4 - Follow me

Greg Aikins on December 17, 2019

(Commands of Jesus in Matthew)

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me, Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him (Matt. 4:18-20, NIV).

Jesus calls for repentance - a decision to change my mind about what I have previously believed and head in a different direction.  If I do so and ask, “What’s next after that?” Jesus answers, “Follow me.”

We may wonder what it was about Jesus that made Peter and Andrew leave everything and follow him.  Was there some kind of special glow about him – a halo of sorts – or a mysterious hypnotic gaze he fixed them with?  John’s gospel fills in a missing piece of the story, namely, that they had both met Jesus before. After John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God” to Andrew near the Jordan baptism site, Andrew followed him and asked, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  “Come and you will see,” invited Jesus.  After Jesus’ hospitality, Andrew was so convinced that he was the Messiah that he went to find his brother Simon.  And so Simon Peter met Jesus as well (John 1:35-42).  It was this previous real-life encounter with Christ that made their second decision to leave and follow him easy.

I follow Jesus because of the power of a real life encounter with him many years ago.  And it is because of the magnetism of his person that I am still a Christian.  Author Philip Yancey once said of Ghandi, “His only claim to leadership was the force of his own soul.”[1]  He may as well have been speaking of Christ.  More than the ties of Christian family, church upbringing and ministerial calling, Jesus holds me prisoner.  Even when I am discouraged or disillusioned as his follower, I can’t help but saying with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:69). 

I once asked a woman seated next to me on an airplane, “What do you think of Jesus?”  “He’s my main man!” she replied without hesitation.   But our conversation convinced me that she thought of Jesus in much the same way that we might admire a great person.  A good first step, perhaps.  I would hope that her admiration might lead her to seek Christ, and to hear him calling her.  But to follow Jesus means more than just “hero worship.”  When he says “Follow me” he has something more in mind.

Jesus’ invitation to “follow” him carries with it the promise of learning a new activity, as well as change of mind and direction.  To Andrew and Simon Peter, who were fishermen by profession, Jesus said, “Come with me.  I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you.  I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass” (Matt. 4:19, The Message).  Christ wants to train us how to gather others who will also join us in following him.

The training which the Lord has in mind involves “hands on” learning just as it did for Peter and Andrew.  He didn’t enroll them in a class where they would “sit and soak” in a schoolroom.  No, he apprenticed them to himself.  They observed him as he served others by feeding, healing and freeing them from demonic forces.  They heard him as he taught about the kingdom of God.  They watched him touch the leper, speak to outcasts of society.  And they learned in the company of other apprentices.

It is precisely in this manner that the Son of God wants to teach you and me to help others find and follow him.  It is by following him, in the company of other friends of Jesus, that we come to love him more and more, learn from him how to connect with people’s deep needs and how to share with others who Jesus is to us.  And we may trust that the Holy Spirit will draw people to Christ as we follow and learn from Him.

For reflection:  Put yourself in Andrew and Peter’s place at the Lake of Galilee.  Hear Jesus’ words above spoken to you.  How do you want to respond to the Lord?  What might Christ want to show you about improving your “people-fishing” apprenticeship?

[1]Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2001), 170.