Two dramatic stories stand like towering bookends to the epic life and times of Jesus and his disciples. They’re recorded in the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, so let'seavesdrop on the first one. This is the version of that story from Mark, which is probably Peter’s account, a rough tough fisherman who appears a lot throughout the Jesus story. One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!
And so they left their nets at once and followed him. A bit further up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their fishing nets. Jesus called them also and, immediately, they followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. It’s so important that we don’t lose sight of the profound ordinary-ness of the guys that Jesus handpicked. I’ve never quite got my head around why he chose such a dysfunctional bunch as his apprentices. They don’t get it all wrong of course, but the clues are there. You see, he’s isn’t that bothered how good a person thinks they are.
This very famous Bible account is rich with meaning and significance as Jesus calls a group of ordinary fisherman as his first followers, very interesting. Not called to mega stardom, but called to line up alongside the hurting and to be grafted into the divine purpose of filling the earth with the love and power of God. Jesus calls them in the context of their daily, mundane working life. It’s not a big high five moment at a political rally. It was a personal invitation not an instruction from a headmaster or an order from a police officer. The response of these fisherman says so much about the type of guys they were. It probably wasn’t their first encounter with Jesus but it was definitely the gamechanging one.
Sometimes they returned to the water to fish but in a very real sense, this was it for them for the rest of their lives. A one way trip through God’s awesome turnstile into the great adventure of a life in the hands of God. And there’s another thing to say here two, they went from one family business to another. When you realise you are loved by a father, you become part of a family, it’s called the church. In the case of these fishermen, the call was specific but the cost would be enormous. No Plan B, no escape route, no alternative career. Zebedee & Sons Fishing Ltd of Galilee is no more. Having said that, I wonder sometimes what happened to the old man and his retirement arrangements.
At the heart of this offer from Heaven to become a follower Jesus and a child of God is the invitation to leave everything behind. It’s still there today, it has never been removed from the challenge of the Gospel. And it’s not something we respond to once but every day for the rest of our lives. There will be hard days and difficult seasons, but we’re never alone. On one occasion Peter, the tough, rough fisherman we talked about earlier told the others that he was fed up and was going to back to fish. We all go fishing sometimes, it’s part of the deal because none of us are all that to be honest. That’s the reason God sent his son to saves us.
So let’s leave that part of the story and fast forward to the end of the three year apprenticeship for these lads. Jesus has died on the cross to pay the price for the things that separate all of us from God and then destroyed the power of death itself as he was raised to life after three days. No we find the resurrected Jesus appearing to his fisherman disciples to deliver their lesson before the baton passes to them. Here’s what the Bible sys.
Jesus appeared to the disciples besides the Sea of Galilee and this is how it happened.Several of the disciples were there, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples. Peter said, I’m going fishing. We’ll come, too, they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, Friends, have you caught any fish? No, they replied. Then he said, Throw out your net on to the right hand side of the boat and you’ll get some! So they did and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
This starts out as a demoralising moment in the middle of a very bad day for fishing. Actually, it’s a bad month. Peter has denied he even knew Jesus not once but three times, Thomas has had a crisis of faith and is looking for proof and the less said about Judas the better. None of these boys are going to win the disciple of the month contest. They are faithfully trying to implement the plan but they’re failing desperately until Jesus arrives and interacts with them. He speaks from the shoreline but they don't even recognise him. Maybe they’re thinking that this is just some irritating bloke giving helpful advice to a team of fishermen who know what to do thank you very much.
We’ve all been there when some know-it-all has a helpful suggestion to make which normally means stating the flippin obvious. So why does this bit of helpful advice make them change? Maybe by then they have recognised the unmistakable voice of Jesus and something just told them to respond to his instructions. But the net has already gone out from the boat and the catch is non-existent. Most of us would have packed it all in, that’s what I would have done anyway. But the disciples are about to cross the threshold into a whole new dimension. It would be a lesson that they would never forget.
There was nothing wrong with the lake, nothing wrong with the net and nothing wrong with the fishing technique. The catch was hauled in at the same place, on the same day, with the same equipment and with same technique as before. They were just missing an ingredient.The word from Jesus was everything. It’s always like that when we respond to the voice of God for the first or the thousandth time. Sometimes we have to do what feels crazy to our logical minds and sometimes we need others to encourage us along the way.
The fish were in the net but now the net had to be pulled to the shore and that meant a team effort. You see, it’s never totally miraculous, it’s not just about God but our willingness to respond to God with the help and relationship of those who are trying to do the same thing. So there’s the two accounts that are bookends I talked about at the start. They sit at either end of the bookshelf containing the books of the incredible things that happened around Jesus and are still happening to this day. Maybe those two encounters happened at the very same place as each other. We don’t know for sure but they weren’t far apart.
Places are very important to God, very often he revisits them and sometimes moments are created that make a powerful connection inside us and give us the shove we need to respond to the invitation to follow Jesus. Maybe this is one of them right now.