The story how Jesus called his first disciples along the shore of the Sea of Galilee is always inspiring and heart touching. Peter and Andrew, James and John were fishermen by trade. It was obviously their “family business”.
No doubt they must have heard of Jesus and were also exposed to John the Baptist’s message about God’s Kingdom. There seemed to be a readiness in their hearts when Jesus called them “Come, follow me.” All four were called by Jesus in the very moment doing their very own business either “casting a net into the lake” or “mending their nets with their father in their boat.” They all quitted what they were doing and left their loved one behind.
What changed them so radically and decisively, forsaking their adopted career for a new one that they could hardly even imagine what it was going to be like. What attracted them? What motivated them? First, in the region where they lived, a fresh air was blowing in the atmosphere. It was a time of exciting transition. John the Baptist already marshaled great attention. But Jesus began to be yet a far brighter rising star. Both differed from the dead orthodoxy and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the teachers of the law and the priest. Both proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” with power and audacity. The two pairs of brothers must have already been dwelling on and thinking: “What is happening? Who is this Jesus? He is so utterly different and how great it is to be his disciple?” The personal call from Jesus to them was clear, direct and authoritative like the summon from a king that they simply could not resist. The assurance that Jesus will make them fishers of men was so powerful but in a language so at home to their career except raising it to a totally new level: they will be fishers of men and not fishermen! The difference is too great to be ignored or discounted. Serious calling demands serious response. And they did.
When I was young I was told a story about a little monkey who happened to place its hand into a jar with a narrow neck and half filled with candies. The monkey’s hand was small enough to manage through the narrow neck but was unable to be pulled out when it was grasping a full handful of candies!
How can the monkey be made free from the bottle? It is to offer something better than the candies – a banana. As he let go of the candies, the hand immediately became small enough to be pulled free!
Perhaps we are all little monkeys holding onto something we consider as most important and valuable. Like monkeys we are trapped by what we love most. Unfortunately our love and imaginations are frequently entrapped by things of lesser importance and little eternal value. Jesus is calling us to follow him and he will make us fishers of men. It does not necessarily mean that we must all quit our job and become a career missionary. Jesus is calling us to surrender ourselves unconditionally and follow him, letting him be our lord and king in our lives regardless what career path it may be. As we love God with all our hearts, minds, strengths and others as ourselves, he will empower us to be effective fishers of men!
This Sunday we will listen more from Pastor Paul Bates on the same passage.
Your servant in Christ, Thomas