23. July 2017

Jesus calls the Fishermen

Service Type:

‘…And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid”…’ (Luke 5, 10b)

Jesus encountering the fishermen and inviting them to become His followers calls to mind up an interesting question: how well, if at all, did Jesus know them before this particular meeting? It seems that the adult Jesus had made His home in Capernaum, but doing what, no one knows for sure. He may have been a carpenter; He made have been an itinerant rabbi; He may have been whatever…What seemingly He did have was either a certain charisma sufficient to persuade these young men to follow Him in an instant; or else He was possessed of a personality such that He had won their trust over time sufficient for them to follow Him wherever. We like to think it was the former: God through Jesus acting dramatically, invading the moment, turning people’s lives upside down, proving that God has the power to so such a thing, and anyway it makes for a much better story; a headline grabbing sensation that demands we ‘hold the front page’, but in reality God’s best work is done in the befriending of people, even anonymously, barely recognisable as such, the getting alongside, the getting to know one – what we used to describe in terms of courtship, what today has become so perverted that we refer to it in some cases as grooming. The church as it decides how best to approach those not presently part of it will have to determine what it believes to be the best way to attract people, and it may well be that the less obvious lesson to learn from the story of the calling of the fishermen is the right way to go about it – getting to know, getting alongside, befriending courting – so that when the moment comes to invite, one does so with fait degree of confidence that any such invitation will be accepted. And then it is worth reminding ourselves that for much of the next few years, during the time that Jesus exercised His ministry in and around the Galilean villages, the most vital contribution the fishermen made was by being fishermen – Jesus’ regular criss-crossing of the lake required an experienced hand at the tiller – and that is what makes the story of the disciples being frightened by the storm even more of an enigma than it might otherwise be – and of course somebody had to pay the bills, so it is more than likely that these fishermen were working their way through college as it were. Indeed, not for nothing odes John’s Gospel end with these same fishermen at work on the Sea of Galilee from where they espy the risen Christ cooking breakfast on the beach. From there, the decisive moment for them was when He sent them into the world to make disciples of others; those who had been called, now they were sent…

“Jesus’ friends are in no way remarkable for their talent or character. He who considers the disciples great from a human or religious point of view raises the suspicion that he is unacquainted with true greatness. Moreover, he is confusing standards, for the disciple has nothing to do with such greatness. Their uniqueness consists of their being sent, of their God-given role of pillars for the coming salvation.” It may well be that Jesus’ genius is seen as much as anything in His ability to take such a motley group of individuals and cause them to become the people they became, able to take responsibility, under God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the emergence of what we now know as the Christian faith. There is often a necessary time gap between God’s calling and God’s sending, a necessary time of preparation and of formation and while they often say that nothing can prepare you or what lies ahead of you as a Christian; there is much that can be done to at least help one along the way. And it is necessary because those few fishermen amongst others took on a challenge unlike anything else that has confronted folk before or since…“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”

“They wander on earth and live in heaven, and although they are weak, they protect the world; they taste of peace in the midst of turmoil; they are poor, and yet they have all they want. They stand in suffering and remain in joy, they appear dead to all outward sense and lead a life of faith within.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

The fishermen would carve out their own particular pieces in the jigsaw of the early Christian Church: Andrew we know least about, not being mentioned in the New Testament after Jesus’ ascension but tradition has it he went as a missionary towards Turkey and the Black Sea; He is believed to have been martyred by crucifixion on a cross – a St Andrews Cross – as shaped on the flag of Scotland. John it appears was destined to live a long life, dying of old age in Ephesus, thought to the inspiration behind the Gospel that bears his name. James was executed by Herod in the early months of the emergence of the Church in Jersualem while Peter went on to become the 1st Bishop of Rome before he too was martyred for his faith. Their end was entirely unpredictable, as it is for all of us who are called in their stead. What it means to be sent will of itself be different too, each of us will have our own individual vocation, and each will know our own commissioning…