As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matt. 4:18-20 I’ve heard this story my whole life but lately, I’ve been thinking about what Jesus is offering here and always. These guys are fisherman. It is likely the primary environment they grew up around, the trade and culture in which they’ve participated and fine tuned since childhood and the expertise they’ve developed. They aren’t carpenters or teachers or doctors or farmers but fishermen. It is what they know and what they do and how they provide for their living expenses and secure their future well being. It is how they’re known. And Jesus asks them to leave it. Maybe the staggering and terrifying and irresponsible nature of this invitation doesn’t seem as startling if you’ve never contemplated leaving the only environment, culture or trade you’ve ever known. But, it strikes me as exactly what Jesus has gifted me with this year. I’m not a fisherman, I am a social creature. My fishing boat is my network of friends and social contacts through the schools I’ve attended and the groups with which I’ve been associated. “It’s not what you know but who you know” has taken on the weight of God’s Law in my heart and become the “trade” and culture in which I’ve participated and fine tuned my skills since childhood. My family’s future security and well being rests on the opportunities available through these networks as would not be available without them. At the end of the day, I am no different than Israel trusting in a man-made golden calf for my future well being. My golden calves just walk around on two legs in designer clothes and hold CEO positions and influential contacts. To drop my nets and walk away could leave me destitute…or, Jesus is suggesting, lead me out of bondage into freedom?
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him! Jesus has compassion on my sinful, self-reliant self and says, “Father forgive her for she knows not what she does.” He doesn’t challenge me to leave my form of wealth to prove something to Him. I’m not getting a spiritual bonus check for being more radical today than yesterday or more insane for Him than the guy next to me. There is no additional righteousness to what Jesus has already fulfilled, rather, there is the invitation to trust in His righteousness and walk away from the slavery of my own.
I can’t imagine the fear and anxiety those disciples must have had in the moments just before they walked away from the docks, but I know mine today as I have just two remaining weeks as “a Westminster family”. Surely they were plagued with doubts as sight of their boats behind them grew more distant. Surely they felt that deep, breath stealing grief leaving behind what they could easily have kept, staying in the safety and security of the known and reliable. They had no other trade, no back-up resources and no guarantee this new direction would serve their lifestyle needs in retirement. They left the most tangible source of provision and personal security they had ever known. It could not have been done lightly. But He drew them, and they came. And He draws me, so I come to Him too.
They gave up their status among the fishing elite to take on the identity of nomads, without known expertise or specialties or connections in the new towns to which they came. But they soon discovered they were already with the author and giver of life, the One from whom every good gift is given. Their identity moved from the familiarity of the docks to the ruler of all creation. My trust also is invited to be transferred from the familiarity of one small social community(that has become huge in my idol making heart) to the One who sets up kings and deposes them. He is working out this faith, even now, in my heart and He is completing this work of freedom that He has begun. He is uncurling my fingers from slimy nets and wrapping them around and within His hands. And already, the security and satisfaction I found in dead fish (no matter how big they seem in a small pond) is beginning to seem a little more puzzling than the person and work of Jesus on the wide open road.
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:66-68