As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. ~Matthew 4:18-20 (NAB-RE)
Reading about how Jesus calls the first disciples always has me wondering the same things: How could they just drop everything and go with Jesus? Did they realize what they were getting into? Did they really know what was going to be involved? What was it about Jesus’ presence that made people drop everything and follow him? What would I have done if I had been in their sandals?
Why would Jesus choose fishermen? These were just ordinary men. They would tell you that there wasn’t anything special about them, and yet they were chosen first. If Jesus came to earth to teach and proclaim the gospel then why didn’t he go to the Temple and choose from among the religiously devout? If you want to teach about God and his kingdom then shouldn’t you go to the people who are trained professionals?
There’s a phrase that I’ve heard from my priest many times: God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the Called. Almost all of the people whom God called to serve in extraordinary ways were very imperfect. Moses had been hiding out for years from the Pharaoh because he had killed an Egyptian guard. He was living as a shepherd when God called to him from the burning bush. David was the youngest son of a shepherd and later in life he killed one of his own soldiers so that he could get with the soldier’s wife. Then there was Jonah who tried to run away from the Lord, but he kept getting caught until he finally relented and carried out the work that God had given him. All of these people were flawed in one way or another, and yet they were exactly as God needed them to be in order to carry out his works.
So why would Jesus choose fishermen to be part of his disciples? Jesus knew that there were going to be difficult times ahead for these guys. He warned them that they would be hated because of him. Can you imagine how that would feel? What would you think if your boss approached you at work and mentioned that you are going to be marked for hatred and disparaging treatment due to the feelings that people have for your employer? And yet these men continued to walk beside Jesus. Why? How could they do that?
“And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” ~John 15:21 (NAB-RE)
I believe Jesus chose them because he knew how difficult it was to be a fisherman. Even if you have been doing it for years there are still going to be many days where you don’t catch a single thing. Or you pull up your net and there’s a giant tear in it. Yet you still continue to get in the boat and cast your nets because you know that even if you just pull a handful up, there’s always the hope and faith that the next net will contain more. Perseverence. Determination. Never giving up. Those are the same traits that are required to go out and spread the Gospel. That’s what we must keep in mind when we speak about our faith and claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
So how will you respond? Will you pick up your cross and follow him? Or will you list a dozen excuses about why this just isn’t a good time?