IN THOSE DAYS, as Jesus 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 fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 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. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every sickness among the people.
"Follow Me." And they followed.
Seems pretty simple, right? When discussing this passage, the clergy, and preachers in general, tend to talk about it as if Christ called these four initial disciples out of the blue. And they, as if having nothing else to do, dropped everything and followed Him. If four grown men just up and left their families and jobs, which were the only means of feeding the families, I would have had some concerns about their intent.
However, no writer anticipates the need to explain every single detail, for this reason Saint Matthew did not mention a few things that are going on in the background. For one, this is not the first time Peter and Andrew met Jesus. Before Jesus began His public ministry of preaching the imminence of the Kingdom, John the Baptist was already doing it, as Christ's Forerunner, as one preparing the hearts of the people for Christ's message. Or, at the very least, preparing some of the potential disciples.
John himself had a group of followers and disciples; people regarded him as a prophet and a great teacher, so it wasn't surprising. In another Gospel account, written by John the Theologian, we see John the Baptist having a conversation with two of his disciples, where John points out, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" And the two disciples left John and followed Jesus. (John 1:36). One of those two was Andrew, Peter's brother, who found his brother and told him about Jesus (John 1:40-42).
Andrew and Peter were not called to discipleship yet, it would seem. After following Jesus for some time, very likely, returned home, back to their usual life of fishing and providing for their families. But, they knew Who Jesus was, they heard John the Baptist testify of Him, "After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me" (John 1:30). We can also assume, that Andrew and Peter had discussed these events with their families and maybe even discussed their intent to become disciples again, if the call came.
Well, the call came and their mind was made up - "immediately they left their nets and followed Him." See the example of Andrew and Peter, two other fishermen, James and John, also followed Jesus when He called them.
The way Christ chose His own disciples was unique because it was usually the disciples who chose what teacher to follow. Jesus, however, proactively searches out and chooses men that would become the apostles to the whole world. And notice that the Lord did not go after the most intellectual men, or the most influential, or the richest. He rather chose simple fishermen - uneducated, poor, and as powerless and they came. The key of Christ's message is repentance and salvation. The preaching of this message requires a lot of patience, and fishermen know patience unlike most others.
Therefore, three important points from the Gospel lesson for this Sunday:
1. Know Who it is that is calling you. Don't just be familiar with His Name, but know what He is expecting of you, what His message is.
2. Be ready when He calls because He will call.
3. Work on your patience. Life in general, and life of faith, is one long exercise in patience. Begin now.
For last year's reflection, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest