An invitation. To be included. The feeling of a warm welcome.
The key, transitional moment in any person’s life is moving from outsider to insider. Whether it is a hobby where a novice is welcomed into the huddle with the ‘pros,’ or a new hire being invited to the weekly secret sales-person doughnut meeting, the feeling of belonging is important. The ancient Jewish group of insiders were called Rabbis. These Rabbis were an elect group of intellectual and spiritual gurus who knew the traditions and Scriptures inside and out. To aspire to be a Rabbi was a noble goal, but highly unlikely for the average Jewish boy.
The first step was to be invited to follow a Rabbi, then the testing, the memorization of the Law of Moses and the traditions of your Rabbi. Like pursuit of a Doctoral Degree from Harvard, the process was rigorous and highly competitive. Most boys would be rejected by their Rabbi to continue their education at a young age. The boys who were not accepted to continue following a Rabbi would take up their Father’s work: Farming, Carpentry, Shepherding…Fishing.
In this next story, we find Jesus, the Rabbi, calling out to rejects.
give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime
Take whatever job, or craft, you desire to excel at most in the world. Now, in your head, imagine the best person in the world at that. If you’re an architect, imagine your favorite designer. If you’re a business person, imagine Warren Buffet or someone of that ilk. If you’re a pastor, or race car driver (I certainly hope race car drivers read this blog), or stay at home parent imagine the person who is best at what you want to do. Now, within your imagination, picture that person inviting you to learn from them. Visualize the hand shake and point of conversation that goes from “Hello” to “I want to teach you to be like me.”
These two brothers, James and John, were Rabbinical Rejects. That’s a great Jewish Punk band name, if I do say so myself. These brothers would have imagined being a Rabbi, being trained by him, and eventually inviting other aspiring Jewish boys to follow them. James and John didn’t make it far; they were rejects. As rejects, they had to take up the family trade. In their case it was fishing.
I can’t imagine a more drastic shift from Rabbi, the elite leader in community and culture, to fisherman who sits in a boat smelling like day old gefilte fish. One day James and John were following their neighborhood Rabbi and the next they were in a boat with dad, learning how to make a living. This is paramount to going from being a training to be a NFL player to Grocery Bagger in 24 hours. Painful.
One day, Jesus saw the brothers doing what fishermen do: fish. While casting their net a voice called out, “Come follow me, you fishermen! I’ll make you men who catch people, instead of fish.” (My translation). The boys jumped at the opportunity, dropped their nets, and followed Jesus.
Two points I’d like to make about this.
- This was not by chance.
- They left a lot.
The odds that you, or I, or anyone would leave their day job to do a tentative dream job are fairly slim. If Joe-Schmo comes and asks you to leave all you know to chase your childhood dream, I doubt you go. I believe that James and John knew Jesus. I think they had probably seen His baptism, that they knew the ancient Hebraic law and how Jesus was possibly the fulfillment of them, and that they had some sort of previous encounter with Jesus. These are my conjectures, but they make sense to me because we’re all human. I wouldn’t have left the family trade by chance, but for someone I knew and believed in and thought could be a way to the dream job, you bet!
Second, I think that James and John left a lot to follow Jesus. I also think that when Jesus calls to us, we’re suppose to leave a lot. James and John were leaving a job that was secure. They would follow in their dad’s footsteps and inherit a business. They would be well taken care of into their old age where they could give the family business to their children. It was a promising future. When the boys drop their nets to follow Jesus, they knew that their livelihood would be determined by the charity of those who supported the Rabbi, Jesus. Rabbi’s would live by community support (much like modern pastors). They would teach in synagogues (similar to churches) and receive gifts from followers to eat and sleep and be taken care of. James and John left the comfort of a predictable paycheck to follow Jesus.
Will You Drop Your Nets?
Today, when Jesus calls to you these principles still apply.
- The call to faith and obedience is not by chance.
- It will cost you a lot.
When the opportunity to follow Jesus comes you have two decisions to make. The first is to ignore the call and go back to your nets. Go back to the comfort and predictability of life and forget the call. Get back into the boat with the fish smell. The second response is to drop your nets and begin following.
To begin following will be costly. You will lose the comfort and predictability of life. Following Jesus requires you live a self-less life by serving others before yourself, the predictability is gone as God will inevitably interrupt all normalcy for you to participate in the Kingdom of God on earth. James and John decided the call was worth losing this world in order to gain the next.
The question you need to answer is this. Will you drop your nets when Jesus calls?
Not blindly like a dumb sheep, but boldly like a dumb sheep with a Good Shepherd.
Have questions or comments please send them to me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to share a conversation with you about anything. I’ve got lots of room in my heart for lots of friends.