At the start of Jesus’ public ministry he went down to the shore of Lake Galilee. There he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, as they were working fishermen. He said: ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Mk 1v17). Ever since then the fish has been used as a Christian symbol.
The Greek word for fish ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthus or ichthys) was the recognised sign of Christians. The ichthys is seen in 1st-century catacombs in Rome where Christians were able to bury their dead in secret, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ. They used the fish symbol to mark their meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. It is thought that when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. You might see the symbol as a car sticker to signal that the driver is a practising Christian.
The Greek capital letters ΙΧΘΥΣ may often added to the fish symbol as shorthand for some Christian truth. Each letter comes from the first letter of five Greek words:
Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ ‘Υιός, Σωτήρ
(sometimes written for ease of reading as Iēsous Christos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr).
The meaning is a neat summary of some key foundations of Christian faith:
Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou for “God’s”.
Upsilon (y) is the first letter of yios for “Son”.
Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr for “Savior”.
This is life-changing news as it is packed full of hope! The point is that through Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Saviour, we can be forgiven, we can know the living God, we can be part of a community connected to one another by faith in Jesus. His followers are to be fishers of men i.e. to join the family business of gathering people to live under the reign of King Jesus. For one day he will return to be our judge and to take his faithful people home to heaven.
This is what we explore together in our meetings especially on Sundays. This is what we hope you will come to investigate and delight in more and more. We have a special Harvest Festival service at the end of the month, which is an easy way into the life of the church. Why not make this term a time to make a fresh start with God?