As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—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.
A bunch of spiritually minded young men becoming disciples to some learned teacher or rabbi was a common enough happening in Jesus’ world. Usually it was the students who chose their teacher, thus they would listen to various rabbis before deciding which one to follow. The big difference here is that rather than the learner choosing their teacher, in the way that our young people apply to the college or university of their choice; here it is the rabbi doing the choosing.
Two pairs of brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John, catchers of fish. Jesus sees something in them, values them, sees a more vital and important future for them and suggests that they use their lives to catch people. The great missionary is seeing, calling and offering to lead and teach other missionaries.
Was this the first time they had seen each other? Did it all happen in a few spontaneous minutes? Or had these men already been listening to the new preacher? Had they been ‘pondering’ for a while? Had they already stood or sat in the listening crowd and heard something special in him? And as they listened, had he seen something a bit special in them, something particularly responsive and motivated? Had they already had some initial chats, had they already been drawn closer to him?
This might have been a one off ‘he saw them, they heard him’ call and response. Or it might have been the decisive ‘make your mind up’ call after a period of thinking and discussing. Some of us are, ‘yes, now’ quick decision people while others are ‘I have thought about this for a while, and am gradually following him’ people. The key point here is that Jesus calls and they drop their nets.
This is their first step on the path of discipleship, they are no longer considering, feeling and thinking about it. They are now mind made up, they have still got questions but they are committed and stepping out on the way. They are no longer just listening to Jesus, they are following him.
In our church we have lots of new attenders. They come, look around, feel welcomed, notice other people, listen and take part. Some leave after a while, others remain but are fairly uninvolved whilst others move into a deeper commitment. They are a bit like the initial crowds who gathered to listen to Jesus. This first step of coming and listening, of being part of the crowd is a wonderful first step. But that is all it is just a first step. These fishermen brothers of Simon and Andrew, James and John have taken a second step. They have stepped out of the crowd to become followers and disciples. In stepping forward they leave something behind, the nets are the part of their old life that are not going to figure in the new one.
Whoopy Goldberg in ‘Sister Act’ gets it just right:
‘Love him, I love him, I love him,
And where he goes I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow,
I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go,
There isn’t an ocean too deep,
There isn’t a mountain so high it can keep me away,
He is my destiny.’
Watching Jesus change the world is one thing, but following him and becoming like him while he does it and then going on to do it with him is quite another.
You are the world changer and life transformer.
Help me to step out,
To follow you,
To change one life,
To change one person’s world,
To change your world.