Picture credit to a co-servant in the Lord!
“And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” Matthew 4:22
First, Jesus gives this imperative command to Peter and Andrew as they are fishing near the edge of the water. Yes, Jesus, You give them this command with a promise, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They drop their nets right then and there and go with You. They follow You just like that. You command and they obey. But I wonder if even though this was an imperative, if I couldn’t also look at it as a promise with a condition. Doesn’t it also hold true to think about it this way, “If you follow Me, I will make you fishers of men” or “You will become fishers of men, if you follow Me.” Therefore, I can also know that this is true, “If you don’t follow Me, you will never become fishers of men” or “You will never become fishers of men, if you don’t follow Me.”
I guess I’m thinking about this because You, Lord, don’t have to directly command something for it to be good or true for me. I mean, even if You were to suggest something or only to model some characteristic before me, then for me to follow that, whether directly commanded or not, would lead to inheriting Your promises surrounding following You. Because somehow, I just can’t invision You standing before Your disciples, bearing down on them and forcefully “commanding” or “demanding” they follow You. I think You stood before them and offered them that obedient choice and promise. And depending on how much a disciple was truly seeking God and the truth, how much a disciple really wanted You, would determine whether they dropped all and left, or stayed behind.
And here today I’ve only journeyed two verses from my previous time with You. And I’m brought to think about James and John. Only this time, these two brothers are in their boat with their father mending their nets. Yes, they are with their father, their patriarch, in the middle of the family business.
And Jesus calls them. That’s the word “kaleo” and it means to call out to someone, to bid them, to call them by name. Maybe You, Jesus, just said, “Come.” Maybe You called them by name, “James, John, come.” But that’s all it was. “Come.”
You said, “Come.” You didn’t shout it. You just said it so they could hear it. And they dropped their nets like Peter and Andrew, and they even left their father there just like that. They immediately responded. At once they forsook everything. At once they layed everything aside. It’s the Greek words “aphieme eutheos.” Which takes me to Your thoughts about that “concept” and Peter’s thoughts also.
In Mark 7, You, Jesus, are warning about what vain worship looks like. You say, “For laying aside (aphieme) the commandment of God, you hold the traditons of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do.” Now, the definition in Strong’s for commandment is an authoritative prescription. And that makes me think of You describing some “rules” for our spiritual health. I think of that in the attitude that a doctor does. I mean, when was the last time I sat and complained or dreaded that a doctor was going to make me better as he wrote out his prescription for me? Now, I would rather not have to take medicine, but if it will bring me to health, then let me have it. And when was the last time that my doctor was a tyrant about it? Really.
Well, Jesus, You are the Great Physician. Everything You tell us or show us is for our spiritual health. In Mark 2 You, Lord, tell us, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” There You are, calling again. Just like You called James and John out of the boat with their father and to You. Yes, Peter and Andrew, James and John, and me, we are all sick in our sin and in need of a doctor. Which makes me wonder. When Jesus called James and John, could their father have answered also? Did he choose at that time to keep mending? But if You were looking straight at James and John, and they alone knew You were calling to them, then they alone were responsible for their answer. And they answered by immediate obedience, immediate following, immediate coming, immediate laying aside of everything. They let go of their family traditions and the traditions of men and followed You.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John, got this truth. So did Paul. In Ephesians 4:1-3, he exhorts (encourages, advises) that we, “walk worthily of the calling in which you were called, with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We have not been called to be privileged. We have been called, like Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Paul to a purpose. We have been called to the same purpose that Jesus was called by the Father to fulfil. What is that? To be fishers of men. To seek and save that which was lost. To restore. To redeem. To reach out to the sick and the sinners. To bring healing into their lives. To draw them to the Light and to the healing of their souls.
It’s hard. It’s not easy. You have to lay aside things you care for. Sometimes you have to leave people behind in God’s hands. Sometimes people are angry when we come to Jesus’ calling, when we follow Him wherever He guides us. But we are His prisoner and not the world’s. We are His prisoner and no one else’s.
It wasn’t easy for You either, was it, Lord? If anyone had humility and meekness it was You, in the face of all the human opposition against You. If anyone has been long-suffering, knowing our hearts, and yet bearing with us still and not just bearing with us because You tolerate as. That would be so sad. “Someone has to put up with these detestable sinners. I’m God. I’ll need to do that.” No! You bear with every one of us with LOVE! And You are EAGER for us to be unified in the Spirit with You in Your perfect peace.
You came to seek and to save me, a lost, sick sinner, dirty and soiled. I was like a leper and yet You came to me and called me to You and You didn’t stop there. You touched me affectionately and healed me. You wanted me to be with You. This is what it is to be a Fisher of men. And this is what You were calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to. And this is what You are calling me to and every believer.
The Doctor came to the sick. You reach out to where we are. You give us Your prescription, Your call for health in You. How will I respond? Will I respond the first time and then think that good for the rest of my life? Or will I daily go to You to refill my prescription in You? Will I lay aside and forsake every idea, every tradition, even any person, that would disctract me? That’s hard stuff. That’s radical stuff. But it’s in the calling. And only when I fully answer the call, do I receive the promise.
See, if my life isn’t like Yours, I can’t be a fisher of men. If I don’t go to the homeless, the hopeless, the helpless, then I haven’t come to You. Because if I come to You, then I go where You go and I go as You go. And You go to where the sick fish are and You draw them in and heal them. What kind of fish are in my life? Would I lay aside every attitude, every part of my character, every physical thing that would keep me from following You? If I’m really a follower, I would leave anything and everything behind just to follow. Because if I’m really a follower, then my life will look like Yours. And the kind of people that You sought out, will be the kind of people I seek out.
And immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus. That’s not easy. But it’s the only response that brings the promised end. Lord, I want to follow You. That means, I need to be ready to walk away from anything You call me from, and walk to wherever You lead me. That means that my life will begin to look like Yours, that the fish You hung out with, will be the fish I’m surrounded by. It’s hard to leave the boat and your father behind, but the alternative is to never follow You. And that wouldn’t be hard; that would be a tragedy. Yes, just as the Father sent You, so You are sending me. Will I answer the call? Am I really following?