Art has an amazing quality to transcend the limitations of human communication. I was recently privileged to visit Dallas Baptist University’s campus and was touched by the numerous sculptures and paintings on the campus. One in particular was Jesus holding a fishing net with a saying written behind him that said, “will you follow me?” This struck me precisely because Jesus doesn’t ever ask in the Bible. He states, “Follow me!” Our Lord doesn’t ask, He simply says, “come on, let’s go!” (c.f. Mt. 4:19,8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 19:21, and that’s just Matthew.) A cursory reading of the Bible reveals that Jesus, in the Gospels, never asks people to follow Him.
The sculpture had Jesus holding a fishing net. Combined with the aforementioned question it was as if Jesus was saying to those passers by, “I’m going fishing whether you come or not.” It’s not so much a question as much as a statement. The question simply softens the challenge. You see, Jesus is working and we are invited to come along and join in the work! If we don’t go, He is still going.
Jesus was also not dressed to fish. If you look up any cultural studies of fishing in the first century you will see that men wore very little when they went fishing. They would be in a hot boat in the middle of a rather isolated area. So their clothing would fit for comfort. Probably no shirt, shorts (or that time periods equivalent, and foot ware that would not easily come off. However, the Jesus in the sculpture had on a complete robe. You know, just like you always envision Jesus. Two heavy looking robes and a belt around the first one to hold it closed. Now, in all honesty, there are probably some errors in our pictures of Jesus, not the least of which is His overwhelmingly Germanic appearance. But this is neither here nor there. So, Jesus is fully dressed. While He is going fishing, His work is completely contrary to what you know. The implied invitation is that you will join Him on a journey that may not completely make since to you. Jesus is going fishing in a way that does not fit your logic! You probably will want to tell Jesus that He is not dressed appropriately for fishing, or He’s not fishing in the right place, or the boat is not cool enough to get fish to come to it, but good luck getting Him to listen! Peter tried that once remember!? (Luke 5:1-11) Peter argues with Jesus, saying, “we toiled all night and took nothing!” Remember? Peter had a design for how fishing was to be done and Jesus contradicted that design. What saves Peter is the phrase that follows the objection, “But at your word, I will let down the nets.” Peter may think he knows a better way, but he still obeys. Which is funny, because Jesus was right not Peter. Maybe we ought to learn from Peter here?
Finally, the net in Jesus’ hand is wound up in His hands. He is prepared to go fishing, but you will not see the net unfurled until you go with Him. Jesus is going fishing… are you going with Him?