Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” (Luke 5:10)
By Alan Bean
This week we consider Jesus’ calling of the first disciples. In Mark’s gospel, the subject is covered in five short verses; Luke’s account is twice as long and doubly detailed. The evangelists (a fancy word for the men who write the four gospels) inherited scores of traditional stories about the life and work of Jesus and used this material with great freedom.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus appears to two groups of fisherman busy casting their nets into the sea. “Follow me,” he says, “and I will make you fish for people.” Without a word, the men drop their nets and follow.
In Luke, the action if far more complex. Right at the end of John’s gospel, we find a story about a miraculous catch of fish. Luke gives us the same story, but he places it in a very different setting. In John, the risen Christ appears to his disheartened disciples and asks them to let down their nets for a catch. In Luke, this request is extended right at the beginning of Jesus’ teaching ministry.
As a teenager growing up in McLaurin Baptist Church in Edmonton, Canada, I discussed Mark’s story with Sadie Beggs, an Irish Baptist. “Jesus just walks up and tells these guys to follow, and they do,” I said. “I wonder what was going through their heads.”
Sadie told me she had always been mystified by the disciples’ willingness to follow a perfect stranger. “It must have been a miracle,” she said.
In Luke, the decision to follow Jesus is more understandable. Jesus heals the mother-in-law of a soon-to-be disciple named Simon just shortly before the two men meet by the sea of Galilee. The call to discipleship doesn’t come from a complete stranger, in other words, Simon has already seen Jesus at work. (more…)