Summary: Our role as disciples of Christ requires that we leave everything behind and put Christ first in our lives. It is easy for us to practice Christian discipleship when it is convenient for us, but Christ calls us to much more.
I want us to get a sense of the experience of these fishermen on the day Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and summoned them to follow him. So we are going to take a minute and use our imaginations. So, however you use your imagination best, prepare yourself to do that now; whether it’s closing your eyes, or looking out the windows, or whatever, get yourself in that mindset for a moment, and imagine with me…
It’s a normal day. You said goodbye to your family after breakfast and headed out the door for what you expected to be a typical workday. Maybe things are extra busy, but you’re doing what you’re paid to do; whether it’s teaching, or doctoring, or selling, or accounting, or whatever. You might even be looking forward to collecting your paycheck at the end of the day; perhaps you have a little something special in mind for your family, dinner and a movie or a brief weekend getaway. In any case, as you work away, you hardly notice the stranger walking by. Until you hear him call out, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to work for people.” What are you feeling? Do you look at this stranger with astonishment? Do you wonder what he’s doing and if he’s even talking to you? Then he looks you straight in the eye and says it again, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to work for people.”
That’s it. You stop what your doing, put down your work, and walk away to follow this person who has just unexpectedly stepped into your life. And you don’t turn back. You don’t give another thought to that paycheck. You don’t instruct the stranger to wait while you go and say farewell to your family. Nothing. You walk away to begin a new life, and you know there is no looking back. This is it.
Can you imagine ever doing such a thing? It would be nearly impossible for us to just walk away from our lives today. There’s too much at stake; too many people depend on us. And that’s without even taking into consideration the “stranger danger.” We are suspicious of every stranger to at least some degree. We would no more take to giving up our livelihood and following a stranger than we would swallow a big gulp of antifreeze.
And yet, that’s exactly what those first disciples did. In a single day, Jesus took a walk along the Sea of Galilee and recruited four followers. These were men who had awakened that morning with no idea that the day would hold anything unusual. They ate breakfast in their homes, said farewell to their families, and walked out the door, fully expecting to join them again with a few fish for dinner that night. But then this guy comes along…
You know, in the time of Jesus, fish was a major staple of the Middle Eastern diet. The great Jewish historian, Josephus, reported that on any given day, there were around 330 boats fishing on the Sea of Galilee. And the Sea of Galilee isn’t that large at about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. Compare that to Chickamauga Lake, which is about the same size in square miles, but is 59 miles long. In any case, 330 boats fishing in the Sea of Galilee would be a lot, roughly 5 or 6 boats in every square mile. And the shoreline would be equally busy as people processed the fish that the fishermen were bringing in, salting them, and preparing them to send out across the area, and even the whole of the Roman Empire. It’s hard to imagine that a single man walking along the shore would attract much attention, and yet somehow, Jesus grabbed the hearts of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And as a result, their lives were changed forever.
What these four men left behind was no less significant than what we would leave behind if Jesus came and called us to a new way of life today. They left behind their families and their livelihoods. This is really significant. Why would they make such a spur of the moment decision to walk away from their security, from everything they had ever known?
I think the first answer to that question is offered to us in the beginning of the passage we heard read earlier. “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” Think of what we know about the good news that Jesus Christ brings. This good news is truth, hope, peace, promise, eternal life, and salvation. Jesus is telling about a new reality that is the way to life, not death. It really is, in so many ways, what we all long for the most. This is the good news that can only come in Christ, telling the story of a God who is always more ready to give than we are to ask.