Why did they go?
Yesterday I had a really fun maternity session with a beautiful young lady and her husband. We got into the water at a local stream and got some really amazing pictures. While I was setting up, I talked my daughter into letting me grab a quick picture with my phone… I have to act quick to catch a shot of her most days.
Tonight though, my mind is trying to wrap itself around an event that transpired in an altogether different time and place on the edge of a much larger body of water. Currently in my Bible reading, I’m going through the book of Matthew. As I was reading a few minutes ago, I came across a passage that has always captivated my imagination.
Jesus was just entering his earthly ministry and was about to assemble his dream team of apostles. Here’s the passage: “Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.” (Matthew 4:18-20)
I can just imagine Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Boats were coming in and out on the lake. People were buying and selling their catch of the day. I can smell the ocean. I can hear the busyness, and I can even catch a whiff of dead fish. But in the midst of all that, Jesus walks up to these two guys silhouetted against the sun as they’re throwing their nets into the water again and again. So far, the story is pretty casual, but what happens next completely blows my mind. As far as we know, they had never met before. Jesus definitely wasn’t famous yet, and all he says to them is come with me and I’ll teach you how to fish for people.
“They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.” What am I missing here! Seriously. What was it about this interaction that isn’t captured in the verbal dialogue. Every bit of my rational thinking screams that this makes absolutely zero sense. Just imagine the fishermen that you’ve seen on television and how they would respond to such an absurd demand by an absolute stranger. I say imagine because it probably wouldn’t be family appropriate to print on my blog.
So what was it that caused two people to abandon their livelihood and follow a stranger with the kind of actions that might call into question their sanity. There are two possibilities that I’m contemplating right now, and to be honest, I love them both.
First of all, one possibility is that Jesus just radiated in some manner the essence of who he was, the son of a living God. Perhaps, when Jesus looked into their eyes, when his voice filled the air, when he stepped into their midst, perhaps there was just that amazing kind of God encounter that instantly removed any doubt that following him was the most sane choice they could possibly make. Perhaps they intuitively knew that what they were giving up was infinitely insignificant in light of what they were gaining by walking daily with this man. Perhaps their spirits and souls came alive when he approached them. Perhaps just being close to him brought a new awareness of what being alive really was. Like putting glasses onto the eyes of someone who has never seen the world clearly, perhaps they realized that they had never really seen before. If you’ve ever experienced the closeness of God. If you’ve ever had a moment where you were acutely aware of his being in that moment with you and fully engaged with you at that moment, then perhaps this doesn’t seem all that far fetched.
The second possibility that comes to mind is that God’s timing is absolutely perfect. In my imagination, I can hear Peter in his passionate approach to life complaining about the fact that they were stuck in a dead end situation with this net fishing gig. In fact, I can just hear him asking Andrew if he’s ever felt like their lives were meant for something greater than the same routine day in and day out just like they’d always done and were expected to always do. Perhaps Andrew stopped for a minute and asked Peter if he ever remembered their late night talks as young boys growing up. “Do you remember all the things we said we’d do when we were adults? Do you remember all the times that we said we definitely wouldn’t allow ourselves to be a fisherman like dad and grandfather?” Perhaps their lives were culminating in some kind of divine dis-satisfaction at the very moment that Christ walked up to them and asked them to embrace their destinies. Perhaps God had spent the last decades of their lives preparing their minds and hearts for that specific moment. Perhaps all of the frustration and desire for purpose and significance in their lives was part of a heavenly timeline that would intersect on the muddy banks on that lackluster afternoon. Looking over the past year in my life, I can see this orchestration in my own life. God’s perfect preparation and timing presenting opportunities to step into a new arena of existence with him. I can see that God had to spend years preparing me to make some really difficult decisions, but when the moment arrived, the groundwork had already been laid, and the choice was not only obvious, but also exhilarating. The decision to walk along life’s shore with Christ is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.
So which was it? Maybe it was a little bit of both. Maybe it was something entirely different for them in that moment. I guess that when I read scripture, I see myself in its reflection. I just feel so incredibly full at this point in my life that my heart seems to expand and fill my chest. I’m in love with the God who has called my name and given me a chance to walk with him.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this passage. Why do you think they left everything in one moment to follow him?