“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
I don’t get it. Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee when he happened to see a group of hard-working fishermen, and he said to them; “Follow me.” And they dropped their fishing nets, and followed him. No way.
Sure, they were tired and frustrated if the catch had been small, and they knew they would have to pay the Roman tax on whatever they had, and that damn tax cut into an already meagre income — but wait a minute!
Fishing was not a happy hobby; this was their only business; this is how they supported their families. Leave everything now and follow this stranger? What would Peter’s wife say? Not a chance.
Matthew is not writing history. He’s making up a story to fit the many bits and pieces of information and fables that had come down from synagogue to synagogue over the past 50 years. The fact was that many years ago, Peter and his brother, Andrew, had probably been fishermen, and they certainly had left their business to follow Jesus.
These two men believed in Jesus as a man who could lead them into great things. But I don’t think it happened in one day. It seldom does.
But it did happen over time. These two rough, illiterate fishermen, and more men and women to follow, came to put their trust in this charismatic peasant who fished with them and ate with them and talked about their Jewish religion and their Jewish God in ways that even their rabbi seemed to miss. He made the Jewish Kingdom of God come alive. They had heard about this kingdom since they were children, but never like this! He said it was here. Now.
It was their job, if they wanted it, to travel with him up and down the dusty roads of Galilee to spread this good news to all their neighbors. They would have to sleep outdoors and beg for food and wear funky clothes like the Hippies of their day.
They wouldn’t always be accepted and sometimes the rejections would be painful. But many Jews would welcome them and even some rabbis would let them teach in their synagogue. How about it? Were they ready for this new adventure. They said yes.
Every adventure is a leap of faith. You must believe and hope in the outcome, but you never really know. These Jewish men, and many women too, took that leap. For weeks and months and even a few years, they pounded up and down those old dusty roads, talking about this kingdom.
But why? Why did they do this? Why would any reasonable person give up their livelihood to take a chance on this kind of adventure?
One reason: their leader was with them. Jesus was right there next to them, wearing the same kind of funky clothes, sleeping outdoors, begging for food, and sweating and freezing in the weather. He never asked them to do what he wasn’t already doing. That’s why they did it.
Sure, Jesus was charismatic and charming and a great talker, but phonies are, too. The person who is followed is the leader who becomes a part of their followers’ lives. He lives it with them. I don’t see Jesus walking on water; I see him fishing in it. I don’t see him raising the dead; I see him crying with the mourners. I don’t see him working miracles; I see him sitting around the fire when the day was done, laughing and singing and drinking with his friends.
I see him as their leader.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His blog is www.progressiveheretic.com.