Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Last week we talked about some of the difficulty of hearing God’s call. This week, it’s pretty obvious–when Jesus walks by on the beach and calls you out of your fishing boat it’s hard not to notice!
But on the other hand, it might not make any sense. Here’s some background:
in Jesus’ day, there was a sequential education system for Jewish boys. Young boys would go to learn the Torah (they’d memorize all of it–the first five books of the Bible!). When they’re about 10 or so, they’d interview with a rabbi who would either take them on as a student in the next level or tell them to go apprentice with their father instead. Of those who stayed on with their education, they’d memorize more (the historical books, probably the prophets too). At around 13, they’d apply and interview with a rabbi, and if the rabbi thought the kid was good enough, smart enough, and had enough potential, he would say “come, follow me.” If not, the kid would go learn the family business. A rabbi would only call you to follow him if he thought you had what it takes to learn to be like him. To follow, to be a disciple, means to do what your rabbi does, means to devote your life to following him with your body, your mind, your heart and soul. The vast majority of kids didn’t make it to that level–they went home to learn from their dads and to eventually become carpenters or potters or fishermen.
Simon and Andrew and James and John are fishing…some with their father, even. they are not following a rabbi, they are not sitting in the synagogue learning, they’re learning and plying the family trade. And here comes this rabbi who says, “Come, follow me.”
You would think these guys, who hadn’t made the cut, who didn’t get asked by another rabbi, would probably have thought “what? is he talking to me???” and would look around, confused and wondering who else was out there that Jesus could be talking to. When they realize it’s them, they leave everything and follow him. Jesus has just told them that he believes they have the potential to do what he does, to be like him, to learn and follow and be committed. If someone believed in you that much, would you leave your dad in the boat and follow?
Why does Jesus need disciples anyway? Why does he call people to come and learn and to be like him, to do what he does?
Well, every good minister needs a team, right? God created us to be in community, and Jesus was no different. He needed a community to help him discern, to bounce ideas off of, to learn and grow with, to teach, to be friends. We can’t do much without the help of our friends.
So here we have Jesus building his team–calling people, ordinary people, people who hadn’t made the cut by the world’s standards–and telling them that he believes in them, that they can be like him.
Have you ever heard this call? Have you ever wondered what God might want you to do? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to follow Jesus, to try to be like him? Remember: God equips the called…and the called are often the most unlikely of people.
Thinking about this story, and the background you know, and your experience with Jesus’ call, what else comes to mind for you? Are you reminded of any other stories (biblical or fictional, movies or novels or even children’s books)? Is any music running through your head?
What do you think is the good news in this text? What is the challenge? How might we express this good news and this challenge in our time and place?