Summary: We all are called to follow Jesus, will you?
"At Once - They Followed"
"And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him." This is the sort of text that preachers love, this piece of a story about the calling of Simon, Andrew. James and John. from the first chapter of Mark.
You may wonder why preachers should love a text like that. It’s lean, sparse, has virtually no detail, no dramatic coloring, no narrative subtlety.
And that’s why a preacher loves it. Because without detail, coloring, plot, there is so much empty space left for the creative preacher to fill. You know that they had to be more than Mark tells. Two fisherman. Jesus. Follow me. Case closed.
You think I am going to leave this text the way it is?
"It was a bright, cloudless day in Galilee. The waves gently lapped along the shore, surging in, drifting out. The midday sun was now arched in the heavens, casting down hot, bright rays upon the beach, warming the backs of the two brown fishermen as they worked, knee deep in the water, toiling over their nets..."
See? We’re off and running on a sermon about the romance of the fishing industry in Israel! Think what Mark could have done with a good course in creative writing.
"Suddenly one of them stands upright. He shades his eyes from the sun and looks toward the bank. There, a lone figure is silently watching them. The man on the bank cries out, ’Follow me and I...’"
Of course, we’re not interested in filling in more geographical details in Mark’s terse story of vocation. We want to know more about the psychological details. He tells us virtually nothing of Simon, Andrew, James, and John. There is no character development, no inferiority. What inner, psychological dynamics motivated them? What hierarchy of psychic need accounts for their response to Jesus? We wonder. Perhaps there was sibling rivalry between the brothers. Simon, Simon must have been older. Andrew always resented him. He was tired of being treated as the little brother, always being second. See, even Mark introduces him as "Andrew the brother of Simon." When Jesus spoke, the tragic differences between these two brothers were healed and ...
Yet there are limits to what even a creative preacher can do with this story. All of that about tensions within the family, could have been true. But isn’t it interesting that Mark appears to care less? In about 5 verse Mark disposes of an account of how four fishermen drop everything and follow Jesus on the basis of a less than a dozen-word invitation.
We don’t want to leave it at that. We fill in the blanks, speculate on motives, possible psychological dynamics, not necessarily because we are creative, but because we are inherently evasive. In our wildest imaginations, most of us cannot imagine that it is possible to leave everything and to follow on the basis of a simple invitation and promise. We are not simple, uncomplicated fishermen like Simon, Andrew James and John. We are complex educated people, people who have responsibilities, complications. We are not apt to drop everything and run off after some itinerant preacher who announces that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is now.
No - we are apt to have discussions. We will weigh all the possible options, do research, clarify our values. Call for a professional opinion. We will have therapy to be sure that we are not responding out of careful weighing of all the facts rather than out of our poor relationship with our parents or conflicts arising from sibling rivalry. We have spent too much years educating you to be rational, balanced, well-adjusted educated people to have you change the direction of your life on mere impulse.
And of course, once we spend all that time doing those things - Jesus has already moved on to another town. He may not come this way again; we missed him. But at least we have not behaved impulsively, made decisions out of our passions rather than from our reason. So we go back to the nets. Education, sophistication does that to people.
What if the calling of these disciples happened exactly the way Mark tells it? What if their following Jesus was an act of impulse, a decision of the moment, based on some mysterious act of passion without adequate information, without careful consideration of the alternatives? "And at once they left their nets and followed him .. And at once he called them and they left their father .. followed him."
Perhaps Mark is saying, in this terse account, that this is the way Jesus gets followed -- as an act of impulse, without all the facts, stumbling after an engaging figure whom we hardly even know, much less where he is going.