Four Brothers Become “True Fisherman”

Written by Pastor James Dorman


1. Thoughts of Matthew, Mark & Luke:  

Matthew 4:18–22 (NIV84)   “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 make you fishers of men.” 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.

Mark 1:16–20 (NIV84)   “ As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Luke 5:1–11 (NIV84)  “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”


2. Passage Outline

Four Brothers Become “True Fishermen”

Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11

I. The Call at the Sea of Galilee (Mk. 1:16; Matt. 4:18)

II. Jesus Teaches and Affirms through a Miracle (Lk. 5:1-7)

 A. The Pressing Crowd is Taught (vs. 1)

 B. Jesus’ Pulpit is a Fishing Boat (vs. 2-3)

 C. The Affirming Miracle (vs. 4-7)

1. men are told to fish where there is no fish (vs. 4)

2. the objection and obedience of Simon (vs. 5)

3. miraculous catch (vs. 6-7)

 III. Reactions to the Miracle (Lk. 5:8-10a)

 A. Simon’s All Encompassing Humility (vs. 8)

 B. Astonishment of the Rest (vs. 9-10a)

 IV. The Call is Issued and The Response Immediate (Matt. 4:19-22; Mk. 1:17-20; Lk. 5:10b-11)

 A. Simon is Called (Lk. 5:10b)

 B. The Call & Response of Simon and Andrew (Matt. 4:19-20; Mk. 1:17-18)

 C. The Call & Response of James and John (Matt. 4:21-22; Mk. 1:19-20)

 D. The Left Together (Lk. 5:11)


3. Information to Consider

Calling Disciples (5:1–11):

“Jesus is now a popular teacher. He borrows a fishing boat to speak to the people who are thronging the shore. Later, he helps the owner of the boat, Simon, make a fabulous catch of fish—after a luckless night and in broad daylight. Simon realizes that this is an act of God, and begs Jesus to go away. But Jesus calls Simon and his business partners, James and John, to become his followers. They will bring their fishermen’s gifts of patience and hard work to the task of catching men and women for God.”[1]

Chapter 5:1-11 (Compare Matt. 4:18–22; Mark 1:16–20)

  1. Pressed (ἐπικεῖσθαι). Lit., were laid upon.

To hear. The A. V. is correct according to the reading τοῦ ἀκούειν, which it follows. The true reading is καὶ ἀκούειν, and heard. So Rev.

He stood (αὐτὸς ἦν ἑστὼς). The pronoun distinguishes him from the crowd which pressed upon him: he on his part stood. Render the participle and finite verb as Rev., was standing.

Lake (λίμνην). An illustration of the more classical style of Luke as compared with Matthew and Mark. They and John also use θάλασσα, sea. See on Matt. 4:18.

2. Ships (πλοῖα). Used of vessels in general. Some texts read πλοιάρια, a diminutive form, meaning little boats.

Were washing. From the sand and pebbles accumulated during the night’s work. Luke uses four different words for washing or cleansing: πλύνω, here, see also Apoc. 7:14; ἀπομάσσω, of wiping the dust from the feet, only at ch. 10:11; ἐκμάσσω, of the woman wiping Christ’s feet with her hair, ch. 7:38, 44; ἀπολούω, of washing away sins, Acts 22:16; λούω, of washing the prisoners’ stripes and the body of Dorcas, Acts 16:33; 9:37. The reading ἀποπλύνω is rejected by the best texts, so that ἀπομάσσω is the only one peculiar to Luke. All the words were common in medical language.

3. Thrust out (ἐπαναγαγεῖν). Rev., put out. The special nautical word for putting out to sea.

Taught (ἐδίδασκεν). The imperfect. He continued the teaching he had begun on the shore.

4. Launch out. Rev., put out. The singular number, addressed to Peter as master of the craft.

Let down (χαλάσατε). The plural, addressed to the whole of the boat’s crew. Originally, to slacken or loosen, as a bowstring or the reins of horses; hence to let sink as a net. Also of unbarring a door. Metaphorically, to be indulgent, to pardon. The word occurs in the New Testament seven times, and five of these in Luke. He uses it of letting down Paul in a basket at Damascus (Acts 9:25); of striking a ship’s sails, and of letting down a boat into the sea (Acts 27:17, 30). Matthew, Mark, and John use βάλλω or ἀμφιβάλλω, for casting a net (Matt. 4:18; 13:47; Mark 1:16; John 21:6), which appears also in the compound noun for a casting-net (ἀμφίβληστρον, see on Matt. 4:18). The word used by Luke was in common use in medical writings, to denote relaxation of the limbs; loosening of bandages; abatement of sickness; letting herbs down into a vessel to be steeped.

5. Master (ἐπιστάτα). Used by Luke only, and always with reference to Jesus. He never uses Rabbi, as John especially. Wyc., commander.

Toiled (κοπιάσαντες). From κόπος, suffering, weariness; and therefore indicating exhausting toil.

At thy word (ἐπί). Relying on: on the ground of.

The net (δίκτυον). A general term for a net, whether for fish or fowl. See on Matt. 4:18. Some, as Rev., read τὰ δίκτυα, the nets.

6. Brake (διεῤῥήγνυτο). Some texts read διερήσσετο, from the later form of the verb. The difference is unimportant. The A. V. fails to give the force of the imperfect, were breaking, as Rev.; or even better, possibly, began to break. Trench suggests were at the point to break. The word occurs also at ch. 8:29; Acts 14:14, and only twice beside in the New Testament. Luke alone uses the two compounds περιῤῥήγνυμι, of rending off clothes (Acts 16:22), and προσρήγνυμι, to beat violently (ch. 6:48, 49). See on those passages. All the words occur in medical writings.

7. They beckoned (κατένευσαν). The word originally means to nod assent, and so, generally, to make a sign. They made signs because of the distance of the other boat; hardly, as has been suggested, because they were too much amazed to speak.

Help (συλλαβέσθαι). Lit., take hold with. Compare Philip. 4:3.

Began to sink (βυθίζεσθαι). Only here and 1 Tim. 6:9, of drowning men in destruction. From βυθός, the depth. Wyc., they were almost drenched.

8. Fell down at Jesus’ knees. Compare Sophocles, “Oedipus at Colonus,” 1605:

“Zeus from the dark depths thundered, and the girls heard it, and shuddering, at their father’s knees falling, they wept.”

9. He was astonished (θάμβος περιέσχεν αὐτὸν). Lit., amazement encompassed him. See on 1 Pet. 2:6.

The draught (τῇ ἄγρᾳ). The word is used both of the act of catching and of that which is caught. In ver. 4 it has the former sense: “let down your net for catching:” here, the latter, the catch or haul.

10. Partners (κοινωνοὶ). In ver. 7 the word rendered partners is μέτοχοι; from μετά, with, and ἔχω, to have. The word here denotes a closer association, a common interest. The kindred noun, κοινωνία, fellowship, is used of the fellowship of believers with Christ (1 Cor. 1:9); the communion of the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16); the communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Cor. 13:14). The persons referred to in ver. 7 might have been only hired workmen (Mark 1:20), temporarily associated with the principals.

Thou shalt catch (ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν). Lit., thou shalt be catching, the participle and finite verb denoting that this is to be his habitual calling. Both Matthew and Mark make the promise to be addressed to Peter and his companions; Luke to Peter alone. The verb ζωγρέω, to catch, is compounded of ζωός, living, and ἀγρεύω, to catch or take. Hence, lit., to take alive: in war, to take captive, instead of killing. Thus Homer, when Menelaus threatens the prostrate Adrastus:

“Adrastus clasped the warrior’s knees and said,

O son of Atreus, take me prisoner” (ζώγρει)

                                                Iliad, vi, 45, 6; compare Iliad, x., 378.

So Herodotus: “The Persians took Sardis, and captured Croesus himself alive” (ἔζώγρησαν).—I., 86.

There is certainly a reason for the use of this term, as indicating that Christ’s ministers are called to win men to life. Compare 2 Tim. 2:26, where, according to the best supported rendering, the servant of God is represented as taking men alive out of the power of Satan, to be preserved unto the will of God; i.e., as instruments of his will (compare A. V. and Rev.). The word thus contains in itself an answer to the sneering remark of the Apostate Julian, that Christ aptly termed his apostles fishers; “for, as the fisherman draws out the fish from waters where they were free and happy, to an element in which they cannot breathe, but must presently perish, so did these.”[2]


4. Questions to Ponder

     A. Why were the four so prompt to obey Jesus’ call? (Mk. 1:20; cf. Jn 1:35-42)

     B. Inference from “hired servants”? (Mk. 1:20)

     C. Why say “depart from me”? (Lk. 5:8)

     D. How could the statement that James and John, when called, were in their boats mending their nets (Mt. 4:21) be consistent with Lk. 5:1-11?


5. Author’s Comments

Throughout my ministry, I believe within today’s Christian community the call of God has lost some of its luster and significance.  I know of no greater joy than realizing a person is spending their lives pursuing the purpose God created them to accomplish within their time here on Earth.

Over the years, I have identified at least three significant times God impresses His desires for our lives through a time of personal calling:

 1. Our Call to be Adopted into His Eternal Family … as Christians respond to opportunities to participate in “divine appointments” by sharing key elements  of the Christian Gospel, the Holy Spirit works within the hearts and minds of those hearing the Gospel to know God is actively calling them to embrace these opportunities to become an active member of His adopted family.

 2. Our Call to be Actively Engaged in Christian Ministry … throughout Scripture, we find passages affirming the reality God uniquely gifts His adopted children to invest in the lives of others through Christian ministry.  Whether these activities occur within the local body of Christ or if these activities occur in our community, each Christian is called to invest portions of their lives in serving the needs of others.

 3. Our Call can be General or Specific in Nature … often, Christians are gifted to serve Christian churches and local communities wherever they are living or serving. For others, the call to serve is to a specific church, community, or geographic location.  For Phyllis and me, our call was a lifetime investment into the Flagstaff community and Christ’s Church of Flagstaff.  To be the most effective in our ministry efforts, discerning whether our call is general or specific is very important.

       Like Peter, Andrew, James and John, expect Jesus to call you to a ministry which will take a lifetime to complete!


6. Closing Prayer


How fortunate we are to be able to return to moments of human history through Your recorded Word.  How wonderful it is to be able to be among the crowd surrounding Jesus on the back of the Sea of Galilee to observe the calling of the first four disciples.

As we pursue our lives, may we realize as Jesus called Peter, Peter, James and John so many years ago, He is still calling those who choose to follow Him today.

As we are the recipients of the ministry they implemented in the first century, may we have as strong an impact through our calling until Jesus returns and Your adopted children are assembled to spend eternity in Your presence.

In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.


7. Answers to “Questions to Ponder”

A. The disciples had earlier met Jesus and had received complete endorsement from John the Baptist as the “Lamb of God”.  The had also listened to his teachings and were now ready to make the break from their professions to follow Jesus.

     B. The call to follow would mean a break with their earthly responsibilities to follow the divine call of God. The hired servants show they had prepared for this time and would not leave the business with Zebedee empty handed and bankrupt.

     C. The miracle ad greatly impressed Peter. It had brought home to him the power of God in Jesus on a personal basis.  With this awareness came the truth of his own existence and the unworthiness that is in us all.  This sense of weakness and sinfulness led peter to express this feeling the statement, “depart from me” as he felt he was not worthy to be in Jesus ‘company.

     D. James and John were the partners who came to help Peter and Andrew. They were in a different boat that the one of Jesus and had landed away from him.  They were mending the nets which had just been torn in the miraculous catch.



[1] Knowles, A. (2001). The Bible guide (1st Augsburg books ed., p. 476). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.

[2] Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1, pp. 296–300). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.