As he walked 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 fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (read the whole passage)
As modern Christians, there are a few topics that we often choose not to bring up in polite company. Religion and Politics are always named as risky topics of conversation. But even more taboo and controversial are issues of human sexuality. And perhaps the most taboo topic of all — money, is usually only reserved for very serious and sombre moments of discussion. But today, we broach another issue, one that can make us as uncomfortable as religion, politics, sex or money. We come to the issue of Christian calling, specifically evangelism. What is our role in spreading the Kingdom of God? How many souls must we bring to Christ? How many doors must we knock on? How many bible verses do we need to memorize?
(Are you nervous yet?)
There are many reasons that we come and worship Sunday morning. Some might say they like the music, others the teaching, still others might say the morals and values, or the community and friends, or it is simply somewhere to be Sunday morning. But probably none of us would say that the reason we come is that we are given the job of telling others about Jesus.
And if sharing our faith with the world, wasn’t part of this whole church thing, there might be a few more bodies in our pews. If faith was only about following the rules like no stealing or swearing or killing, the promise of heaven might be drawing more people in.
But as we discover, being a Christian, or following Jesus is not really just about following the rules. Instead we discover, along the disciples, that following Jesus is full of surprises.
Peter and Andrew, James and John were all fishermen. But not the hobbyist kind of fisherman. This is not the quaint and serene fishing that is done on a lake or pond with a single fishing rod, nor weekend warriors sitting in ice fishing huts. This is commercial fishing. Fishing in order to make a living.
As these four soon to be disciples set out to fish today, they would be focused on the job at hand. They would know how many fish they need to catch to feed their families, to maintain their boats and repair their nets. This kind of fishing is about risk and reward. And as they prepare for another day of long and hard work, Jesus comes walking down the beach. He simply shows up and calls out from the shore. “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”.
It is laughable. It is insanity. Can any of us truly imagine jumping off the boat and immediately giving up everything to follow Jesus? Certainly not.
Here is this wandering carpenter turned preacher calling gainfully employed men away from their lives and families. Maybe fishing isn’t the most glamorous job, but it puts food on the table and it provides a living. It is safety and security. Have you ever seen a tractor sitting abandoned in the middle of a field during harvest with no one to drive it, or a classroom full of school children in the middle of the year, with no teacher or a half cooked meal in a restaurant waiting to be finished and served but no cook to complete the job? Jumping off the boat is simply not done in our world, and in reality that is not our style of faith. No surprise work-place visits from Jesus, thank you very much. We want our faith to be comfortable, and manageable. Nothing too extreme, especially if it involves giving up security or risking looking foolish.
But the disciples may have seen things differently. The insanity and foolishness of Jesus’s call from the shore may not have been in jumping off the boat. Throughout the Gospels, people often identified Jesus as a Rabbi. And it wasn’t everyday that a Rabbi wandered by and asked to be followed. To the disciples, it might have been like a rock star rolling up in a tour bus and asking for a guitar player, or a politician knocking on the door looking for a campaign manager, or that phone call that every red blooded Canadian boy is waiting for — that call from the local NHL team looking for a player to skate in a pinch.
The insanity and the foolishness of Jesus’ call is truly about something more than our first reaction to this story, of our hesitation at dropping everything and following Jesus.
The disciples are willing to follow because they should have never been picked in the first place. Any other Rabbi would only choose the best of the best. The best student, the best debater, the disciples who had memorized the Torah, the Talmud and the Mishnah. But these 4 fisherman are not the best students. While the best candidates for discipleship have been studying the faith, these men have been studying the art of fishing.
The insanity isn’t jumping off the boat, the insanity is who Jesus picks to be disciples. Jesus picks the least likely, the ones without the skills or talents that a normal Rabbi would be looking for. And it forces us to ask that deeper question. Not the question of whether we would drop everything and follow, but the question of “Is God really calling me?” The craziness of leaving everything behind shields us from the truth. It shields us from admitting to ourselves and to the world, that if God were to come knocking and calling out to us, that we would have nothing to offer. “What can I say about God? Won’t my family and my neighbours think I am crazy? Who am I to pretend that I have any words worth hearing?”.
But we are who God chooses. We are the ones into whose lives Jesus walks. We are the ones who are called and it is not because we have something to give or to offer as disciples. We are picked because God is the one doing the calling, no application forms, no pre-requisites, no interviews.
This is the way God works in the world.The ideas and possibilities that we imagine as successful — God avoids and ignores. The ideas and possibilities for which we can only see failure — God uses those to work in the world.
God gives up power to be born as a baby in order to save the world.
God preaches to and teaches crowds who do not listen and disciples who do not understand in order to show us the way.
God suffers and dies on cross in order to bring New Life and a New Creation into being.
God calls the least likely and most ill equipped to be proclaimers of the Good News.
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”.
It is not a command to knock on doors, or to memorize the bible or convert our neighbour. When Jesus calls the disciples, and when Jesus calls us, it is a declaration of who we are — we are God’s chosen. Jesus chooses us — no questions asked. Jesus picks us without reservation, without hesitation. Jesus grabs hold of us whether we have the skills, or gifts or talents or not.
And then Jesus promises that he will make us fish for people. Jesus will not teach us, not show us, not suggest to us.
Jesus will Make us.
That is the insanity.
We have been chosen to follow Jesus. Chosen to be the ones that God works in and through. How and when will this happen? That is up to God. That is part of the promise. Jesus will do the making, we are the ones simply being made, shaped and formed.
And maybe that is the scariest part of all. Maybe that is why we don’t like to talk about evangelism. Because being called by Jesus means we will jump from boat and it won’t seem crazy. Because being chosen by God means we are changed and transformed. God makes us into disciples, followers, into fishers for people.