Why so many fishermen? It never occurred to me to think about that since everywhere Jesus went the place seemed to be crawling with them. In support of that observation, here is some interesting information about Galilee and fish.
There were many fishermen in Galilee. Josephus, who, for a time, was governor of Galilee, and who is the great historian of the Jews, tells us that in his day three hundred and thirty fishing boats sailed the waters of the lake. Ordinary people in Palestine seldom ate meat, probably not more than once a week. Fish was their staple diet. Usually the fish was salt because there was no means of transporting fresh fish. Fresh fish was one of the greatest of all delicacies in the great cities like Rome. The very names of the towns on the lakeside show how important the fishing business was. Bethsaida means House of Fish; Tarichaea means The Place of Salt Fish and it was there that the fish were preserved for export to Jerusalem and even to Rome itself. The salt fish industry was big business in Galilee.
There are also some very interesting observations about Jesus calling the disciples. I knew a lot of this but it is thought provoking to see these all listed here.
It is naturally of the greatest interest to study the men whom Jesus picked out as his first followers.
(i) We must notice what they were. They were simple folk… they were fishermen. That is to say, they were ordinary people… A man should never think so much of what he is as of what Jesus Christ can make of him.
(ii)We must notice what they were doing when Jesus called them. They were doing their day’s work, catching the fish, mending the nets… The man who lives in a world that is full of God cannot escape him.
(iii) We must notice how he called them. Jesus’ summons was, “Follow me!” It is not to be thought that on this day he stood before them for the first time. No doubt they had stood in the crowd and listened; no doubt they had stayed to talk long after the rest of the crowd had drifted away… He said, “Follow me!” It all began with a personal reaction to himself; it all began with that tug on the heart which begets the unshakable loyalty.
(iv) Lastly we must note what Jesus offered them. He offered them a task. He called them not to ease but to service… He called them to a task wherein they could win something for themselves only by giving their all to him and to others.
All excerpts in this post are from: The Gospel of Mark (The Daily Bible Series*, rev. ed.) by William Barclay.
* Not a Catholic source and one which can have a wonky theology at times, but Barclay was renowned for his authority on life in ancient times and that information is sound.