New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishers. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23 Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
I have always been curious about why the first followers of Jesus would drop everything to follow someone they didn’t know only because he told them to come. These men had no clue about what they were getting into. Fish for people?! What does that even mean?
A few reasons have been put forth for why they would follow Jesus so quickly: they might have met or seen Jesus before, they were disgruntled with their fathers and the family business, or they simply wanted a change of scenery. No one really knows.
What has been suggested is that they chose who they would be allegiant to. It was likely that the fishermen worked under a contract with the Roman Empire. The family had purchased a lease from Rome’s agents that allowed them to fish in the Sea of Galilee. This lease also obligated them to supply a certain quantity of fish to these agents. When the two sets of brothers dropped their nets to follow Jesus, they chose God’s rule over Rome’s.
What would compel someone to take such radical action? I have mentioned my nephew, Alex, before. After graduating college with a degree in Business Administration, he could have accepted a job in that field that would have set him on the traditional path of a college grad. Instead, Alex chose to accept God’s call to serve as a missionary with Christian Surfers in South Africa, a group dedicated to working with kids to learn surfing and to teaching them about Jesus. Initially, Alex committed to six months and then added another six months and another. He had to raise his own support (unlike taking a paying job after graduating). For Alex, this work brought together his two biggest passions: God and surfing.
A woman I know – I call her Sandra – is a second career pastor. Prior to going to seminary, she was an English teacher. Upon finishing seminary, Sandra served several churches until God called her to a different ministry, teaching in Ethiopia. Her initial commitment was for two years. Then she extended her ministry for two more years, and then even longer. For Sandra, her work in Ethiopia brought together two of her biggest passions: God and teaching.
Joseph Campbell, in his book In the Hero with A Thousand Faces, writes about the Call to Adventure – “an announcement that something is out of balance in our lives and that we must act to restore balance” (quoted from Reg Harris, Harris Communications). Campbell writes, “The Call…signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown.” Such a call moves one, physically or figuratively, to a new place.
In verse 17 of the text, Jesus tells the people to “repent because the kingdom of heave is near.” A call to adventure for his listeners and for all people. A movement of one’s spiritual gravity to an unknown place. The fishermen, and us by extension, respond to a call to adventure offered by Jesus. For them and us, it is a call to a new way of life. A life of following Jesus.
All of us face a moment, or many moments, which challenge our center of gravity. Moments that push us to shift our story from a story of self to a story that will mean something in a larger context. Some call this a search for meaning or something where one can or will make a difference or to a realization that my story is part of a bigger story.
What is that bigger story? For followers of Christ, it is best expressed in Mathew 28:19: Go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. This is our bigger story. The call to be followers and to make followers. Not to stay where we are comfortable – fishing and mending nets – or come up with all kinds of reasons why we can’t, why the call doesn’t apply to me or isn’t possible or everyone else already has their own church or faith group or …. Our bigger story is to GO, not to stay and hope people find us.
A question that floats around in our minds is, “How do we know our place in this story?” The answer comes from a moment of decision put before us. One that challenges our center of gravity. A decision that calls us to shift, to take a different course.
This moment may come as an invitation such as the one presented to Hobbit Frodo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. After finding the mysterious ring held by his relative, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo is “invited” to leave the safety and comfort of the Shire to go on a dangerous journey to return the ring to where it came from – the fires of Mordor – to save their world of Middle-Earth.
A moment of decision may be a result of a change in outside circumstances. The loss of a job followed by another opportunity coming to the fore. Retirement, death of a loved one, or moving to a new place are some other examples.
The moment of decision may come as a feeling in the gut, a nag that won’t go away, or a combination of the two. A call to action that won’t go away until the action is taken.
A friend of mine once told me about his call to pastoral ministry. He had two college degrees in engineering. He had a career doing what he had trained for. Then he was compelled to shift his story to another story. He felt as though he had no other choice but to go where God had called him. Running from God was not an option. So, he chose God and left engineering behind.
The fishermen were compelled to follow Jesus. They had no other choice. It was almost as if they had been waiting all their lives to hear his voice. To receive that call to adventure. Their response was to drop what they thought was important and go with Jesus.
What is our call? As a church it is to GO out. To be involved in and a part of the community, not to find people to bring in to do what we do. Our call is to share the message and love of Jesus.
Individually it is to GO out. To leave that place of safety and comfort to follow Jesus’ call. To drop everything and go, or ignore the call and wonder, “what if?” How you answer the call is between you and God.
Oh, and by the way, you are never too old or too young. You never have too much to do – we choose how to spend the time allotted to us each day, week, or month. There is never a place in your life where God’s call isn’t for you.
We are all part of a bigger story that is outside of ourselves. A story waiting for us to step into. Into an adventure, God’s adventure of a lifetime.