Our eyes follow along the familiar New Testament passage in Matthew 4:18-22:
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Here we meet the first two of twelve men Jesus chooses to carry His message, His truth, into all the world and establish the church.
Their father had surely been training them for years to know how to handle the boat, the nets, and the oars. They had learned as little boys how hard the life of fishermen would be, the long hours spent mending the nets, casting them into the sea, and hoping that God would provide the catch they needed to provide for their family. They had been with their father in calm seas and rough, under the blazing sun and the darkness of the night. Their hands had grown rough and their skin had turned to bronze.
But now, in one moment in time, Jesus walked along the shore and invited them to follow Him. He chose them. They weren’t the rich young men who studied the Torah at the feet of the rabbi. They were the uneducated, the poor, but the ones who had already learned to depend on God for all they needed.
It’s amazing to pause as I read the passage and note they followed Him “at once”. What caused them to respond immediately? How loud was His voice? What tone did He use? Did they even know what He meant or what He was asking?
I think they likely did not comprehend all they were saying “yes” to that day. They were being asked to “walk the same road”, but it was to walk a road rather than live on the water of the sea.
What did they know of a life away from the sea, the nets, and the boats?
What do we know or understand when He bids any one of us to follow Him? We are not tenders of nets and boats, but we too are invited to become fishers of men and we do not even know much about being fishers of fish!
What I learn when I read and study those whose life has been fishing is that it is a hard, dirty business lived day in and day out on the water or near it. The smell of the fish, the sea, the kelp, and all the water disgorges permeates the pores of the fishermen so they too smell much the same.
So much of the world is made up of water. Though we are made of the dirt of the earth, much of us is made up of water as well. We rely on it for our lives every day. Without it, we cannot survive.
Leslie Leyland Fields reminds us: “Wherever there is water, the thirsty and the dirty are there.”
Did Jesus know these fishermen along the shore that day were thirsty for the living water He could offer them? Did they know He could cleanse them from the dirt they did not see and could never wash away without Him?
He had chosen them.
Now they had chosen Him back without what seemed to be a lot of thought or pause to consider.
They had lived their lives on the hope for the next catch, the gamble the nets would not come back empty.
Were they gambling on this stranger who had asked them to follow Him or did they recognize something in or about Him that spoke a message their hearts responded to even as John leaped in Elizabeth’s belly when Mary appeared in the doorway carrying Jesus in her womb?