Tuesday 10 January 2023

Follow me and I will make you fish for people

'I will make you fish for people'
Duccio di Buoninsegna

Reflection for morning worship with the Community of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday 10th January 2023

We have just heard Mark’s account (Mark1:14-28) of how Jesus recruited his first disciples. Beside the sea of Galilee, Jesus spots Simon and his brother Andrew fishing. Jesus says to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people’. And immediately they left their nets and followed him”. A little further on he saw the brothers James and John mending their nets. ‘Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee … and followed him’. Matthew gives us an essentially identical account (Matthew 4:18-22).

Have you ever wondered why these 4 very ordinary men dropped everything to follow Jesus when he called them? Jesus clearly had great charisma, as all the Gospel stories about him show. But I doubt if you or I would leave our loved ones and our livelihoods to follow a charismatic stranger we had only just met.

The answer is that they already knew Jesus, or at least knew all about him, and Jesus had already impressed them with his presence, teaching and authority.

John in his Gospel (1:35-42) tells us how Andrew and Simon first met Jesus. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. As Jesus walked by, Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist heard him exclaim ‘Look here is the lamb of God!’. Andrew and the other disciple followed Jesus, who invited them to come and see where he was staying. They came, they saw, and they stayed with Jesus for the rest of the day. Afterwards Andrew went to find his brother Simon to tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’. Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who recognised him and named him Cephas, meaning rock in Aramaic, or Petros in Greek, Peter in English. This must have happened well before Jesus called Andrew and Peter to fish for people, as Mark tells us that happened after John the Baptist had been arrested.

What of James and John, the sons of Zebedee? that they were partners with Simon in his fishing enterprise. I feel quite certain that Simon and Andrew would have told them all about the man they had met, who they thought might be the Messiah. We are not told so, but they might even have introduced James and John to Jesus. Luke also adds some lovely detail to the bare story given by Mark and Matthew of how Simon and Andrew, James and John, came to leave everything to follow Jesus.

Jesus did not convert Simon and Andrew, James and John in a sudden ‘born again’ conversion experience, causing them to drop everything to follow him. Such experiences do happen, but rarely – remember St Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus. Rather, I feel certain that these four disciples came gradually over time to follow Jesus, as they encountered him in their lives, and heard about him from others. This is still the way most disciples are made, sometimes over many years.

Most of us, like Simon and Andrew, James and John, must come to know Jesus intimately, as a friend we admire, before we can respond to his call, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people’.


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