Summary: What does the call of Jesus mean to us today, as opposed to what it meant to the first disciples.
Matthew tells us that Jesus, walking along the shoreline one day, happens on Peter and Andrew and tells them to; "come follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men." Then a short while later he comes upon John and James his brother, and calls them to follow him. In both instances they do so, they just get up and leave their business and their families to follow this rabbi.
Now, that seems to be a strange thing, I know that in this day we would not do that sort of thing. We want to know all about this person before we will consent to listen to him, much less become a follower of his. So what does it mean? This story of Matthew, that has the disciples just getting up as though hypnotized by Jesus and leaving everything.
Of course there is more to this story than meets the eye. If we look at the gospel of John we find out that these men knew Jesus and had spent some time with him. John 1:35-42 tells the story of Andrew meeting Jesus first, spending the day with him then telling Peter about him. Then bringing Peter to meet Jesus as well. These men were familiar with him because they had heard him preach and teach, they knew him as Rabbi, "Teacher" they had even been to his house and so knew him and, at least Andrew, thought of him as "Messiah." When they began to follow Jesus, it was because of who they thought him to be. Still the question remains - so what does it mean?
How does this story affect you and I today, what does it mean for us? We hear a lot about people having the right to choose, about people being free to pursue their dreams and aspirations. We also see what some of these choices have lead to. We see the choices that some folks make with this freedom to choose, we read the stories in our newspapers, we see them on our TV screens. Yet, it is true that people do have the right to choose, to get up from the life they are living and begin to follow a new path, that was what these men did.
When we look at the lives these folks led, and the new life that Jesus had called them to lead, you find a whole new set of principles involved in the way they lived everyday. One thing of importance is that they were now thrust into a learning environment. Disciples were the students of the Rabbi, so they were in school, you might say, seminary, learning about God and what it was that God expected from those who claimed to be His people. They went where Jesus went and listened to him preach and teach. Then asked questions, and discussed what they saw and heard.
I have to say that they would probably not be accepted into any college in our land today, they didn’t have the right credentials. However, God isn’t in the same business, He is in the soul saving business, Jesus knew these first disciples better than they knew themselves. He knew that they were hungry to learn and would make the nucleus for the church that was to be built. I sometimes wonder what James, John, Peter and Andrew would think were they to show up today in one of our churches. I wonder what the church would think of James and John, Sons of Thunder, or better yet, Jesus.
Think about it, these men were nothing like we expect our pastors to be today. We want men and women who never raise their voices in anger, who run to take care of our every need and who will preach and teach in the manner we want them to do. When I read the history of the early church and then look at what we have become, I am appalled. They went about the countryside, preaching and teaching what Jesus had taught them. They were the radicals of their day. Don’t forget that one of the complaints made about Jesus was that he ate with sinners, that he didn’t follow the rules, didn’t even wash his hands before he ate.
I read of the early church councils, where they came up with things like the Nicene Creed. These were gatherings of learned men, these were the fathers of the church of today. They were sometimes free for all’s, where bones were broken, noses bloodied. Such was the passion of these men for the gospel and for the kingdom. Where is the passion today? Where is the fire of the Holy Spirit?
These early followers of the man called Jesus, would learn and grow in grace, and yet were still men of passion. As we read these stories we need to see the rest of the story. It is nice to read the portions for each week, but it is better to read the context of what was happening. None of the things that happened to the disciples and to Jesus, were isolated incidents. Everything that happened did so in the context of living their lives, of moving about the countryside, and yes of getting in the way of the established mores of the day in which they lived. Do you think that the things we see around us today are that different from what these men and women were aware of in their day and time? There were many different religious belief systems in their day, including worship of the emperor as a god.