Summary: Call of Andrew, Peter, Jamess and John. Some emphasis on Andrew
Linda (from Pulpit with frustration) – Tim. Tim! It’s your turn. Don’t you think that you should be up here?
Tim (from first pew) – That’s OK. I can see from here.
Linda – But you’re supposed to be giving the sermon.
Tim – I thought that I’d just watch. Somebody else will do it. You did a good job last week.
Linda – But your name is on the bulletin and I’m not prepared. You’re the one who is supposed to answer the call this week.
When you are called, you are called. There is no getting around it.
Our text to day is about the beginning of Jesus ministry and his calling of the first disciples. It’s a fish story alright, but it is a great fish story.
I’m not much for fishing because I’m allergic to fish. Not only can’t I eat what I catch, but I can’t even take them off the hook without getting a rash. I did go fishing with my dad on occasion. He is a fly fisherman, but after I managed to hook my own ear we usually used lures and fished on a lake.
I did learn one great truth about fishing from my dad. You know the old adage – “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you give him an excuse to sit on a boat and drink beer for a lifetime.”
I found that there is a fine line between fishing and just standing around with a line in the water looking like an idiot. Mostly, I looked like an idiot.
Fishermen in Jesus day did use hooks on occasions. These hooks, usually made of bone, are not very efficient. They were used when one wanted to catch a small number of a specific kind of fish, because with a hook you can select a specific bait and fish at a specific depth.
There were two basic kinds of nets. One was something like a draw-string purse. A single person could throw this net from shore or from a boat and pull it in. As it was pulled, the net tightened, and fish might be caught.
The second kind of net was like a wide volleyball net with weights at the bottom. The net would be stretched between two or more boats and pulled together in a circle and then brought up.
Nets are not selective. They pull in all types of fish. Under Jewish ceremonial law, fish without scales could not be eaten, but they could still be caught and sold. Fishermen in the Sea of Galilee were generally fishing for tilapia, but if they caught eels or something else, they were allowed to sell their catch to gentiles.
Fishermen often used nets at night because that was when schools of fish came close to the surface.
Let’s get back to the story. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the call of his first disciples is in all of the gospels, and each adds its own details. I’ve tried to put the whole story together using all of the sources and filling in the blanks with my best guess. Here is what I think happened.
Jesus was living in Nazareth. He had not really begun his public ministry, but he must have already been teaching because from the beginning he is referred to as “Rabbi.”
We know that Jesus had an association with John the Baptist. Not only was Jesus baptized by John, but in the Gospel of John, Jesus is coming to see John on some other occasion and John says “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
There is someone else in our story that had an association with John. Andrew, the brother of Peter and one of the twelve, was a disciple of John and he was there when John made the announcement. Andrew even went and had a meal with Jesus.
One thing that I hadn’t really noticed before is that Jesus’ public ministry began exactly at the same time that John the Baptist was arrested. At John’s arrest, Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, where John had been preaching, and immediately began speaking to large crowds. It is reasonable to assume that those early crowds were composed mostly of John’s followers.
Imagine this scene. There are two boats working together with a drag net. On one boat is Peter and Andrew, and maybe one or two others. On the other boat we have James and John with their father, Zebedee. They have been fishing all night and have little to show for their efforts. There is nothing to sell. There will be little to eat tonight.
As morning dawns and they are heading for shore, they see a crowd of people gathered on the shore. A few weeks ago, that would not have been an unusual sight. John the Baptist had been preaching to exactly the same sort of crowds in exactly the same place. This time it seemed odd, because John had been arrested. They may have been wondering if the Baptist had been released.