“[Jesus] 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 (NRSV)
This passage about Jesus calling the disciples has always made me wonder. I wonder what it was about him that would cause them to drop everything and follow him. (I can just picture Zebedee standing in then boat hollering, “Hey! Where are you going? We have work to do!”) I wonder how they could leave their families and everything they have known to go with a stranger who said, “Follow me.”
I wonder most of all what I would have done. As someone who has felt called to pastoral ministry since I was a teenager, I didn’t accept that call so easily. In fact, I avoided it with all my strength. Mostly, I was in total denial that God could even consider calling me to be a pastor.
It took me over twenty years to finally say “yes,” and then I did so with a lot of anxiety and trust, as well as a huge leap of faith. Comparing it to jumping off a cliff and trusting that God was there to catch me was a common example for me as I went through the process of seminary and ordination.
Because I have a lot of friends and colleagues who have had similar experiences, I know this is a common theme that runs through our lives as people who are called to any kind of ministry. So, why on earth would these fisher people just up and leave everything to follow Jesus? Really? Wow!
As in so many places of the biblical writings, I suspect the authors of the gospels are trying to get across that following Jesus is a total commitment. We can’t just half-heartedly say we will follow because we won’t make it! Giving ourselves fully to God’s call in our lives, no matter where it is, what it looks like, or what we have to do to get there is a total commitment.
But what about our families? What about our friends? What about our jobs? Maybe that’s the mystery that’s behind God’s call. It really begins at our baptism when God names and claims us as God’s own child. Being baptized or reaffirming our baptism regularly reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. It’s an identity, as well as our calling. It’s our responsibility, as well as our vocation. It’s our challenge, as well as our joy.
Dropping everything to follow Jesus means that we put him first above everything else. The other stuff or people don’t go away. God’s call in our lives may seem like we are left alone, but God wouldn’t call us and then send us forth without companionship and the tools to minister wherever we are sent. That’s what Jesus did with the disciples – he trained them and nurtured them along, teaching them what it meant to live in God’s ways.
We are called to “fish” for people. That means sharing the love of God with others, and sometimes (maybe a lot of times), it means stepping out of our comfort zones, trying something new, learning something new, meeting new people and interacting in ways that build them up and support them.
Jesus stands at the shores of our lives and calls us every day.
How do we respond?
Where is Jesus calling you today?
Is there something you have been feeling you should do, but have been afraid? Go for it! You aren’t alone on the journey!