Follow Me

23_MuradOsmann_1140-660_resizeOne day, as Jesus was walking along the shore of the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers - Simon, also called Peter and 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!'

They left their nets at once and followed him.

I always thought this was crazy. Why would these men leave their careers in a moment to accept a vague invitation?

I mean, he's Jesus, so maybe there was such a magnetism about him that they couldn't help but to follow him...but based on Isaiah 53:2 ("There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him"), it seems that was probably not the case.

So what could lead to their actions?

I was in Nashville for a music conference once, and after a session one evening, I walked to a convenience store to grab a snack.

While I was there, a fairly famous musician came into the store - Steven Curtis Chapman.

Because I understand that celebrities are just human, I have no interest in requesting autographs. I don't have any dislike for the man, I just know that we're not going to spark a long term friendship in a convenience store, so I didn't bother him as he was just trying to buy some food and keep moving even though I was the only other person in the store in addition to his agent/manager guy.

But even though I didn't interact with him, I knew who he was. If he had suddenly turned to me and offered to hire me at $100K per year, I would have immediately accepted, knowing he had the resources to do it.

Back to Galilee - word of this Jesus must have swept through the vicinity. People must have talked about how this great Rabbi was in the area of the seashore today. But with work to do, and a likely less than perfect religious record, the fisherman surely never expected Jesus to pay them any attention. There was no point in going up to him because there was no chance of some long term relationship starting.

But when he suddenly started walked among the boats of workers, they must've known who he was.

To their shock, Jesus doesn't just walk by, but turns to talk to them. Not to condemn them, but to invite them.

In light of this, we could understand their reaction.

They knew before he ever asked that he was worth following, they simply never expected they would be allowed to do so, much less to be invited to do so by Jesus himself.

Human Flaws and the Perfect Saviour

I always love reading about Peter. I just read Luke 5:8, where, after Jesus tells Peter to go fishing and they pull in a huge haul, Peter falls at Jesus’ feet and shouts, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Peter thought he was the kind of dude that God didn’t love. He was a sinner.  He wasn’t some fancy pants religious guy. Peter did his own thing.

He probably figured that as long as he showed God the proper respect (going to synagogue sometimes, respecting the rabbis, not breaking the ‘big’ commandments, etc) and stayed out of his way, God was content to let him do his thing.

But suddenly, Peter realizes that God’s chosen one is sitting in his very boat.

This was bad. This was really, really bad. All his life, he’s tried to keep himself out of God’s crosshairs. As long as he wasn’t too bad, God didn’t have a reason to single him out for punishment, right?

So when Peter realizes that God has come near, his only reasonable solution is to beg him to leave. Simon isn’t worried about what he could miss out on…he’s worried about what God might do to him.

But what Peter doesn’t realize, at least not right away, is that God isn’t interested in all the people who are acting religious, who are only acting holy, who have the best attendance at synagogue, who have the fanciest looking robes.

Jesus is looking for people who are genuine and real. People who are broken and need to be fixed. People who will respond to the love he gives. And that’s Peter to a tee.

So the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are “Don’t be afraid.” I can’t see him saying that without a smile on his face. He knows all about Peter, and loves him none the less. Then Jesus says that he’s got a plan for Peter: “from now on, you will catch men.”

Despite his gruff, rugged exterior and brash, loud-mouth ways, Peter was looking for something bigger than himself to believe in and to pour his life into. It’s why Peter won’t leave Jesus after the hard sermon in John (see 6:68).

It’s Peter who boldly declares that Jesus is the Messiah when everybody else is debating (Matthew 16:16).

It’s Peter who pledges to die with Jesus, if need be (Matthew 26:33). Peter falters the first time, but he bounced back. Eventually, according to Christian tradition, Peter did die for his faith.

Peter is willing to tell Jesus what he thinks and how he feels. He’s open and honest and raw. Half the time, he’s wrong or mistaken, but Jesus doesn’t send him away or punish him for saying what he thinks and how he feels.

In the church, we seem to want people to be restrained and to suppress how they really feel. Say nice things and smile at all times. I hate that. It’s some kind of creepy, fake gospel that I want nothing to do with.

When I read the Psalms and Job and the Gospels, I see real people who love a real God and have real problems in a real world.

You want shiny happy people all the time? Join a cult.

I follow a real saviour. One who was willing to get his hands dirty and bloody in order to pull me out of the mud pit I was stuck in. I thank God that he’s transforming me, and the transformation isn’t to a boring wallflower.

I want my life to bring attention to how wonderful he is, and the only way I know how to do that is by being genuine.

False Promises

You know, it’s funny. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be his disciples he didn’t say “Come follow me, and it’ll be a cake walk.” (see Matthew 4:19)

But I act like that’s what he said.

I also don’t think he said “Things are going to go really, really smoothly because I’ve overcome the world.” (see John 16:33)

But again, that seems to be my expectation.

I don’t know why I act like my life is supposed to be easy. It’s not. Even the best of us has struggled trying to figure out what God’s will is.

When Peter had the vision of the sheet descending from Heaven, he was like ‘what the heck are you talking about God? I’m not eating any of that stuff!’ (Acts 10)

When Paul wanted to go into Asia, the Holy Spirit blocked him (Acts 16:6) Not to mention when he asked three times for God to remove the thorn in his flesh and God said ‘stop asking’ (2 Corinthians 12:6-8)

Jesus himself didn’t want to have to endure the agony of the cross. (Matthew 26:39)

What marks the difference in their lives is simple: obedience. They obeyed God because God is worthy of our obedience. Not because it’s fun. Not necessarily because they understood it, but because our job is to do the will of God.

We must not make up false promises. Or accept them. Any person who essentially turns faith in God into a way to make money, live in luxury and/or avoid any sense of discomfort in our lives must be rejected in the same way Jesus rejected Peters effort to avoid a life of sacrifice: “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23)

Instead of deciding what will make me happy and then demanding or expecting God to give me that, I will learn to take joy from obeying him.

This, I believe, is the dying to myself I am called to by the scriptures. So that I may be made alive in Christ.

In the life he gives, not the life I try to ‘get out of him’.