In Matthew chapter 4, we see that some of the disciples were fishermen. This is very significant. Also significant is when Jesus says, “Come after Me and I will make you fishers of men (v. 19).” He is basically saying, “I will show you how to save souls and win the hearts of men.” OK Jesus, how do we do it?
In Matthew chapter 4, we also see what the disciples were doing as fishermen. They were casting their nets into the sea and mending their nets (vs.18,21). What Jesus wanted to do was mend them into a net (discipling) and then cast them into the sea (whole inhabited earth). This is also what He wants to do with us.
We can see that we are like a net in the following verse.
Ecclesiastes 4:12- And while a man may prevail against the one, the two will withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
A cord is a single strand which becomes a net by knitting it with other strands. We are all strands that need to be knit. This can be a long and painful process. Jesus would know. He was trying to knit His disciples for over three years and even up until the day He left them, they were being difficult.
Perfecting By Mending
Jesus’ calling and perfecting the disciples was like mending a net. In fact, the same Greek word used for mending is also used for perfecting in 2 Corinthians 13:9,11.
For we rejoice whenever we are weak and you are powerful; this also we pray for, your perfecting.
Finally, brothers, rejoice, be perfected, be comforted, think the same thing, be at peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
The Recovery Version has a good note on the word “perfecting”.
Implying repairing, adjusting, putting in order again, mending; perfectly joining together, thoroughly equipping, well furnishing; thus, perfecting, completing, educating. The apostles prayed for the Corinthians that they might be restored, put in order again, and thoroughly equipped and edified to grow in life for the building up of the Body of Christ.
After these three and a half years, the disciples finally were mended and knit together into a net. The strengthening of this net is seen in these two passages at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and at the end.
Luke 5:6 – they enclosed a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear apart.
John 21:11 – Simon Peter therefore went up and hauled the net to the land full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples were not tightly knit, mended, and perfected and made a lot of mistakes. This is like the net tearing. After 3 ½ years of being under Jesus’ perfecting, they were ready to be sent out into the world. We see this in the following verses.
Luke 9:46 – And reasoning came in among them as to which of them was greatest.
Acts 2:14 – But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke forth to them.
Before Jesus perfected them, the disciples would quarrel and compete with each other instead of work together. After Jesus perfects them, they can stand together as Peter addresses a multitude of Jews, 3,000 of which get baptized. That’s quite a catch!
Now some final food for thought. Why does the Bible specifically mention that there were 153 fish in John 21:11 mentioned above? I have heard all kinds of mathematics used to quantify this number. My favorite answer is from the book Number in Scripture by E.W. Bullinger.
Amongst the multitudes who received direct blessing from Christ there are recorded exactly 153 special individual cases!
Here’s a link to the book if you want to look at all 153 cases and check out other numbers in the Bible.