What does this analogy mean?
Is Jesus talking about these soon-to-be disciples catching men in the ocean? Don't be ridiculous.
The analogy Jesus uses regarding "I will make you fishers of men" is describing his request that they pass on his teachings to others - teaching them the Truth about our identity and relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is one of the main components of service to God. And this is what Jesus was doing in his preaching mission. Passing on the teachings of his own teacher, John the Baptist, and the rest of the prophets before him.
Yes, Jesus was not making his teachings up. He quoted David, Moses, Ezekiel and others in his teachings. Even Jesus' most important teaching - to love God - was quoted from Moses.
Now Jesus wanted his students to pass on those teachings. He wanted them to also carry forth the same teachings that he was carrying forth to others.
It is ironic that even with verses like this and many others, sectarian preachers will teach that only Jesus can teach, and only Jesus can save us. Yet Jesus himself was requesting that others take his message and also become teachers.
Not only will Peter and Andrew become teachers, but they teach to many thousands of people in their lifetimes - in effect, becoming proficient "fishers of men."
This point is very clear: Jesus clarified by his actions that each of us should accept a bona fide teacher - by his acceptance of John the Baptist (who himself was preaching and saving others) and Jesus' various requests to his students to learn under him and then turn around and become teachers to save others.
An ancient custom
This is the custom throughout the ancient times of the Old Testament, as well as among every bona fide religious teaching in human history. The path to God is through his messengers, who have themselves established a personal loving and serving relationship with God.
Jesus' statement again evidences the succession of discipleship that Jesus honored, which is honored throughout every religion that aims to bring people closer to God. Each of us has the capability of regaining our relationship with God. Therefore each of us also has the capability of helping others regain their relationship. Once we become a bona fide student of one who has a relationship with God, and we accomplish that goal of establishing our own relationship with God, we too become capable of being fishers of men and women.
Becoming a teacher is not reserved for those who have gone to a particular school or who have a particular degree. Helping others regain their relationship with God is not the responsibility of only those who have been given a divinity degree and a paid position within a church. Anyone can be empowered by the Supreme Being to represent God, as long that person has a loving relationship with the Supreme Being - which is typically accomplished through the introduction of someone who already has such a relationship.
Such an introduction comes with guidance and example. It is not that a relationship of God is artificial and can be created through mental speculation and emotional sentiment. God is a Person and if we want to come to know Him we must follow the path to Him that He gives us: This is why He sends His representative. To guide us back to Him.
Another interesting point about Jesus' statement is that there was no organizational or institutional regimen discussed in Jesus' request. It was simply these men following and learning under Jesus, after which they would become "fishers of men." There was no pomp and circumstance involved. No official bathing or dipping ceremony was required. It was quite simply Jesus taking on these students and teaching them the truth, after which they were to teach others.
We should note also that Jesus railed against the pharisees and sadducees repeatedly throughout his teachings. He illustrated in many ways that the established and paid ecclesiastical positions given by organizations did not impress him. Being a paid, official religious teacher had no authority as far as Jesus was concerned.
This is because real authority is given only by God Himself.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)