A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”
Probably the biggest transition I had to make in my life was learning to go from being a “student” to a student. In my formative years, school came very easy to me and I learned early on that I didn’t have to work very hard to make good grades. Although I took primarily an honors slate of courses in high school, I carefully avoided the classes and teachers that had a reputation of being difficult. “Students” are children who show up to school only because they have to be there, but students are there because they actually want to learn. It wasn’t until my first college exams came back with red letters and numbers on the front that I had never seen before on a school assignment that I began to understand that if I wanted to stick around to see my second semester, my days of a “student” had to be gone forever. I should add that although I begrudgingly began to take my studies seriously and learned how to learn, I graduated a semester early with the hopes of never sitting in a classroom ever again. Ironically, all these years later, I am still slogging my way through graduate school.
While the word Greek word “disciple” is best translated “learner” in English, in the first century it meant much more than a just being a student. Every village employed a rabbi who taught a school associated with the local synagogue. Along with teaching the children and adults, rabbis had a special group of students designated as disciples that would sit at their feet—literally and figuratively—eagerly soaking up every word as they taught the Law of God and wrestled with the proper understanding and application of God’s Word for their life. To be accepted as a disciple by a famous rabbi was a high honor, the culmination of years of diligence and excellence in studying generations of oral traditions and handling the Scriptures; think of it as a prospective student applying to a prestigious college or university. While it was an incredible privilege to be allowed to become a disciple of a rabbi, being chosen meant more than memorizing more study material, but total devotion to the rabbi’s very way of life. Each and every disciple was a future rabbi in the making.
The gospel of Luke tells us that, from a very early age, Jesus displayed an incredible zeal and intellectual capacity for the right handling of the Word of God. Although trained professionally as a carpenter, learning the skilled trade from His earthly father Joseph, Jesus’ true passion was always to do the will of His Heavenly Father. After leaving the wilderness, Jesus arrived at on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, in the same region of His hometown Nazareth. He carried with Him the reputation that He had begun to establish at the Jordan River as a gifted teacher who spoke with authority and a prophetic message for the people of God.
Once again, Mark’s gospel account gives us the condensed version of what transpired next. In Luke chapter 5, we learn that Simon, also called Peter, and his brother Andrew were actually done fishing for the day, busy cleaning their nets after a futile night on the water, when Jesus showed up. With an ever-growing audience pressing in on every side, Jesus asked them to take Him out a little ways from land so that He could speak to the large crowd. After He was finished teaching, Jesus told the brothers to chart a course for deeper waters in another attempt at a catch. Although initially resistant, Simon Peter obeyed the word of the rabbi and set the sails and dropped the nets, expecting little more than another laborious cleaning of the nets for his efforts. Instead, right away the nets became so full of fish that they began to break and the brothers had to call for help from their business partners, another pair of brothers named James and John, in another boat.
Simon Peter was astonished at the catch and recognized at once that Jesus was no ordinary rabbi, and he also knew that he was not worthy to be in His presence, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Yet, instead of accepting Simon Peter’s offer to depart, Jesus countered with His own, an offer Simon could not refuse: “Follow me.” Although Simon was just beginning to get a glimpse of who Jesus really was, Jesus already knew Simon better than he knew himself.
Up to this point the brothers’ fishermen were nothing more than ordinary men living ordinary lives catching ordinary fish until Jesus showed up and changed everything they ever knew with one miraculous cast and a simple invitation. The four fishermen walked away from their bumper-crop and their boats, no longer fishermen; now they were becoming fishers of men, following in the footsteps of their new Rabbi.
Just like the first disciples, Jesus appears in our lives when we don’t expect it and least deserve it. When we encounter Jesus our eyes are opened to the true depths of our depravity and understand that no matter how hard we try there is nothing that we can do to earn His love or favor. The simple truth is that it is impossible to work our way into God’s good graces. Even if we wanted to, we could never do enough good to counterbalance the sin in our hearts. Just like Simon Peter, no matter how hard we try to push Jesus away, all we can do is fall on our knees and receive the invitation to join Him in His mission, casting out our nets and trusting Him to do His work through even people like us.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are so much more merciful to us than we can ever comprehend and Your grace infinitely better than we could ever deserve. You made a way for us to be with You when there simply was no other way. We pray that You would help us to see You with fresh eyes and heed Your call to surrender our lives to follow You. Teach us how to join You in Your mission to be fishers for Your kingdom. We pray this in Your perfect name, Amen.