Called to Follow Jesus

Matthew 4:18 While walking 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. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

There are two aspects of this passage that I have always really been fascinated by, and even more so in the last week of studying and meditating on this passage. One is that Jesus simply says to these men, “Follow Me,” and the other is the word “immediately” that is used twice of the men’s responses. Jesus extended an invitation, and these men accepted without hesitation. Both are fascinating to me, and in a moment I want to get into why this transaction is so fascinating to me and why it might be, or should be, for you as well. In addition, by way of application I want us to consider its relevance for us.

First, let’s see the context, some background information, and then we will come back to these statements. Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, which was really like a large oval-shaped lake about eight miles wide and thirteen miles long. It would regularly have many boats on it and was regularly fished. It was large enough to support a fishing industry where fishermen could make a living by fishing and selling their catch. I love to fish, you know with a line and hook with a rod; fishing to me is relaxing and enjoyable, like something I would do on vacation to unwind, so to speak. These men weren’t doing that; this was their work. They would cast nets from the boat, large nets, probably about nine feet in diameter, into the water and hoist the fish and net into the boat. This was tough, manual labor, being outdoors and with the back-breaking work of lifting those heavy nets up into the boat.

Simon (Peter) and Andrew his brother were doing this. They were casting their nets into the sea as fishermen, as regular fishermen do. And Jesus walks by and says to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In verse 20 we see their response to Jesus' call: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” These guys were in the middle of their work, doing what they do for a living, casting their nets, and they get a call from Jesus, from the shore, and immediately they respond positively and follow Him.

Then, next, we see an almost identical situation. In verse 21 Jesus continues to walk along the sea and comes upon two other men. This time it is James and John, brothers, sons of Zebedee. Instead of being out in the boat fishing, these two were mending their nets, doing maintenance on their fishing gear. Jesus calls out to them. Their response was the same upon hearing Jesus' call. They left their nets and their father and followed Jesus. Immediately they did this, they heard His call and immediately left their nets and their dad to follow Jesus.

So, what we have seen so far are the facts of the situation regarding Jesus and these four men, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These four then, with this call, each became one of the twelve who followed Jesus and ministered with Him while He walked the earth. And they continued their God-given ministry after Jesus was crucified, raised, and ascended into heaven.

So, having seen the facts, let’s dig in a bit and talk about two amazing facts from this scene. The first is found in the fact that Jesus called these men to be His followers.

Think about this with me. Jesus has come to earth and has now grown to be a man. When Jesus came to earth, it was not His beginning. Jesus has existed since eternity past. In fact we see Jesus in the Scriptures as the one who created the world.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

We see also in John chapter 1 that Jesus "was", meaning existed, "in the beginning."

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made...14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth

So some basic theology: Jesus has always been, He was in the beginning with the Father, and He was instrumental in creating all that we see. He is the Creator.

We also know that not only did He create, but He keeps everything in creation working. He sustains everything He has created.

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

So Jesus is the creator and the sustainer of all things. All things! Think about how difficult it is just to manage your own life, with all the variables, all the challenges, all the moving pieces. Jesus manages the whole of the universe. It is too big for our minds to comprehend. We don't even know what all is out there in the heavens. We don’t even know what all is on our own planet or in our own oceans or even in our own backyards or in our bodies. But Jesus knows it all, created it all, and manages to keep it all together.

When we see Jesus in the Bible walking through life, we may not think of all this, but that is what all He had been doing before He was born as a baby in a manger, before we see Him walking by the Sea of Galilee, before He called out to these four men on this day.

With all that Jesus had going on, and His incredible, unsurpassed importance in the world, in the universe, He still by choice, and from a love of His Father, He set aside those things and – again, by choice – came here to be with and eventually die for mere people, sinful, rebellious people who were by nature and by choice His enemies. From heaven to earth, that was a massive transition, a humble transition, a loving transition.

Now, specific to His calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, let’s talk about that. If I need help, if I have a massive project to do, I would be wise to ask for help or to delegate some tasks. I always think I can do more than I can, and so I am prone to overcommit and I'm not very good at asking for help. But the reality is I should ask for help more often than I do.

Jesus was beginning the ministry of all ministries. The ministry that would change the world and change the eternal destiny of scores of people. He had a lot to do in three short years before He left to go back to heaven. In fact, He needed to, in a strategic way, get the word of redemption out, the word of salvation, so that when He left it would continue down just the right pathways so that the whole world would be enlightened about His truth. It was a major endeavor, for sure.

So, thinking of it that way, it is easy to think, "Wow, Jesus needs some help! Jesus needs some help getting the word out. He needs to do some serious recruiting to complete what He came to do." But wait a minute...this is the one who has created everything, and has managed it all on His own since the beginning. How much help did Jesus really need?

Was it purely help that Jesus was after? I don’t think so. I mean, really, how much help were they really? As I read the gospels, I think there are many occasions where Jesus' disciples seemed to slow Him down. Did Jesus choose these men for His benefit or for theirs, for ours?

The Greek word translated “follow” when Jesus said “Follow Me” means not only to come near to and follow in a physical way, but it also means to follow as a disciple who is committed to imitating the one he follows. For them to imitate Christ, they would need to know Him, to observe Him, to listen to Him, to be with Him. Jesus was inviting these men to be with Him. He was inviting them into His life, in a very personal way. To be with Him. Jesus was opening Himself up to them, mere men, sinful men. This was a huge commitment on Jesus' part, and I think we could say that if it was possible to complicate Jesus' life, this would do that.

If Jesus was all about His own comfort and ease on this earth, even in the difficult ministry of redemption, then wouldn’t it be easier if He just had to deal with Himself, the perfect one, rather than dealing with a room full of sinners? So what is happening here? Jesus is putting on display His committed love for sinful people.

You know, I am sometimes kind to people, I sometimes tell people about Jesus because I care for them, I even have people over sometimes, I go to lunch with people, but I have never invited strangers to follow me everywhere I go. Jesus literally gave Himself to these men, and they would never be the same.

Jesus is putting on display the Father in their lives. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus puts on display who the Father is, how the Father feels about His people.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalm 145:17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.

These are passages that talk about how God relates to people. God is near, God is listening, God cares. And when Jesus came, we see example after example of this very same attitude, we see tangible ways in which God is near and how God cares. That is what we see in Jesus' call of these men. The invitation is, "Follow me, come to me, walk with me, learn from me, take me in and know Me." And there is nothing greater in this world, in this life, than to know the Father, to know the Son, and to be invited into their lives!

And so we get to see, we will see the many ways that Jesus interacts with people through His relationship with these disciples.

Now, Jesus did use them for the spread of the gospel, and Jesus gives us an example of how to disciple and how to delegate. We can follow His ways here, but let’s not think that Jesus could not have done His work without them; He could have, He just chose not to, and in so doing He gives us much insight into His character and His ways. Jesus calls people to Himself!

Now, the second thing that is so fascinating here is these men’s response. Each of them responded immediately to Jesus' call to follow Him. I love that! I love that they didn’t hesitate. I love that they didn’t ask for time to think about it. They just followed. Isn’t that awesome?

At this point, early in Jesus' ministry, they could not have known a whole lot about Jesus, and they were not educated men, but they knew enough, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to accept Jesus' invitation, to obey His command. It is an extraordinary thing to see this, just like it is today to see sinners repent of their sins and choose Jesus.

This is really a picture of what it looks like to be a Christian. We see what they did, the committment, the turning from the old life, the desire for change, a willingnesss to conform to the life of another, and we think, "Wow, that is really something." But again, this is representative of what Christianity is. It is not as though we have to leave our jobs or move away or leave our family, it is just that we are willing to follow Christ whatever the cost might be. Being a Christian is not just accepting an invitation, it is a radical change of direction and desires. We are to be followers of Jesus Christ. We are not just those who think He is the Savior, but those who are so convinced that He is that we will invite His control over us and even desire it. You are not your own, you have been bought with a price, so glorify God in your bodies. That is live for Jesus, in the ways He has told us to live.

Now one last thing: when Jesus called these men, He did not call them, then instruct them and send them away. He stayed with them. This is true for us. In fact, we are told in the Bible that we are to live in His strength. That means we are to rely on Him so that we can live for Him. We cannot live for Him if He does not empower us to do so. This is His grace. He gives us what we need to obey Him, to live for Him. He loves us enough to do this. He is not at arms length, but He is near.

When God says to follow Him, He does not do so for His benefit, He does not need us any more than He needed the disciples to fulfill His ministry. He does so for our benefit. So He can shower His lovingkindness on us now and forever. It is for us that He saves us. Our response should be immediate obedience. Why? Because we love Him, because we are grateful for Him, because He is God and He deserves all that we have, all that we are! He is the mighty God who is near, just as He was with the disciples.

Matthew 4:18 While walking 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. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.