‘I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men, I will make you fishers of men, if you foll-owwww meeeee.’ Perhaps some of you remember that old Sunday School bible chorus – and apologies for the non-inclusive language, it was of its time! I certainly remember singing it… and no doubt will now be humming it all day. As you will, too.
Today’s passage is another of those iconic stories of Jesus that are among the best-known of all the gospels. Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee and calls his first disciples, two pairs of brothers: first Simon and Andrew, then James and John. Now that his public ministry has begun, and the ‘time’ has been declared, he starts to gather his core team.
It’s likely that Jesus would have known some or all of these four for a long time. This area of Galilee is not that large, and Capernaum was the ‘local centre’. Those who fished the lake would have provided food for much of the local population, so it’s hard to imagine that Jesus wouldn’t have bumped into Andrew or Simon or James or John (or all of them) on a regular basis.
In other words, it may not be a spontaneous decision on the part of Jesus; but today, he calls them. And what he calls them to is the natural outworking of the proclamation of Jesus’ ‘good news’ message of the last verses: we are not just to believe, but to follow. Repentance means a change of life – our direction is now towards Jesus, and this means active following.
What struck me this time I read it, though, is how the response of the first disciples matches Jesus’ declaration that this is a kairos time. The good news is now embodied in flesh – and now is the time to follow. Not tomorrow; today. Simon, Andrew, James and John are perfect examples of what it means to really absorb the fact that ‘the time has come!’ If this really is that time, then we respond to the call: (v18, v20) ‘At once they left their nets and followed him… Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee.’
A wise old pastor once said to me: ‘Don’t get used to saying no to Jesus.’ He was referring not just to our initial decision to follow, but also to our willingness to keep being obedient to him through our lives. Every so often Jesus puts his finger on something and invites us to be obedient. Each time, we can choose to say yes or no – Jesus doesn’t force us. But in these kairos times, today’s passage encourages us to keep saying yes to Jesus. ‘Come, follow me,’ he beckons – as we close this week, take a moment to hear that call again, and to say ‘yes’. We do so, knowing that we journey together, and that Jesus journeys with us all the way.