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Jersey folk meet Jesus

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. Mark 1: 16-20

For some weeks now a man has caused a huge awakening here in Jersey. He used to live in a poor area of St Helier. He’s still poor but he has the power to heal. That’s why he’s so popular.

It all started when an ascetic preacher rose up out of the blue (albeit from a religious family) and started to tell everyone to get right with Almighty God. His name was Jean Le Baptiste – a local man but a bit of a weirdo.

The amazing thing was that this Jean was heeded. It wasn’t only the locals who went out to Jean at the Five Mile Road to hear him. It was also the finance industry professionals – and the States employees - even the Territorial Army. They were all immersed by John in the sea because they wanted to show that they were deeply sorry for their sins. What an upheaval here in Jersey.

But the authorities have now locked up Jean Le Baptiste. What he said to folk was too close to the bone for one of Jersey’s most powerful leaders.

Together with my brother Andrew – we’re both fishermen operating out of Greve de Lecq – I’ve taken an interest in this Jesus. In fact all of my family – the De La Rocque family - are trying to make out who he really is.
‘A man’s Christianity may well be suspected when he is prepared to go to heaven alone.’ (J C Ryle, preacher, writer and cricketer, 1816-1900)

So are the members of the rather more successful Anquetil family – especially James and John Anquetil. Along with their father they’ve been transforming fishing into big business – for Jersey, that is. It’s reckoned they have to meet a pretty big weekly wage bill - by fishing the seas around Jersey.

By the way, there’s been one major “happening” to do with this Jesus. All four of us were there on the sands at La Pulente when Jesus joined the queue of those who were waiting to be immersed by Jean, those who were deeply sorry about their sins and wanted to be washed.

Apparently the two men are related – through their mothers. Jean clearly knew something about this man Jesus because, strange indeed, he said that he was totally beneath Jesus in every way – so far beneath Jean that, according to Jean, he wouldn’t even qualify to untie Jesus’ shoes.

But that’s not what was special when Jesus was at La Pulente. Jean asked Jesus to think again about being immersed alongside sinful Jersey folk. Jesus had to plead with Jean to allow that. Jesus wanted to do every good thing that had to be done so as to please Almighty God.

Jean relented; Jesus was immersed; a fantastic thing happened. The skies opened; something like a dove flew around; a voice from on high spoke loud and clear. None of the four of us can forget it. “This is my Son; my greatly loved; I’m very pleased with him.”

All this at La Pulente. A few days ago.

And today this Jesus has come down to Greve de Lecq when Andrew and I were about to go out to sea. This very day he’s asked us to follow him.....

Well, to be absolutely correct he didn’t ask. He quietly said to both of us, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” We’ve both done just that – followed him. And then, across the bay he’s done the same with the Anquetil brothers - the successful James and John. Their father was upset but he can just hire some more men to replace them.

Andrew and I intend to leave our old boat and tackle at Greve de Lecq for the time being.
‘It’s a great work to make people fit for the cemetery.’ (William Tiptaft, preacher, 1803-1864)

But all four of us are wondering what it might mean to be “fishers of men” instead of “fishermen”. It seems to us that, if men and women are in the sea they’re going to drown. They’re not in a good place.

It’ll be very rewarding – for them – if we are equipped by Jesus to fish them out of this awful sea. We shall see... The problem is that none of us can swim.
Simon De La Rocque

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