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For Your Weekend: Cast Your Net Wider

Lisa Brenninkmeyer
January 20, 2024

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 1:14-20

I believe in throwing the doors open wide. In fact, I once started a Bible study and then quit it because the group members wanted it to be a closed group, and I felt strongly that there should always be an open seat for someone new. Looking back, it seems a bit heavy-handed on my part, but it’s hardwired in me that we are meant to include, extend the invitation, put another leaf in the table, and make room in our hearts for one more. Perhaps that’s why this Sunday’s gospel is one of my favorites.

In Mark 1:14-20, we witness Jesus preaching the gospel and calling the first disciples. The call is simple: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Jesus had been observing Peter and Andrew casting their nets in the sea, and He challenged them to cast their nets wider into a sea of humanity who desperately needed to be caught up in the love of God. They had contented themselves with casting their nets in their comfort zone. Following Jesus would mean putting themselves out there with people who might reject them. It would result in being misunderstood. Ultimately, it would cost them their lives. Yet they followed. What was so compelling about Jesus that they were willing to do this? 

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t explain, but Luke 5 reveals that a miracle played a part in their leap of faith. The night before Jesus called Peter and Simon, they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. No doubt they were tired and discouraged. Jesus met them in that place of need and challenged them to try once more. 

Duc in altum! Put out into the deep! (Luke 5:4) 

The result? Fish filled their nets to the point of overflowing. There was no question that Jesus had done it. Jesus started by seeing what their pain point was and met them in that place of need. It was so like Him—He always saw individual people, not just a crowd. Whether it was the hemorrhaging woman reaching out to touch His cloak, Zacchaeus up in the tree, or the paralyzed man by the pool of Bethsaida, Jesus noticed the details of people’s lives and what it was that they needed most.

The call to follow Jesus and become fishers of men is issued to each of us. This isn’t just the job of the clergy, the professionals, or the extroverted. Each one of us is called. If we say yes, what should our first step be? Our starting point should be the same one that Jesus started with—the details of people’s lives and their needs. 

We don’t start with information (this is what you should believe!).
We don’t start with criticism (this is how you should behave!).
We start with our eyes on a person’s pain point.
We ask God to break our hearts with what breaks His. 

I think this is an essential prayer because we live at a time when our own self-absorption is just off the charts. I know that we live in a broken world, and I am personally experiencing far more of that brokenness than I’d like. But so many of us are literally paralyzed with worry about ourselves. Never has there been so much focus on self-protection and self-love. And while I believe that healthy boundaries are important, that our own needs matter, and genuine anxiety is real and not to be downplayed, I also believe that many of us have over-corrected. 

I read this call of the disciples, and I see Christians being called to step out, go beyond ourselves, and step into the lives of the afflicted. Doing this requires us to take our eyes off ourselves, even when we are in pain, and focus our attention on others. It’s time to leave our cocoons of self-protection to help others, even when we feel we deserve to be left alone. 

Not only is this needed if we are going to answer the call to follow Jesus and share the gospel, but I also believe it is critical to our own healing. At least, this has been the case in my own life. The most consistent way I have experienced being lifted out of deep discouragement is by stepping outside myself to focus on someone else. In this past year, I have experienced the death of close family members, radical difficulty in family relationships, and failure in areas where I’d previously been confident. My heart has been wearied, and I know so many of you can relate. There have been many reasons to say no, isolate, and numb out, but I have felt God compelling me to resist that. 

How I wish I could introduce you to the wonderful people I have come to love this year because I threw the net wider when I really wanted to crawl underneath it and watch Netflix. My life has been so enriched by these beautiful souls who have taught me how deeply satisfying it is to come to know the pain, the beauty, and the complexity of another person. They have not been projects. They are not a fish on my line. They aren’t notches in my belt. They are how God has begun to heal my broken heart.

What might change if we answered the call to see each other in our brokenness, to help each other by doing small things with great love, and to step out into the deep of another’s pain? Could it be that hope would start to grow exponentially? Might hope blossom into faith as the experience of human love makes divine love seem possible? This is how I see the kingdom of God growing—the game-changing power of one little act of love at a time.

With you on the journey,

Food for thought or journaling…

With which person or in which area of life am I tempted to self-protect instead of extravagantly love? God, where are You calling me to cast my net a little wider?

Dear Lord, help me to move past self-protection and self-care to a place of selflessness. Give me eyes to notice the needs of others. Break my heart with what breaks Yours. Amen.

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