top of page


A Womanist Reflection on Matthew 4:18-22

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-22

These verses offer a glimpse into the moment Jesus invites the first disciples into his work. Jesus’ method of choosing ministry partners seems simple and strategic. For the kind of travel and evangelism he would be doing, it made sense to grab a few fishermen. He would be using the systems they already knew. Good fishermen would have the interpersonal skills needed for full-time ministry: an instinct for casting and catching, the attention to detail it would take to recognize when a net had been damaged and the patience to repair it, and of course, the readiness to leave a boat when it is time.

There are so many lessons to be drawn from these few verses, but as womanists, we ask of every text, where are the women? When women are left unnamed or are missing, we ask why. Was it because they were not involved? Were they not valued enough to be remembered in writing? Or were they intentionally excluded? What might they have said, done, or felt if they were present? While important questions to ask, I would suggest that the women aren’t absent from this particular story at all. They are the nets.

I used to imagine that the nets in this story were heavy and made of some thick, durable textile like hemp. I recently learned that the nets used to fish along the Sea of Galilee were likely not made of hemp but linen. A hemp net would have been much too abrasive and wounded the fish. Bad for business. Linen would have also been able to stretch and sway into shapes that hemp would never dare, able to gather much more. These nets would have been vast-up to 50 ft in diameter. They were round, emotionally flexible, and like many Black women, used to being used and torn for the sake of someone else’s strenuous work.

These nets deserve our attention. We have looked at the fishermen for so long, and it is true that they too were used. Fishing was not a family business but an industry controlled by the Roman Empire. It could be compared to Black folks picking cotton. These fishermen were overworked and surely underpaid. It is understandable that they would be so ready to leave a world of exploitation and enter into whatever a future with Jesus might bring. It is also true that in their pursuit of new life, they dropped their nets. Immediately. And so it is with many of us who have lived in cycles of service to others- in seasons that often end abruptly at the decision of another to pursue something or someone else.

These nets deserve our affirmation. Their work was vital. Without them, nothing was caught, and no one was fed. The economy of the first-century seaside villages would have completely collapsed. They deserve our reverence. They showed up and were fully present whenever called upon. They gave their time and their bodies for the sake of urgent, communal work. Their sacrifice was an act of love, but it tore them. And it tears us.

This story invites us into a moment of healing. This moment is for people of all genders who are choosing to mend. It is a moment to sit down beside ourselves. To trace our hands along the little wounds- the papercuts and microaggressions that have left us with perforated skin. A moment to soothe what is frayed and revive the regions that grief has taxed and overstretched. It is a time to think critically and be honest about who has used us for our abilities and who has dropped us. Have we dropped us?

If we read them closely, these verses remind us to stir up the gift of redemptive self-love and to call all of our power and agency back into our bodies. Not so that we can be better disciples or stronger for all the fish, but so that we can be well and whole and have the capacity to catch every good thing that is due to us.

photo by @harleyweir



photo by @jazzellamckeel

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
bottom of page