As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20 NRSV)
A couple of years ago, I spent time with Yaeri, a Jewish fisherman who makes his living on the Sea of Galilee. I wondered what I might learn from this fisherman about the kind of people Jesus chose as his companions.
Yaeri was salt of the earth. I asked him what he loved about his work as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. He told me he loved the sea: “Every day is different. It is beautiful.” Indeed, anyone who has been to the Sea of Galilee can testify to its beauty, as well as to how different it looks at various times of day and during changes in weather patterns. Those who have been to the Holy Land nearly always report that one of their favorite experiences was taking a boat across the Sea of Galilee, and most tours arrange for this.
I asked Yaeri, “Why do you think Jesus chose fishermen on this lake to be his first disciples?” His answer: “Fishermen make good friends. They are trustworthy and hard working.”
Acts 4:13 notes of Simon Peter and John that “they were uneducated and ordinary men.” The word, "ordinary," here is the Greek word idiotai—a word that, at the time, signified untrained, unpolished in speech, or unskilled.
Jesus’ first disciples were not the valedictorians of their seminary class. They were not those voted “most likely to succeed” in their high school class. They were men who likely did not finish school. They probably wouldn’t have been anyone’s first choice to lead a movement that would change the world.
When I think of them, I am reminded of a retired pastor I know. He struggled with stuttering his entire life. He was teased and harassed as a boy. But as a young man he heard God calling him to fish for people by becoming a preacher. This seemed to be an impossible calling; nevertheless he said, “Here I am, Lord.” He went to school and ultimately became a Pentecostal preacher. He continued to stutter his entire life, but an interesting thing happened to him when he would stand in the pulpit to preach: his stuttering went away, and instead he delivered, with power and eloquence, the message of Christ.
Ultimately God used him to build a church with many thousands of people in a low-income community. The church included former prostitutes and drug dealers worshiping side-by-side with business leaders and educators. It was one of the city’s most diverse and dynamic congregations.
God seems to delight in using the idiotai—the ordinary, common, nothing-special kind of folks. Paul writes, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise... so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27, 29). Jesus comes to all of us who claim to be his disciples, calling us to follow him and he’ll make us fishers of people. Are you willing to say yes?
Lord, help me to follow you faithfully, to be willing to lay down my net and join in your mission of fishing for people. Amen.
Today's post is an excerpt from The Way: 40 Days of Reflection.
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