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Discipleship: A Fishing Story Matthew 4:12-23

By Kenneth L. Gibble
Had the fishing been really lousy that day for Peter and Andrew, for James and John? We all have our bad days at work; maybe on this day the nets kept coming up empty, maybe the net-mending was especially tedious and monotonous, maybe the heat and humidity were all but unbearable.

Were James and John desperate to get away from their father? Maybe old Zebedee was a tyrant, constantly belittling his sons, telling them they were lazy and stupid. Maybe when Jesus gave his invitation, they jumped at the chance to leave their dysfunctional family.

Were they looking for a good excuse to stop being fishermen? Maybe they figured fishing was a dead-end job with little chance for advancement, so they had all gone down to the community college and taken a seminar how to change careers, and Jesus came along at just the right time.

Had the four fisherman heard reports about Jesus, about His powerful preaching? Maybe they had even heard Him themselves, and the thought of knowing Him, being one of His disciples, was irresistible.

Did the words, "I will show you how to fish for people," sound intriguing? Maybe they wanted to find out what He meant by that strange expression. Maybe it held just the right combination of novelty and intensity to pull them away from their nets, their boat, and fall in behind Him.

Was the presence of Jesus so compelling, was the sound of His voice so commanding, that they were drawn to him like flecks of iron drawn to a magnet?

Questions, questions. Why did Andrew and Peter, why did John and James, follow Jesus that day? Did they have any idea that following Him would mean a radical change in their lives? Maybe they thought "follow me" simply meant "you deserve a break today." Maybe they figured they deserved a holiday and tomorrow they'd be back to fishing again. Surely they couldn't have guessed what lay ahead for them -- the excitement, the fun, the grief, and the joy of it.

We simply don't know why the fishermen followed Jesus. The gospels don't tell us. All Matthew's gospel says about Peter and Andrew is this: "Immediately they left their nets and followed him." All Matthew's gospel says about James and John is this: "immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him."

"Left the boat and their father." I'm sure the boat didn't care that they left, but what about the father? Imagine for a moment what a reporter's interview with Zebedee might have sounded like.

"So, Zebedee, what did you think when your sons walked off the job that day?"

"I was furious. 'Hey,' I yelled at them when they took off after him. 'Hey, we're not even halfway through mending these nets. Where do you think you're going? Do you think I can do all this work myself?' Oh, I cussed and fussed, all right. We fishermen are known for our colorful language, you know."

"Did you have any idea your sons would never come back?"

"Of course not. If I'd known that, I'd have run after them and dragged them back to the boat. I still can't believe it really happened. I thought I'd done a good job of raising them, of teaching them what it means to be responsible, to honor their parents and to live up to their family obligations. But it's plain that I failed. I mean, what kind of men would just walk out on their jobs, their families? I was counting on my sons to carry on the fishing when I get too old. What will happen to me and my wife?"

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