I am intrigued by the gospel stories that describe the calling of Jesus’ disciples. Mark’s version (1:16-20) is this weekend’s Revised Common Lectionary reading. According to Mark, Jesus has passed the “temptation in the wilderness” test and discovered that John the Baptist has been arrested. In typical Markan fashion, we don’t get details about either.
Jesus makes his way up from Judea to Galilee, “proclaiming the good news of God.” Then, as he walked along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew out fishing, and you know the rest of the story. “Follow me and I will make you fish for people”. An odd recruitment offer, but they are fishermen, after all. What might he have said if they were librarians? Or engineers? Or retired pastors!?
Their response – Simon, Andrew and later in this paragraph, James and John- has always astounded me. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him”. Seriously? They dropped everything. They left their work, their families and their homes based on that brief invitation? (By the way, Matthew records the story the same way. In Luke, Jesus’ disciples witness the miraculous catch of fish before leaving it all to follow him.)
I just have to think there was more to it. They must have heard Jesus preach. They must have known something about him. Maybe they had a mutual friend. And they must have had some reason – a reason we don’t get to know – for trusting him enough to make the sacrifices required to leave their familiar lives to follow him. Or… maybe not. Maybe there was something in his persona, his eyes, his tone of voice that made the offer irresistible. I wish I knew.
Here’s what troubles me most. Not what Simon and Andrew and John and James did, but what I would have done. If it had been me, if I’d been the one going about my daily work and Jesus came up to me and said, “Come and follow me”, I know what I would have said. I would have said, “What? Right now? I’m a little busy. And where are we going? When will I be back? What will be required? Do you have a brochure or a business card or something? Who else is going? Can you give me a day or so to think about it and then get back to you?” I see Jesus shaking his head and moving on. “But wait!” I say.
Spontaneity is not my gig. I’m not a “drop everything and go” kind of woman. And I wonder how many “Jesus invitations” I’ve missed out on, how many times I have overthought details and potential consequences in service of being “safe” and “in control”. Maybe you have too.
I suspect there is more to the gospel story than we’re told. But the point is made and taken. For me, it’s about playing it a little less safe, taking a few more risks, being a bit more bold when it comes to following Jesus. I’m convinced that that’s where the joy is. That’s how we are blessed to be a blessing!