“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.” Luke 1:1-3 NRSV
Did Jesus’s first disciples ever question what they were doing when they started following him? Did they know the day they dropped those nets, Jesus intended them to stay with him for the duration? Or did they think it was only for a day? In the gospels of Mark and Matthew the first four of Jesus’s disciples, simply left their nets, their boats and fishing career behind as soon as Jesus called to them. Simon (later known as Peter), Andrew, James and John follow him immediately.
Luke starts his gospel by letting us know that he has researched events and interviewed witnesses to make sure his account was as accurate as possible. In Luke, the story of the calling of Jesus’s first disciples reveals another layer of background, complexity and engagement. Those future disciples have had a chance to see Jesus. He’s been in the Galilee area for a while. People have been healed, demons cast out and crowds are already surging to see him. The curious, the bored and the needy were checking out Jesus. According to Luke, it’s only because of the size of the crowd that the first disciples meet up with him. Too many people are gathering on the lake shore for Jesus to be heard. He wants to get out on the water where his voice will reverberate across the waves to those aching to hear a word of hope.
Meanwhile, Peter and Andrew were having a lousy day of fishing. Nets have been either empty or so sparse that it wasn’t worth counting. Only after Jesus is done talking, does their luck change. He asks them to try putting the nets on the other side of the boat. It’s obvious to Peter and Andrew that Jesus doesn’t know anything about fishing, but they decide to humor him. Fish swarm into the net, so many they need to ask their partners, James & John to come help them out. Peter and Andrew have seen a miracle filling and bursting their nets. Jesus has seen obedience and trust in action. In the gospel of Luke, when Jesus calls, it is to men who have just seen something in Jesus, which told them he was more than the mere teacher he appeared to be.
Yet, we have no idea what was going on in the minds of Peter, Andrew, James and John. How much ambiguity was in their decision to follow Jesus? Did they plan to follow for a day and ended up following for a lifetime? How many times, did they ask themselves the length of time they wanted to stick with Jesus? Did they think about returning to a simpler life, without the pressures, threats and demands of discipleship?
When I am honest, I have to admit that I have asked those questions. My discipleship journey has been one of saying “yes” to following Jesus, only to head off in an altogether different direction. Weariness of body, spirit and soul can send me sliding into indifference.
The good news is that Jesus keeps calling and keeps pulling us forward. When we are wary and resisting in the following, Jesus gives us the encouraging word and the comforting presence of one who has said he will be with us always. For this I am grateful, both for the persistence of Jesus’ call and the comforting presence of one who walks with us.
Cecil Frances Alexander’s hymn speaks to our condition and the ever present call of Jesus.
“Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day his sweet voice soundeth,
saying “Christian, follow me.”
“In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love me more than these.”
“Jesus calls us; by thy mercies,
Savior, may we hear thy call,
give our hearts to thine obedience,
serve and love thee best of all.” Cecil Frances Alexander
“I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20CEV