Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was 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. 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 the boat and their father, and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-22 (NASB)
One of my favourite day trips is the fishing village of Anstruther, in the East Neuk of Fife. It is the biggest of the Fife fishing villages, in between Pittenweem and Crail. The sounds and smells of the harbour are heaven on earth; waves breaking rhythmically on the nearby beach, the music of rigging buffeted against masts, the mournful melodies of gulls. The sharp saltiness tickling my nostrils competing with the delicate smell of battered fish from the chippy. Paradise! Yet when I do visit I am also reminded of the disciples of Jesus, particularly of the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John.
The location of the fishing community in our text is nothing like Anstruther. Capernaum as we discovered in a previous episode of the series was an important trading hub on the shores of the sea of Galilee, and it was a bustling fishing community. The sounds and smells would not be that different from fishing harbours anywhere. As Jesus walked along the shore there was much activity, boats pulled up and nets being tended by crews for the evening of fishing ahead. As we read this familiar story we must not think that any of this was random, our Lord was looking for already chosen men who he knew.
Peter and Andrew were his first subjects. These men he had met previously for they had been disciples of John the Baptist, and they had spent a day with Him (John 1:35-42), when John was arrested they had returned to their fishing jobs. The fact that they knew Jesus explains their sudden decision to follow Him, John’s words would have been fresh in their memory: and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). Further along the shore were the sons of Zebedee, James and John who were busy mending nets. They also immediately left everything to follow Jesus, including their father.
As I said previously, the choosing of these men was not random – it was specific. The job of a fisherman in Jesus’ day was difficult. Fishermen worked year-round in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, often at night. Jesus selected fishermen as his disciples not only because the imagery of their occupation fitted well with the mission, but also because they were hardy men, accustomed to difficult work and long hours. Seeking people to follow Jesus would take the same care, dedication, and skill used in fishing. Another important detail is that these were not highly educated men, they were common working men. This kept them humble in their mission, depending on God rather than any pride in great learning. These chosen men were loyal to their Teacher, but they were flawed which we see often in the gospel accounts.
Dear reader, as the Lord Jesus chose these disciples He also now chooses you. As He knew these men He knows you too, skills and weaknesses inclusively. The big question is this; are we willing to make sacrifices to follow Him as Peter, Andrew, James and John did?