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 fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ’and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him (Matt. 4:18-20).
Have you ever wondered why these fishermen left everything to follow Jesus without question of debate? Did they know who Jesus was? Why would they drop everything to follow a stranger, even a wife and possibly a family, as Peter did? Did Jesus have some sort of magnet pull that drew these men to Him? These would all be unanswered questions but for one thing – these were young Jewish men who lived in Israel. They knew the drill.
From the time they were at their mother’s breast, they learned to repeat the Sh’mah,
Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4)
And the greatest commandment,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6:5)
By the time they went to school they had memorised the entire book of Leviticus – the book that contained their sacred laws.
Every young Jewish male aspired to become the disciple of a noted rabbi. They all went to elementary school at the local synagogue, call the Beth Saphar, at the age of about five where an appointed teacher taught them the a-b-c of the Torah – their main textbook for the next approximately seven years at school and for the rest of their lives.
Secondary education at the Beth consisted of the an in-depth study of the Torah as well as the Prophets and the Writings. Those were not proficient in their studies went home to learn the family business while the rest continued their education at the Beth Talmid, – the school of disciples. They learned by engaging in discussion and debate under the tutorship of a recognised rabbi. Their dream was to be chosen to be a disciple of a rabbi with sh’mikah – authority, to follow him, to live in intimate connection with him, to learn his words and his ways so that they could become his replicas and perpetuate his character and his teaching as his disciples.
The cue that the rabbi had chosen them was the invitation, “Follow me.” To hear those words from the lips of a rabbi was to them like music in their ears. They would not even think twice about responding. They would drop everything and join him because it was both a dream and an honour to be chosen to be a disciple.
Imagine the surprise when Jesus, who was recognised to be a rabbi with authority called, not aspiring students from the Beth Talmid, but relatively uneducated drop outs from the lake. They were eminently unqualified to be disciples. Apart from their lack of education, they were also considered to be “unclean” because they worked with dead fish.
Not only did Jesus choose fishermen to follow Him, but He also chose His entire band of disciples from among the disqualified! A despised tax collector, political activists, nobodies and even a potential traitor. Did He know who they were, especially since He spent the whole night in prayer before He selected them from among the motley crew who tailed Him? Did He know what He was doing?
Of course, Jesus knew what He was doing! What if He had gone to the Beth Talmid and chosen young men schooled in the ways of the religious leaders of His day? After all, were they not His chief opponents and the ones ultimately responsible for hounding Him to death? How much better to choose relatively ignorant men whom He could shape by His words into His ways without too much resistance. As it was, He had to contend with some of their prejudices which blocked their understanding of His mission.
They refused to believe Him when He spoke of His impending crucifixion. They believed that He was the Messiah. It was unthinkable that their Messiah should suffer and die. Suffering did not fit in with their concept of a king who had come to overthrow Roman occupation and re-establish David’s glorious kingdom. It was only after His resurrection that the whole picture became clear.
The point for us is that Jesus has called us, if we consider ourselves His disciples, first and foremost, to follow Him. That involves leaving behind all our religious notions and preconceived ideas to become closely and intimately associated with Him, to follow His every thought and action until we are thoroughly familiar with everything about Him and fully convinced that He is the Son of God.
This intimacy demands that He be the centre of our lives, that our relationship with every other person to whom we are related in any way be redefined by our relationship with Him as Lord. Any other attitude immediately disqualifies us from being or even calling ourselves disciples of Jesus.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.
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