“Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him” (Mark 1:16-18).
The story does not inform us about the climate around Galilee that day, or what the fishermen’s frame of mind was like. We do not know what problems or hang-ups they might have had prior to this moment. Were they faithful Jews who followed the teachings of the law, or were they like many today who are nominal in their approach to religion? We are told nothing but that Jesus walked into their lives and changed them forever with a call to follow.
Will you follow Him?
Why did the disciple leave everything to follow Jesus? Whatever moved them to do so cannot be much more than recognising that Jesus spoke into their innermost being. Somehow His words of authority penetrated their hearts and they felt impelled to follow Him. While it is possible that John the Baptist had softened their hearts in preparation for this day and maybe they witnessed Jesus’ baptism, the fact remains that they did not follow Him until their call came. His presence amongst them made His summons irresistible.
What is it we are involved in today that takes up so much of our time that we have none left to follow the Lord? We are usually too busy to hear the voice of Jesus let alone actually follow Him, but He still patiently summons us to do so. His voice is just as present and powerful today as it was on the shore of Galilee two thousand years ago. The Holy Spirit is constantly trying to get our attention and convince us that we “should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). The sad fact is that He has called us thousands of times but we have chosen not to respond, yet four fishermen followed Jesus at the first call. It does not matter why we have failed to follow Him in the past; we can do so today.
What does it mean to follow Him?
First we must ask ourselves if we are truly willing to follow Christ, otherwise there is no point making a start. Discipleship requires radical obedience. While we should contemplate the cost of following the Lord, the facts and figures ought not hinder us from actually doing so. The cost of following Jesus means that we must take up the cross, abandon our lives and priorities, and give ourselves solely to Him. “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
Does this mean that we will perfectly and constantly follow Christ every day of our lives? It is doubtful anyone in the history of the church has ever achieved such a thing, therefore it is no use waiting until we are perfect enough to do so. Too many have wasted their entire lives attempting to be absolutely perfect before they go all out for God. They may have “prayed about it” and studied the Bible through and through, but have actually failed to do what Jesus asks – follow Him. Discipleship is not about perfection but obedience. This is why some have substituted works of righteousness for obedience. Religious works only drain the strength from our souls. To follow sounds too simple for the religiously minded, instead they need merits to make them think that God is pleased with them. It is not about what we can do anyway, for it is what God can do through us that counts. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). To follow Jesus means that we must focus upon Him rather than ourselves. We must watch what He does and copy it. We should not be so concerned about what it means to be a disciple, instead we must simply be His disciples, for it is to Him we belong.
Yes, there are consequences for following Jesus, some of which are not too pleasant for the flesh, but we should not fix our mind upon them. The disciples did not know where the Lord was taking them; they simply followed. Let Him lead us as He wills. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). The road that the fishermen travelled on until they reached their destination was not an easy one. It was a road of deprivation, sacrifice, misunderstanding, loss, grief, pain and death, yet most of all, despite what it cost, it was a road of joyful service to the Lord. Where will Jesus lead us if we follow Him? He who bids us to come after Him knows the best path for our feet.
The decision to accept the call to follow is ours not the Lord’s. He forces no one to follow Him, or else everyone He calls would, therefore He leaves the decision to be one of the chosen to our free will. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). This is the crucial moment. Will we once again miss the opportunity to follow Christ or will we lay down our lives and go with Him wherever He may lead? Following Christ is where our future lies. Following Him will add purpose and meaning to our lives. “This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).