The Lord Jesus was just beginning His earthly ministry. Matthew 3 ended with His baptism and His Father’s approval, emphasized with the declaration: “THIS is my beloved Son, in whom I am WELL pleased.” Our chapter begins with the battle between Jesus and Satan – “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” There is some important information which is often overlooked in this verse. It was the Holy Spirit who led the Lord Jesus into the wilderness “in order to be tempted of the Devil.” This conflict between our Saviour and Satan was set up by God – not simply by the devil. The devil cannot do anything without the tacit permission of the Sovereign God. And James tells us that God never tempts anyone to sin, but He does put us in situations where temptation may arise. He does so to test us, and – as it was in Jesus’ case – to teach others. “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” At the end of those forty days and after those fierce satanic attacks, Jesus was famished and weakened. I will come back to that in a moment. Finally, after being refreshed, Christ began gathering the first disciples in preparation for the building of His church.

This evening I’d like to take one of the casual comments out of its context in order to draw a practical lesson. After establishing a new home base in Capernaum, the Lord Jesus was walking along the nearby shore with the purpose of meeting Simon Peter and his brother Andrew – who were fishing at the time. It might have been from a pier or from the shore, but they were vigorously throwing a net out into the water. All these men had met Jesus earlier, so they weren’t surprised when Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Christ.

Then the Master and his first two disciples walked a short way down the beach to where Christ intended to call two other brothers – James and John – to join them. They were with their father, Zebedee, in a little fishing boat not far from the shore. But rather than actually fishing they were mending their nets. They were probably stitching up holes in the nets and hanging the repaired sections in the water to keep them from tangling as they continued to work. Then Jesus “called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”

Now back to my few thought for this evening – James and John were mending their nets.

The lives and the livelihoods of the these four fishermen required the use of nets.

There were three primary fish species in the “Sea of Galilee,” which was also called “Tiberias” and “Genessaret.” None of those Galilean fish grew to ten or twelve pounds, so angling was not a viable or profitable option. These fishermen made their living, using nets to catch two types of talapia and a fresh-water, sardine-like fish. When they were fishing, especially for the sardines, well-made, closely woven nets were essential. Even when they were trying to bring home the larger species, they needed good nets for larger numbers. Your probably remember that on another occasion, their catch was so plentiful, by the grace of God, their nets were at the point of breaking. What if they had been using weakened nets that day? The maintenance of their nets was absolutely necessary to feeding their families and providing a living. On the day when Jesus called them, James and John were in the process of mending them.

A moment ago, I pointed out that after Jesus’ forty days of fasting and four Satanic temptations, angels came to minister to Him. I don’t know if He NEEDED the care of those angels, but I do know that WE need care and maintenance. Life is hard, as we all know, and sometimes it is harder than at other times. There are those periodic forty days of temptation – or pain – or privation and the worry that attends it. In some cases is it forty months, and I know some people who suffer real hardship forty years and more. The sticks and logs in the water around us can rip holes in our lives – and in our attitudes and spirit. Even in the successful completion of the things which we need to do, our nets gradually wear out. Getting tired, we may also get grumpy, which is not a Christian attribute. We can get “hangry,” when we aren’t catching and eating enough fish. Just from the grind of living day to day, we may become curt, sharp-tongued and unintentionally abusive. The tiny cuts and scratches of life can seem to blend together to become one single calamity. We might even want to give up entirely. Our nets definitely need maintenance.

I’m not a great fisherman. I’ve caught a few in my lifetime, but it has been quite a while. In the process of trying to fish, I have made lots of mistakes. For example, I have gotten my hook or fly tangled in the weeds along the edge of the lake or creek. I’ve lost lures and hooks on debris. I may have even snagged a tree limb or two, but I’m not admitting to it. I’ve gotten stabbed by the barbs of the hook. Even though I haven’t put a fly in my ear or arm while trying to cast, I’ve seen it done and I’ve worried about it myself. You could say that every time I had to put a new hook on my line because I lost the first one, I was repairing my net.

Sometimes the fisherman is his own worst enemy. Sometimes the fisherman tears his own net. Isn’t Peter an example of that? “I will never forsake you Lord.” “Hey, I am not one of HIS disciples.” Peter’s sword on the night of Jesus’ arrest, not only cut off a man’s ear, but it cut a big slice in Peter’s spiritual testimony and his net. For periods in his very productive life, it seemed that Peter was mending his net more than he was throwing it out and pulling in fish. And we can get like that ourselves.

As disciples, we’ve been called to be fishers of men, but in the act of throwing out our nets, we can throw out our backs as well. In obeying the leadership of the Holy Spirit we may end up in the wilderness with all the thorns, scorpions and a few rattle snakes. We’d love to stay on the mountain top, or minister among the Lord’s sheep in nice green pastures. But that may not be the Lord’s will. Sometimes we need to be out on a very dangerous stormy sea, because that is where the fish are.

I wonder if Philip got tired – or perhaps a little cranky – half way down the road from Samaria to Gaza, following the command of the Lord? Elijah certainly got that way. Elijah’s net needed some major mending. Paul gives us a wonderful testimony of dealing with a thorn in his flesh – a gift from God. But do you suppose that he was always, one hundred percent, pleased to “glory in his infirmities, that the power of Christ could rest upon him?” Was he ever tempted to complain as he stuck his hand through a big hole that had been ripped in his life? I am inclined to think that from time to time Paul was one of us. He was not a superman or demigod. I am reasonably sure that from time to time, he had to stop and mend his nets, like the rest of us.

What am I talking about? What is this business of net-mending?

And how should we go about mending these nets of ours? Maybe we can answer that by looking at these four fisher men. How did Simon and Andrew learn their fishing trade, and how did they learn to mend their nets?

I have watched a few episodes of the TV reality show “Alone,” where experts try to live off the land with only a few basic tools. Among many other things, in an effort to survive, I have seen several of them taking special thread they had brought, or yarn taken from their then way-too-large sweaters, weaving them into fishing nets. If it was me, I wouldn’t know where to start. How did James and John learn to mend their nets? Undoubtedly they learned from their father Zebedee. They learned all about the fishing trade by hanging around other experienced fishermen.

I really wish that I knew the story of John’s father, Zebedee. Despite being identified by name eleven times in the Bible, we have no details about his life – or his death. I have no doubt but that there would be lessons for us in a look at his life. He apparently was somewhat well-known, which is one reason we have his name. But was he a child of God? Will we meet him in heaven? I don’t know. However until I am told something else, I will assume that John and James learned to fish from their father.

And how can we learn to fish? From whom will we learn to mend our nets? It is not by watching the TV reality show “Alone.” The editors of that show don’t give us enough detail or enough video to help us learn. We might learn how to fish by studying the book called, “The Fisherman’s Bible.” Yes, there is such a thing, but I don’t think I ever owned a copy. But I do remember a short period in my life, when some of my church members were big game hunters. And I got a copy of “The Hunters Bible.” I was so excited about hunting that I almost memorized that book. Books may be one way of learning. Or today it might be watching Youtube videos about fishing and net repair.

But I am talking primarily about life, and especially about the spiritual life. And for that there is another Bible – THE “book” – the book of God. In it are all the lessons and illustrations we need to be the Christians God meant us to be. We need the Word of God. We need the Bible, not just in sermon notes and outlines, but in the daily immersion of our souls in the revelation which the Lord has given to us. As Christians who care about the fabric of our lives, we need to be enveloped and infilled with God’s Word. You might say that the Bible is the sweater from which we take the thread with which to fix our nets.

And you might also say that the Holy Spirit is the needle we need to take that thread into the needy area. I won’t say that it is pointless, but it is nearly pointless to read the Bible without the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Remember, the things of God are spiritually discerned. We need God Himself to teach us God’s Word. So when we pick up our Bibles for our morning devotions, or when we need a special blessed word, and even when we come to the house of God, we need to beseech the Lord to guide our fingers as well as our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the needle which directs the Word, and we need to pray for surrender to His direction.

But in addition to these things, we need also to sit down with Zebedee and watch him mend his net. We need to study his hands and fingers; we need to pick up his tools, experiencing what they can do. In other words, in the preparation for mending our nets, spending time with other saints is beneficial. We need their counsel; we need their instruction; we need their example; we need their companionship. Sometimes our Zebedee can do some of the repair, but more often than not, we must do the work on our own nets. But, O, how helpful it is to have him watching and encouraging.

It is a fact, proven over and over again, that solitary saints, rarely prosper spiritually. God created churches to accomplish several things, concluding with world evangelism. But before we get to that point, God has given us, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” – Ephesians 4. In other words, the Lord has ordained churches, and the mature saints in those churches, to help us in the net-mending we all need from time to time.

I believe that the Holy Spirit planted our church here in Post Falls to give each of us Zebedees to mentor us and encourage us to be well-prepared fishers of men. Remember, fishing for men is one of the primary reasons the Lord has called us. The Lord Jesus has said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” But we are not going to be successful fishers, if our nets are torn, our hooks are dull, and when we cast without joy, vigor and expectation. It should be our prayer tonight: “Lord, mend me. Lord, show me how to mend my nets.”