Read Matthew 4:18-22 (ESV)
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. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 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. Immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
How do today’s verses demonstrate that the first disciples were truly dedicated to following Jesus?
If you read today’s passage and think, “Whoa! Jesus was a stranger to them. He just walked up to them and said, ‘Follow me!’ and these guys just dropped everything to follow a man they knew nothing about?”
If you are thinking along those lines when you read today’s passage, you aren’t alone. Thankfully, God didn’t just give us small snippets of Scripture. This passage was meant to be read in context. When we consider that John the Baptist had been preaching to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and that people were coming from all over the region to be baptized by him (Matthew 3:5-6), it is reasonable to believe that these men had at least heard of John the Baptist and the message that he was proclaiming.
The Gospel of John seems to confirm that the disciples had some prior knowledge of Jesus. In John 1:29-34, we read the account of John baptizing Jesus. Then in John 1:35-42, we read that Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, and another man, possibly John himself, were actually disciples first of John the Baptist. It is even possible that they were in the crowd when Jesus was baptized and heard God the Father call Jesus His Son. The day after, they heard John the Baptist proclaim that Jesus is the Lamb of God, so they followed Jesus and spent the day listening to Him teach. Andrew even brought his brother, Simon to Jesus and Jesus told him that he’d be called Peter instead which indicated that Simon Peter was being given a special calling. All of this indicates that Simon Peter and Andrew and probably John and James also, were familiar with who Jesus was and had encounters with Him prior to Jesus calling them into full-time discipleship.
The Gospel of Luke gives more details about Jesus’ call of Simon and Andrew. In Luke 5:1-11. We read that when Jesus called them to follow Him, He gave them a sign in a miraculous catch of fish. Luke also tells us that John and James were their fishing partners that had to come help them haul in all the fish. After this miracle, both sets of brothers decided to act in faith, set everything else aside, and follow Jesus.
That is the ultimate point of today’s passage—faithfully and sacrificially following Jesus Christ. Jesus was not calling these men to simply come listen to Him teach on occasion. He wasn’t calling them to just come be entertained by His miracles. He was inviting them to join Him in His mission. He was calling them to change their occupation from fishing for fish to fishing for men. He was calling them to interrupt their lives, leave their nets, and follow Him as He traveled around teaching, preaching, and healing. Following Jesus was going to require sacrifice and dedication. But even if the disciples did not know Jesus well at that early point in His ministry, they knew enough to know that He was worth it. When He called them, they immediately and wholeheartedly obeyed.
Friends, Jesus calls us to dedicated discipleship as well. He isn’t calling us to simply listen to sermons about Him from time to time or to be entertained by worship music and stories of the supernatural. He is inviting us to join Him in His mission—to follow Him. It is going to require sacrifice. It is a life-long commitment. In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Why is anyone willing to make a commitment like that? Because we know enough about Jesus to know that He is worth it.
Jesus, thank You for the invitation to partner with You in Your mission. I humbly accept and submit my life to You. Give me the strength and the courage to daily take up my cross, deny myself, and remain dedicated to follow You. Amen.