I recently read an article about a pair of fishermen brothers who are among the last practitioners of the disappearing art of bubu fishing.

Unlike commonly used fishing rods, these box-like bubu traps made of chicken wire mesh are cast into the ocean and placed on the seabed.

Photos of local bubu fishermen. All images by Island Nation, a project by Edwin Koo, Zakaria Zainal and Juliana Tan.

Their story brought to mind two other pairs of fishermen brothers I know.

Imagine… You’re out at sea, casting your nets into the lake when a man who has been known to preaching in the town walks towards you along the shore and says: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

What would you do?

This was Jesus’ call to His first disciples — and it remains the same for every one of us.

When I first heard this call, there was so much I didn’t understand. But since then, God has been revealing to me what His call means.

1. Follow me

In Jesus’ day, it was common for a teacher to gather students who were willing to be mentored by him. They would learn the teacher’s ways from doing life together and his daily interactions — how he made decisions, for instance. 

The first choice we’re faced with remains the same as the first disciples’: Will we leave behind our lives to follow Christ?

That means releasing control to Him. He becomes Lord of our lives — whatever He says, goes. Our first step is to follow Him and be with Him. 

Jesus didn’t say: “Be fishers of men, only then can you follow me.” 

Our primary call is to follow Christ and to find true joy in being in His presence. It is a call for us to get good at knowing Him and His ways.

When we know Christ intimately, we will know His heart and begin to see people as He sees them. We will love what He loves and care about things He is concerned about.

It is by being with Him that we are transformed into fishers of men. It is Him who transforms us — not by our own means or strength! As we follow Him, He will do the transformative work so that we become good fishermen. 

2. Repair your net

Experienced fishermen know that a large amount of their time is spent on preparing their nets (Matthew 4:21) rather than actually catching fish. 

That was something I learnt when I recently visited a hidden fishing community at East Coast Park. The fishermen I met told us the same thing — much of their job goes to weaving nets and repairing the bubu traps. 

Likewise, following Christ involves a lot of preparation and the moulding of our hearts. This involves building a strong devotional life and spiritual walk with God.

Don’t focus on the work you’re doing such that you lose sight of God Himself — prioritise your relationship with Him. The time we spend with Him can soften our bruised and hardened hearts and anchor our faith in Him. 

When we are faithful in the small, He can entrust bigger responsibilities to us. 

Jesus’ call was: Come and follow Him, and He would make us a fisher of men. Following Him precedes the becoming.

Those who follow their teacher and are then sent out. Jesus calls, teaches, empowers us and then sends us out to people so that we can proclaim the Good News to others. 

3. Cast your net, and cast it again

Fishermen can’t just wait for fish to jump into their boats — that will never happen. They must be intentional in seeking out potential places and take the risk by throwing their nets into the water.

A reward is never guaranteed — they might not catch any fish or have a big catch. But they would never know unless they cast their nets out. 

When we fish, we can’t see what’s happening beneath the surface. Likewise, when we share the gospel, we don’t know what effect it’s having on the person. Yet, we share by faith and let the Holy Spirit do the heart work. 

Even when we are rejected, we cast our nets out again. Just because we don’t get a catch today doesn’t mean there won’t be fish tomorrow. And just because there aren’t catches in this area, it doesn’t mean there won’t be catches elsewhere. 

Going back to the article that caught my attention, the fishermen brothers noticed that as a “tradition that was passed down from generations”, bubu weaving and fishing was dying off.

That got me thinking: What about following Jesus? Will that become extinct in the next generation?

The invitation to follow Christ is also an invitation to partner with God in catching the hearts of our peers and the next generation. How can we inspire others to come alongside us and disciple them in their pursuit of Christ? 

As we embark on this journey of faith, let’s remember that we are to pass on this blessing of knowing and following Jesus to future generations.

SHARE YOUR STORY: In the days leading up to Easter, will you join us to #PublishPeace?

  1. What is something the Holy Spirit is revealing to you about Jesus’ call to follow Him and be fishers of men?
  2. Which one of the three aspects of Jesus’ call is the hardest for you to do?
  3. What are some things you can do to begin to accept Christ’s call to you to follow Him and become a fisher of men?
  4. How can you pass on the blessing of knowing God to the next generation?