Thursday, January 04, 2007

He said to them, "Follow me"

At least 40 years ago, when I was a kid in Sunday School, they taught us a simple chorus based on Matthew 4.19:
I will make you fishers of men,
Fishers of men,
Fishers of men,
I will make you fishers of men
If you follow me....
The next encounter with this verse (that I remember) was as a young Christian, where I was encouraged to memorize it:
And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men"
Matthew 4.19
I think the point we were supposed to get was Jesus's invitation to recruit men and women for the Kingdom of God. Oh, and verse 20 says something like: Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And I think the point we were supposed to get from that was immediate obedience. Exactly how we were supposed to apply that wasn't entirely clear -- they did not encourage me to quit my job for a life of... what? So what did Simon and Andrew hear when Jesus said, "Follow me"? Why did they respond like that?

Recently I read something that answers those questions. In those days, I read, young men aspired to follow a rabbi, to be his students. Any given rabbi would not have a whole lot of disciples, or followers, because they would do everything with him. Where he walked, they would walk. When he ate, they would eat, and so on. So there were a lot of disappointed young men, and later, a lot of older men resigned to their fate as second- or third-class citizens. They had a variety of other jobs, merchants or whatever. At the bottom of the heap were tradesmen. Carpenters, stone-masons. Fishermen.

So Jesus's invitation would be like... like a casting director walking up to an aspiring actor (currently a Hollywood waiter) and saying, "Come with me, because I have a major role for you." This guy is just serving time while waiting for his big break -- or a small one.

But one difference between the Hollywood waiter and the Galilean fishermen is that the waiter might still have been hoping for that big break, whereas Simon and Andrew had likely given up hope of a life beyond the trades long ago.

And how about for you and me? If your job, like mine, is outside the field of "religious services" -- you're not paid to be a Christian, in other words -- then here's how I see this passage's relevance to us. At any moment of any day, we could be doing our jobs, whether it's crunching numbers, crushing rocks, building stuff, hauling stuff or whatever -- at any moment, somebody could come by for something, and we might get an invitation from the Holy Spirit to pray for that person, or to minister to them in some way. To elevate our lives, in other words, from the mundane to the eternal.

And when he calls, when he invites, may we respond with joy, as Simon and Andrew did so many years ago.

written 1/4; posted 1/5

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