As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him.
Mark 1:16-17 (Common English Bible)
It was not unusual for teachers to have disciples follow them. It was common in fact. The best and the brightest would find a teacher they wanted to be like and they would ask him if they could become his disciple. The teacher would test them and if he thought the student could be like him, then he would say, “Come, follow me.” The Gospel stories tell us that Jesus did things differently than these teachers.
First, he went to people and invited them to follow him. They didn’t seek him, he sought them! Jesus embodied the prevenient love of God, that love seeks us. This is a love that is offered to us even before we are aware of the gift. Jesus saw something in these people that they did not see in themselves.
Secondly, Jesus didn’t seek out the best and brightest scholars, he intentionally went to people in trades, people like Simon and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Levi. He went to those who were considered of lower status. He went to fishermen and a tax collector, people that other teachers would not have even considered and he invited them to follow him. I don’t think we grasp what an extraordinary thing this was, Jesus went to people that other teachers overlooked. This is something we need to imitate in our churches, who is not there? Who has been overlooked? In the stories by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus never gave a test or asked for qualifications; he never said you have to be this or that in order to follow me. He simply said to them, “Come, follow me.” Imagine the surprise of Levi, the tax collector! I suspect his first thought was, “Who me?”
Thirdly, in inviting these ordinary people to follow him, he was saying to them “I believe that you can become like me.” That’s what being a disciple meant, it meant that the student wanted to become like the teacher. Walking alongside Jesus day after day, the disciples learned from and practiced becoming like Jesus. Make no mistake- being a disciple is not an easy or superficial thing, it is costly. In fact, it costs our lives. Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.” (Luke 9:23-24) Being a disciple is costly, but it is worth it, so worth it.
When I think back on my life, it has been so much richer because I surrendered it to Jesus. Living with the assurance of his love and presence, I am never alone. I face trials and challenges with him turning to him in prayer and in trust. In imitating Jesus by loving people, my life has been filled with love—love I have given and love I have received. Love is a treasure that no one can steal, that never rusts. In this season of being a district superintendent, I have treasured getting to know more pastors and more church people throughout my district. I love experiencing the different characters and personalities of our churches. As I have tried to follow Jesus, I have been led to ministries that have blessed me so much as I seek to bless others. In John’s gospel, Jesus said, “I came so that [my sheep] could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” (John 10:10) We are called anew to follow him, to surrender our lives to him, to walk as he walked. He leads us to life in its fullest. He leads us to perfect love lived out in daily decisions. He leads us to a God-filled life. Each day, when you awake, hear his voice “Come, follow me.”