At the beginning of Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels, we’re told about Jesus appearing at the Sea of Galilee and calling some fishermen to leave their jobs and families and follow him. Why would they do that? This is such an absurdity that movies sometimes show Jesus with eerily captivating eyes and an ominous tone of voice that draws them away from their nets like a tractor beam from Star Trek.
It didn’t happen that way.
Fortunately, we have John’s gospel to tell us what actually happened. Prior to this call, John the baptizer had directed John and Andrew to the Messiah right after he baptized Jesus (John 1:36–40. Their brothers, Peter and James, then Philip and Nathanael, joined them soon thereafter (John 1:41–51). They became his followers, witnessing many miracles, including the changing of water into wine at Cana and the healing of a government official’s son. They had already been baptizing more people than John and experienced a great revival in Samaria after Jesus talked to the woman at the well.
When Jesus called the fishermen, they already knew the benefit of leaving everything to become full-time disciples. All they needed was for him to say, “Come.”
Later, Jesus said, “If you’re not ready to give up everything you have, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
I trust Jesus’ words to be true. If so, does this mean people sometimes incorrectly call themselves “disciples,” when actually they are “part-time followers”?