In my reading this morning, I was in Matthew chapter 4 where he talks about the calling of the disciples.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman. “Come, follow me, ” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.Matthew 4:18-20
What struck me today was that the left what they were doing at once. No delay, they just dropped everything and followed.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.Matthew 4:21-22
No questions asked, they just left. They didn’t help their father bring in the boat or finish the day of work or anything…they left immediately.
Why? In hindsight we can say, “well it was Jesus, of course they would follow him.” But while Jesus was well known at this point, he may have been considered just another rabbi and I’m sure he wasn’t considered the son of God at this point by these people. So what caused them to drop everything and leave?
So I went searching for an answer to this question and came across this article, https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/rabbi-and-talmidim which explains quite a bit about the culture in the area of Galilee at this time and help me to understand why it’s quite understandable why they followed so quickly. Read the article, it’s worth it, but I’ll try to summarize here.
The people of Galilee were some of the most religious Jews in the world at this time. Because of their living on the sea, a trade route in the day, they had more interactions with the world and were probably more educated in the scripture and had a deep reverence for it and passion to be faithful to it. All of this created a very religious community with strong families and a strong resistance to the influences of outside religious thoughts than some other Jewish communities.
Children were brought up in this community with a strong educational system. Beginning at age 5 they begin to learn the Scriptures and continued until their late teens where they then began to learn a trade or in the case of woman, were married. A rabbi was responsible for the education of he students in each community and they were highly revered.
The best students would continue their education, while learning a trade. And a very few of the most outstanding students sought permission to study with a famous rabbi leaving home and travelling with him for a lengthy period of time. These students were called talmidim, which is Hebrew for disciple. The disciple is more than just a student, learning from the teacher…he wants to be like the teacher.
But it’s important to note that the student had to ask permission to follow a rabbi and it is likely that most were turned away. So it was a great honor to be accepted by a rabbi. When the rabbi accepted the students request to follow, it indicated that the rabbi felt the student had the ability and commitment to become like him. It showed that the rabbi had great confidence in the student.
So in the verses above when Jesus asked Peter, Andrew, James and John to “follow him”, it was a statement that Jesus had confidence that they could be like him. While we don’t know if any of them had sought out this honor previously, the fact that Jesus came and asked…they couldn’t refuse.
And think of Zebedee, who seemingly had his boys abandon him. But when taken into light of what I’ve learned, I suppose it gave him great pride to see not just one, but two of his boys chosen by a rabbi and one that was as well known as Jesus. So I suspect his eyes filled with tears of joy to see his boys running off after Jesus.
How do I apply this to my life in this day? Well it would be awesome if Jesus physically walked up to me and said “Follow me,” As children of God and believers in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his sacrifice that saves us all, we are called to follow Jesus. We are called to follow where he goes and leave all else behind.
It doesn’t mean that God will lead us to quit our jobs, sell our houses, and head out into the mission fields overseas….but he might. It might mean that God has already lead us to our mission field and be the light where we work today, where we live, in our own community and neighborhoods. He may be leading us to be like him with our co-workers, our friends and our families. We just need to be prepared to follow him where ever he leads.