You know the warning, “Don’t talk to strangers.” It was drilled into you as a child and you probably repeated it to your children. So it comes as quite a surprise that four men, to whom Jesus was almost a stranger, did more than talk to Jesus—they went off with Him.
John and Luke’s versions give what seems to be the back-story.((John 1:40-42; Luke 5:1-11.)) Andrew introduced his brother, Peter to Jesus on an earlier occasion. Luke says that Jesus hopped into Peter’s boat, preached to a crowd, and then told Peter to lower the nets that he had so carefully washed. After a fruitless night’s fishing, Peter was amazed by a net-breaking catch. Matthew says more about the response of the men to Jesus.
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
What motivated them? Jesus’ knowledge about, or His miraculous power over, a swirling shoal of fish impressed them. But most of us need more than one example of supernatural abilities to change our lives. Did Jesus exude a special magnetic charm that drew them into His wake? Or was this a long-awaited opportunity to sever themselves from their mothers’ apron strings?
We know few details about the encounter. But one principle about faith is important: every faith step begins with the beckoning of a relative stranger and is a journey into the unknown. The call is always to a change of action or behavior. Sometimes the call is so vivid and compelling that we don’t hesitate. Usually God’s call is more subtle and difficult to discern—like the character of a stranger. We calculate our response by weighing what we know of God against the costs and benefits of obedience. Usually, what we know of God seems insufficient for the challenge—otherwise it would not take faith!
Faith rests on two foundations:
- Truths stated about God, which we can choose to believe or not believe.
- Experiences of Him that reinforce those truths but can never replace them.
Typically, our challenge is to believe God’s truth before we receive the reinforcing experience.1
The four fishermen who splashed after Jesus knew just enough about Jesus to overcome the pull of a secure business and family. They had sufficient faith to step out after the stranger with His strange promise of a new business catching men. Perhaps their faith explains why three of them became Jesus’ primary disciples.
The challenge to us is to pay attention to what God says about Himself in the Bible and to remember the implications of whatever reinforcing experiences we have had. The next time God calls us to step out we will be better prepared to leave our secure world and follow His lead into the unknown.
Get used to it—God will always be something of a stranger to us!
The goal of Bible Maturity is to promote spiritual growth and faith in God. Please share these short Bible devotions with your friends and family and pray for revival.
- The Name Quest – explore the names of God to grow in faith and get to know Him better (Morgan James Publishing, 2014). [↩]