It is in Mark 1:14-20 that we hear of Jesus calling his first disciples. The same story is found in Matthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-11, and John 1:35-42. Luke and John offer some additional information not found in the straightforward account by Mark.“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.”
The fact that Andrew, Simon, James, and John are fishermen, on the Sea of Galilee, means that they were not wealthy or of the priestly class. It would seem that perhaps James and John are a little better off because their father has ‘hired men’ working for him. In any case, they are not the type of men that most rabbis would seek out to be their disciples. From the very start, Jesus does the unexpected.
Mark says it happened “as Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee”. Was Jesus just strolling along the shore? Or had he come to Bethsaida, to that very spot, in order to find the 4 men? Like with Nathaniel, we can guess that Jesus knew what was in the heart of each man. They may have been men who were seeking a deeper experience of God. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 130 they were waiting “for the Lord…more than the watchmen for the morning.” (vs. 5-6)When they first meet Jesus on the shore as they ply their trade, what made them leave their nets, their families, and the only livelihood they knew? Mark says that “immediately they left…and followed him”. In the account in John, it is Andrew who first follows Jesus because John the Baptist tells him to. In the Gospel of Luke, the miracle of the fishes causes Simon to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Mark doesn’t give us any of those details, instead, he implies that when Jesus said “Follow me” they dropped their nets and set off with Jesus without even asking ‘where are we going?’
For me this conjures up images of the Pied Piper. You remember the story of the town of Hamelin who hired a piper to get rid of all the rats in town. When that was done, the leaders refused to pay him and he led the children of the town away by his enticing music. According to Wikipedia, the story originated in the 1300s, based on an entry in the town chronicles stating "it is 100 years since our children left.” There was even once a window in the church in Hamelin depicting the piper and children (destroyed in 1660). While the story appears to have originated in fact, no one knows for sure why the children left. Theories include participation in the Children’s Crusade (1212), being kidnapped by a neighboring landowner as serfs, or emigrating to somewhere else in Europe.The dark and mysterious part of the story aside, Jesus does act the part of a charismatic ‘piper’ who calls to Simon, Andrew, James, and John to ‘follow’ and they leave their boats and do so. Jesus took these 4 fishermen and transformed their lives so that they became leaders of the new movement after the Resurrection. From the beginning, they were willing to trust and to follow and to learn from Jesus. In Jesus they found that “in the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Psalm 130:7-8)
Jesus called the quartet just as they were. There was no requirement to study or to do great things prior to becoming a disciple. This is similar to Paul’s advice to the Corinthians to “lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you…remain in the condition in which you were called.” (I Corinthians 7:17, 20) The 1963 hymn Lord of the Dance that you can watch here depicts Christ as calling us to “Dance, dance, wherever you may be, I am the lord of the dance, said he. And I lead you all, wherever you may be, And I lead you all in the dance, said he.”
Is Jesus calling you to leave something and set out on some new adventure? How has Jesus transformed your life as you seek to follow?