $15,000 for the shop’s mortgage. He decides to enter the tournament in hopes of using the prize money to save his shop from foreclosure. His wife is angry when she finds out he didn’t tell her about the mortgage. His wealthy blow-hard father-in-law wants Bill to work for him selling mattresses. His son thinks the tournament favorite, Hot Rod Johnson, is the coolest. And Hot Rod Johnson, played by Billy Ray Cyrus, will do anything to win.

     On the last day of the tournament his mentor gives him a gift and you realize that one of the most important parts of fishing is . . .  well watch:

      One of the most important aspects of fishing is knowing what bait or tackle to use. You don’t use the same bait to catch Crappie as you do Bass or Catfish. So, you’ve got to have a variety of tackle. The same is true in “Fishing for People.”

     Tackle is used to lure the fish onto the hook. In a similar way, the tackle we use, the Fruits of the Spirit lure others into a relationship with God. And by lure I mean in a wooing sort of sense. Like a young person woos the person they’re in love with. Like the work of God’s Holy Spirit in Prevenient Grace is wooing us into a relationship with God.

     There’s certain tackle that just won’t work. But the proven tackle of the Christian is the tackle that God gave us to use, the Fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things,” says Paul. [NRSV]

     We have to be intentional about the use of these gifts. These are the gifts that others want to see displayed. They prove whether we believe what we say we believe and live those beliefs.

     A. LOVE: Jesus said this was the most essential peace of tackle in the box. This is the one He exhibited everywhere He went. It was the driving factor for His trip to the cross for our sakes. In Luke 10:27 Jesus told us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” [NRSV]

     And in Romans 12:9 Paul says: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” [NRSV] Love is the most important piece of tackle, and the most important lure we have, because a lot of people have never experienced true unconditional love before. And we know where it can be found.

     B. JOY: The second most important piece of tackle in the our tackle box is JOY. In my opinion, the worst Christian witness is a long-faced sour Christian. Psalm 68:3 says: “let the righteous be joyful; let them exult before God; let them be jubilant with joy.” [NRSV]

     Paul said in Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” [NRSV]

     I like what Mario Murillo said in Fresh Fire: “The joy of the Lord is a force field that insulates against the destructive, draining spirit of this age. A layer of love keeps the infection of despair off us.” (3) A layer of love, I really like that. Our joy is born of love, love for God, love for neighbor and the deep knowledge of God’s love for us.

     C. PEACE: The Third piece of tackle is PEACE. John 14:27 Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” [NRSV]

     In Romans 15:13 Paul says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [NRSV]

     Joy and peace together bring hope through the power of Holy Spirit. And we need hope. WE need that peace. Especially when the storms of life arise. In the midst of those storms we find peace. The Lord will either calm our storm, or allow the storm to rage around us while He calms us.

     People are looking for that inner peace that will get them through the storms of life. They’re looking for the peace that comes from being anchored to the rock.

     D. PATIENCE: I’ll be honest, I’ve learned more than I’ve ever wanted to learn about patience. I’ve learned that you should never pray for patience because if you pray for patience, you’ll be tested in order to build that patience. I’ve learned that you should pray to be able to use what patience you have. I’ve also learned that I don’t have nearly enough. And if I do have enough, sometimes it gets misplaced, covered it up or I forget how to use it. For that I apologize to you and to God.

     Someone once said: “Anyone can act like a Christian… it takes a true Christian to RE-ACT like one.” (4)         Hebrews 10:36 says: “For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” [NRSV]

     Lack of Patience isn’t a very good witness. But patience is one of the best witnesses.

     E. KINDNESS: Next comes kindness. We all learned from Mary Poppins that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right? That spoonful of sugar idea is appropriate for living out and sharing the faith. There is a certain amount of personal joy that comes from being kind. And an even greater amount from having something kind happen to us. In Galatians 6:10 Paul writes: “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”  [NRSV]

     Old Scrooge found out just how tasty the milk of human kindness could taste. Let KINDNESS be one of the major lures in your Tackle Box.   

     F. GENEROSITY: Then there’s the lure of GENEROSITY. We’re not necessarily talking about money. While being generous with the monetary gifts God has given us is important; having a generous nature is more important. A generous nature can be summed of like this:  “A generous friend or neighbor is one who watches your vacation slides all evening and never mentions that he has been there, too.” (5)

     In Luke 6:38 Jesus said: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”  [NRSV] Use the lure of GENEROSITY often.

     G. FAITHFULNESS: Next we come to FITHFULNESS. In Matthew 24:46 Jesus says; “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” [NRSV] and in Luke 11:28 He said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” [NRSV]

     This is the one thing that we are most harshly judged on by those outside the Church. And rightly so. Are we faithful to the principles and beliefs that we say are central to who we follow?

     Mary Kay Ash once said: “God doesn’t ask your ability or your inability; only your availability.” FAITHFULNESS is being available and living what you say you believe, it’s as simple as that.

     H. GENTLENESS: The next piece of tackle is GENTLENESS. The three year old granddaughter of a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago liked to visit him late in the afternoon so she could walk home with him. One day the preschooler asked to ride on her grandpa’s shoulders across the campus. That day, another professor, with a twinkle in his eye when he saw them said: “My goodness, how you’ve grown! You are about three times as tall as you were last week.” 

     The little girl replied: “Not all of this is me.”

     That’s so true of all of us. Any success we have, any joy we have, any riches or glory or whatever isn’t just ours alone. God is the author and others have been helpers. The person with a GENTLE spirit or HUMBLE spirit knows that. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus said:  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” [NRSV] GENTLENESS is born from a HUMBLE heart.

     I. SELF-CONTROL: And finally there is the Lure of SELF-CONTROL. Self control leads to happiness. Psalm 119:1 says: “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” [NRSV] SELF-CONTROL is simply remembering who you are and Whose you are at all times. SELF-CONTROL is exhibiting the Christians graces and fruits of the Spirit in all we do.

     That’s the TACKLE BOX we need. It’s filled with the lures of the Fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”


     A. Well, the Vessel’s ready. The Tackle Box is full. What are we waiting for? LET’S GO FISHING. That’s our call. That’s our purpose. Did you hear about the church that was so evangelistic that they started serving special cookies in their nursery and preschool classes. They called them Billy Graham Crackers.

     B. A church youth group was raising money to go on a ski trip and decided to have a car wash. The morning was great. They stayed busy and were raising lots of money. But to their dismay, in the mid-afternoon it started to rain and the customers stopped coming. Finally one of the youth made a big poster that read:  “WE WASH,” (and with an arrow pointed skyward) “HE RINSES!”  Business was soon booming once again.

     We don’t have to be Billy Graham or even serve Billy Graham Crackers. All we really have to do is take our call seriously. God wants us to live our faith in such a way that it invites others.

     This is the only place in the world that always practices catch and release. We’re caught like fish. But we’re never skinned, filleted and fried. Instead we’re cleaned up and released back into the waters of this world with instructions to lead others back to the one who cleaned us up.


     We’re called to be fishers of people. Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

     We’ve been called to reach out. We’ve been cleaned up and given new life through Christ so that we can point the way to the Anchor Stone in the Safe Harbor. We’re called to be available to be used by the Master Fisherman, Jesus. He’s already filled our Tackle Boxes. We’ve all been caught by the love and grace of God and we’re hooked on Jesus. We’ve been caught and then released to go fishing. We are the Tackle in Jesus’ tackle box. All we have to do is go fishing.

     We know people whose lives are floundering. We know people who are perched on the brink of destruction. We know people who have a whale of load of guilt that needs to be gotten rid of. We know people and we’re called to be Fishers of People. Cast Your Nets. Live out the Fruits of the Spirit. Let it be the Tackle in you Tackle Box.

     Grab your Tackle Box, The Vessel is Ready, Let’s Go Fishing.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1.   Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), April 1985

2.   From Robert Goodrich, What’s It All About (Revell), as found in Speaker’s Book of Illustrative Stories by Maxwell Droke (Droke House, Indianapolis).

3.   Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), July 2000

4.   The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), August 2001

5.   The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), February 2002

6.   The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), November 1999