So, Pokemon Go has infected my household and sent my daughter running off to find a copy of her Pokedex and launched my wife into a never ending quest to find and catch these Pokemon wherever they may be found. Which it turns out is just about everywhere, including the grocery store, the library, the post office, and all through our neighborhood. I am a little disturbed at the amount of Poke rats that are in the meat department of my local supermarket, but don’t worry, we caught them too. And from the myriad of cars I catch following me around at low speeds to the exact same locations around town, it seems we are not alone in our pursuit. If none of that made sense to you, then you are one of the last remaining normal people on earth. Hold on, I think I just saw a Bulbasaur… I’ll be right back.
For those who have not yet partaken, the game requires the player to physically travel to locations in the real world to collect virtual items which in turn makes collecting Pokemon easier. These virtual Pokemon also exist in select locations in the real world, and it is through traveling from place to place searching for them, catching them, and upgrading them that the game is experienced. Who would have thought that here, in 2016, a free-to-play Pokemon app would infect the populace and bring all of us back to our youth, as millions and millions of participants are remembering long-forgotten names of these virtual monsters and re-creating the phenomenon that seemed to have already reached its peak? And more interestingly, thanks to the locations marked within the application as “PokeCenters” that these “Pokemon trainers” would be led through the app to not only local monuments and historical sites in the real world, but also local places of worship that they may not have even have known existed. That’s right, through the Hand of Providence your local church and mine have been marked as either centers for virtual supplies or in many cases gyms where battles for control of the turf occur throughout the day and late into the night.
I could not speak for whether the makers of this game had the intent of sending gamers worldwide to find all of the churches in their area, although if they did that is truly awesome. But God has His hands in all things, and this is yet another instance of God using an unlikely source to draw people towards Him. I know that may be hard to believe for many, but after reading about God speaking through a donkey (Numbers 22), sending a giant fish to eat a wayward prophet alive and regurgitate him (Jonah 1-2), and afflicting an entire city with hemorrhoids just to free the ark of the covenant (1 Sam 5) I do not place any method beyond His choosing.
In Luke 5:1-11 we have the very familiar story of Jesus calling Peter to follow Him, which is mirrored in Matt 4:18-20 complete with the famous “fishers of men” phrase. But it is here in Luke that we get a very interesting start to this relationship between Jesus, Peter, and fishing. Jesus was using Peter’s boat as a platform to preach from so the crowds could see and hear Him from multiple directions. Once His sermon had been completed, He instructed Peter to launch the boat into the deep water for a fishing run. Peter had already decided to call it a night and an unproductive one at that, but he decided to humor the preacher man and cast his nets out anyway. And lo and behold the nets were filled with fish to the point of ripping, Peter literally has his “come to Jesus” moment, and a miraculously large catch of fish is brought to the shore. In and of itself this paints a pretty portrait of Jesus’s power over the sea and makes for a rather compelling “This is how I found Jesus” testimony, but there is more to this than what lies at the surface.
To catch the true significance of this you need to find the bookend to this story located in John 21, where we find Peter and some of the disciples embarking on their first fishing trip since meeting Jesus and choosing to follow Him. Jesus has died, returned to life, and made two appearances since His resurrection, but He doesn’t seem to stay anywhere for too long at this point. So Peter decides to go fishing. Once again they are unsuccessful in landing any fish, and to be honest I’m starting to think Peter was much better served with his career change because his track record with fishing was a little spotty. It is at this point the Jesus appears, calls to them from the shore, and directs them on where to find a catch of fish, and upon dropping their nets they land another miraculous haul of fish. So now for the thread that ties it all together… The first time Jesus performed this miracle He gave Peter the offer to join Him and fish for men. The second time, as Jesus sat on the beach and shared breakfast with Peter, He asked Peter three times to tend to and feed his sheep. Jesus has no problem showing us where the fish are, and He can even make them jump into our net. The question is what will we DO with them once He brings them to us.
God is using this to bring more fish to us then we could have ever imagined, more than our nets have ever held before. This is an opportunity for crusades, tent meetings, and out-reaches that will span all walks of life. So will we answer the call that bookended Jesus’s earthly teachings to Peter? To fish for the souls of mankind, and to feed them His Word when He brings them to us?
You may not understand or care for Pokemon, and that’s okay. You may have a belief that this is not worthy of the time spent on it or perhaps believe that it supports things you are against, which is also fine. But we cannot deny that we now have an opportunity as fishers of men to catch them all, and thanks to this game app we aren’t even needing to go out into the world to fulfill the great commission. They are literally being led to us. And for some, we are fishers of men, lowering our nets and bringing them in. For others, they may be lost or wandering sheep from His flock looking to be fed and we are here to provide that which they are looking for. Either way, the opportunity to reach this generation with the Good News has just been loaded into our nets, and it is up to each of us to use this as an opportunity to share more than just tips on where to find a Pikachu. Come for the Pokeballs, stay for the fellowship and testimony of those who understand what it means to search for someone truly legendary. Time to catch them all!