And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:19-20
Andrew and Peter took no time to contemplate whether they should go with Jesus. Matthew says they immediately left their nets and followed him. This has always made me wonder if they already know Jesus. If we use John’s version of how they met Jesus, then they did know him. But in any case, it seems like a dramatic event in their lives to immediately walk away from their nets. They decide to follow Jesus and learn what it meant to fish for people. Instead of relating to fish, they would learn how to relate to people.
Perhaps we also might imagine just what it is that Jesus is calling these first disciples to be and do: fishers of people. And that implies relationships. Jesus calls these first disciples into relationship — with himself, with each other, and with all the various people they will meet over the next few years and, indeed, the rest of their lives. They will learn what it means to make disciples by baptizing them into the name of the relational God. And they will learn through Jesus’ teaching how to teach others about Jesus.
Part of the challenge of this passage is that it is so difficult for most of us to imagine getting up and leaving everyone and everything we know to follow Jesus. And so we figure the disciples were extraordinary, first-century super heroes of the faith that we can admire but not quite identify with. Yet as we read about them they are very much like us. They get angry, they get jealous of each other, they get tired and sleepy, they get hungry. They are human beings just like us. So do we all need to leave our professions to follow Jesus? When I read that Jesus wanted to teach them how to apply their trade of fishing to fishing for people I think that he meets us and says “let me show you how to use the gifts of your trade and who you are to draw people to me.”
Think about your gifts, your abilities that you use ever day in your workplace. How can they be applied to help others know Jesus? My guess is that they are all applicable in some way to help another person know Jesus.
Jesus issues the same call to us — to be in genuine and real relationships with the people around us, and to be in those relationships the way Jesus was and is in relationship with his disciples and with us: bearing each other’s burdens, caring for each other and especially the vulnerable, holding onto each other through thick and thin, always with the hope and promise of God’s abundant grace. Sometimes that call — to be in Christ-shaped relationship with others — will take us far from home and sometimes it will take shape in and among the persons right around us. But it will always involve other people — actual, flesh-and-blood persons.
Jesus called ordinary people like us, right in the middle of their ordinary lives to be in relationship with the ordinary people all around them and through that calling they did extraordinary things with Jesus working in and through them … and he still does. Jesus calls us.
- How are you using your skills and abilities to share Jesus with those around you? Are you fishing for people for Jesus with the skills and abilities God has given you?
- How can you expand your call of Jesus to include those who are around you to know Jesus?
Rev. Sue Beall – National Lutheran Secretariat Spiritual Director