Some years ago, I was (confession coming) fairly politically active. In fact, that’s something of an understatement. I helped run a couple of local general election campaigns and manned the phones in a national call centre cold-calling voters (sorry…). I even stood for election to my local council on a couple of occasions. During this period of my life I met a number of interesting people. One of these had worked in America supporting a congressional candidate. He told me about a rally that he once attended that was being addressed by Bill Clinton. My friend had a front row seat. Although my friend was not, by any means, a Clinton supporter, he found himself inexplicably drawn to the ex-president. Clinton was just so charismatic that he managed to get even his opponents out of their chairs, cheering him on. It was not until after the rally that my friend even became aware of the impact that Clinton had had on him.
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.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.Matthew 4:18-22
I’m struck in the passage from Matthew above by the reaction to Jesus from the people that he met. Jesus was, presumably, unknown to Peter, Andrew, James and John. But look at the response that they have to Christ. Jesus saw Peter and Andrew fishing, and called to them to follow him. If a stranger walked past my classroom whilst I was teaching and said, ‘Simon. follow me!’ I would probably ignore them, deciding that they were pulling my leg or a little mad. Even if there was something that drew me to the stranger, I’m not sure that my boss would be very impressed if I just walked out! This was not how Peter and Andrew responded, however. They left their nets at once and followed Jesus. The same is true of James and John. They too were fishing, and when Jesus called them, they immediately downed tools and followed him. I wonder what it was about Jesus that led these four tough fishermen to stop what they were doing and follow him?
In contrast to the fishermen, we are deeply privileged. They knew nothing about Jesus when he called to them. We, though, have the Gospel accounts readily available that give us a real insight into the identity of Jesus. We also have the testimony of millions of Christians who have gone before us, and had their lives transformed as a result of a personal relationship with Christ. As a result we know his teaching and his miracles, and we know about his death and resurrection. Despite having so much more evidence about Jesus available to us I suspect that few of us respond to Jesus in the same way that the disciples did. Even if we profess to follow him, that enthusiasm is sadly rarely seen. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the fishermen’s book and be more enthusiastic and excitable our our relationship with Jesus!
I wonder if we jump to follow Jesus in the same way that the first disciples did? Is following Jesus the absolute priority of our lives? Do we turn to the Gospel accounts day after day, seeking to understand him better? Do we pray to him, to share our deepest thoughts with him? Can we really say that we have a relationship with him and follow him unconditionally? Are we as enthusiastic as Peter, Andrew, James and John? How do we respond to Jesus’ challenge to come, follow him?