Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. – Vs 19 (NASB)
I love the way The Message paraphrases this verse: "Jesus said to them, 'Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.'" This takes place at the very beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry. He has been baptized by John. He has be anointed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He has been tempted by Satan. Now He begins hand-picking those men into whose lives He would pour His wisdom and love for the next three years.
When He comes upon Peter and his brother, Andrew, fishing in the Sea of Galilee, Jesus issues them a command. He tells them to follow Him. Now, while I know that this was not uncommon for rabbis to do in that day, it still seems pretty bizarre thatcomplete stranger would walk up to you on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and command you to follow him. Not only that, this complete stranger tells Peter and Andrew that He is going to make them fishers of men. There is no way that this statement even makes sense to these two seasoned fishermen. What does Jesus mean when He says He will make them fishers of men? But what is amazing to me is that both of these guys dropped everything and followed Jesus. In fact, Matthew uses the term "immediately" to describe just how quickly they both responded. There is no indication that they hesitated, asked for time to think about it, or deliberated in any way whatsoever. No, it says immediately they left their nets and followed Him. They dropped everything. They left it all behind to follow a man they had never met. They walked away from their livelihood. They abandoned all that they had ever known to follow a complete stranger. Maybe they had been at His baptism and had heard the voice of God say, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."
Luke records a little bit more detail in his version of this occasion. He says that after Jesus was tempted He began teaching in the synagogues around Galilee and the surrounding district. On one such occasion He read from the book of Isaiah about the coming Messiah. He stopped at the end of His reading and said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." He was claiming to be the Messiah. Some of His statements infuriated the crowd so much that they attempted to throw Him off of a nearby cliff. But He escaped. He then spent time casting out demons and healing the sick. In fact, one of the sick people He healed was the mother-in-law of Peter. Luke then records that when Jesus came to Peter and Andrew by the Sea of Galilee, they had actually finished fishing and had not had a good day. They were cleaning their nets, ready to call it a day, when Jesus told them to "put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4). While this didn't make a lot of sense to Peter, he obeyed, and the result was a catch of fish so great that their boat began to sink from the weight. Peter and Andrew are blown away by this experience and Luke records that was then that Jesus calls them. Which explains why they "left everything and followed Him" (Luke 5:11).
Immediately after His exchange with Peter and Andrew, Jesus runs into James and John, fishing with their father Zebedee. He calls these two brothers as well and they immediately left their boat and their father and followed Him. These common fishermen were willing to leave everything behind, including family, to follow Jesus. They were willing to walk away from everything they had ever known, to leave their comfort zone, in order to follow a man they had never met before. This kind of commitment blows me away. It was costly. It was radical. And it makes me have to think about what I am willing to give up to follow Jesus. My following of Jesus rarely costs me anything. It is not risky and requires little in the way of commitment on my part. Following Christ for many of us is anything but radical and risky. When Jesus says, "Follow Me," He is asking us to leave everything else behind and to make Him the sole priority in our lives. It is not really an invitation, it is a command. He is telling us to follow Him, to learn from Him, to live like Him. Jesus is still calling men and women to follow Him today. But are we willing to lay down our nets and walk away from our commitments and out of our comfort zones to make Him our highest priority? Jesus gave Peter, Andrew, James, and John a new priority for their lives. What about you?
Father, I have answered the call to follow Jesus, but I sometimes do it with one eye looking back on what I have left behind. I try to keep one foot in the world and one foot in Your kingdom, and I know that is not the kind of commitment You are looking for. When You call, I want my response to be immediate and complete. I want to be willing to leave everything else behind and follow Your Son wherever He leads me to go. Thank You for continuing to call me to follow. Give me the strength to obey. Amen