Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee,
[Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea,
for they were fishermen.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother,
who were in their boat mending the nets.
And immediately he called them,
and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him (Mark 1:16-20).
Lest we think Mark’s report about Jesus’ call pertains only to those four fishermen, listen to what the apostle Paul wrote to the church . . .
” . . . God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved,
through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
To this he called you through our gospel . . . ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13.14).
God called these Thessalonians through the gospel. When they heard Paul preach the good news of Jesus Christ, God was present calling them. Not surprisingly, then, the apostles often referred to the church as a called people (Romans1:6; 1 Corinthians. 1:2; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 1:18; 1 Peter. 1:15; 2:9; Jude 1:1). A strong implication this is also true of us. Through the gospel we heard or read the Lord was calling us: “Follow me”.
What extraordinary life changes come from answering Jesus’ call?
WE LEAVE CONTROL OF OUR LIVES BEHIND. Peter and Andrew had to leave their nets. James and John had to leave their father in the boat. Fishing and following wouldn’t mix. But they left more than fishing; they left control of their lives behind. They surrendered to Jesus’ lordship.
Lots of fishing in Florida. If that’s your thing, take heart. Jesus doesn’t call us to put our poles in the closet; he calls us to lay our lives on the altar. Answering Jesus’ call means I can no longer say, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Jesus is.
WE FOLLOW A PERSON—JESUS. Obvious, right? Certainly for Peter, Andrew, James and John. They didn’t trail after a doctrinal system, a famous preacher, popular music artist, dynamic church or even the Bible. They followed a Person—Jesus—down the beach. But because we can’t see Jesus leading us on, we tend to forget we’re following a Person. We become adherents of a particular doctrinal system, fans of a famous preacher, groupies of a big Christian music artist, enthusiastic members of a dynamic church or devotees of the Bible—and Jesus the Person gets lost in the crowd. That mustn’t be, because in him all God’s promises are fulfilled (2 Corinthians 1:20), and he called, “Follow me.”
WE BECOME STUDENTS OF THE WORLD”S GREATEST TEACHER. Those four guys knew how to fish. But they didn’t know how God was fulfilling all his promises in Jesus or how Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant Law given through Moses or how Jesus’ followers should live in a fallen world or how Jesus was bringing the long-awaited kingdom of God. Jesus was calling them to become his disciples—his students, his apprentices—to teach them what they didn’t know.
Are we reading the Bible through in 2015 just so we can check the boxes? Is our only take-away from sermons critiques? Jesus called us to follow him as disciples. We should remember the title of seventeenth century Puritan Ralph Venning’s book—Learning in Christ’s School.That’s what his call to follow entails.
WE START TO OBEY BY FAITH. Jesus worked astonishing miracles. (Guess all miracles are astonishing, huh?) But, apart from them, his followers saw no signs that he was anything but a great teacher. Following Jesus called them to walk by faith. That virtue has been diluted these days. So here are a few questions to help “purify” it. Jesus warns, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23). Do we believe him and evidence our faith by not keeping too much wealth for ourselves? Jesus teaches, ” . . . whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:44). Do we believe him and evidence our faith by working to serve others? Jesus explains that
” . . . the Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Do we believe him and evidence that faith by resting in his ransoming death for our eternal salvation? “Without faith it’s impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6a). And ” . . . faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
WE ARE MADE INTO “PEOPLE-CATCHERS”. “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Jesus didn’t intend to leave these men as he found them. He planned to make them “people catchers”. Up to now, “Follow me” sounds rather inward, private even. Just Jesus and me. But Jesus called these men to send them out. Some would be inspired by the Holy Spirit to influence millions (!) by writing what became books of the Bible. All spread the gospel to different parts of the Middle East, even Europe and India. As they followed him, Jesus made them to become “fishers of men”.
We aren’t apostles, as these Jesus’ followers became. But, as Paul urged, we are to imitate them as they imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). That means we must constantly remember Jesus is pushing outward to “catch” children, grandchildren, relatives, friends, neighbors and nations for him.
GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY. These extraordinary life-changes at Jesus’ call can sound freedom-constricting. But Paul pricks our “freedom balloon” when he reminds us we are either slaves of sin or slaves of God (Romans 6:20-22). In 1979 Bob Dylan put it this way in the chorus of his Grammy Award winning song. (If you’re a Dylan fan or just curious and want the full treatment go to https://vimeo.com/87876758.)
“You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
Who are we following today?