As I watched my old house being torn down a couple weeks ago many memories came rushing in. The joy of bringing my first little girl home from the hospital, on a heart monitor because she had Gastro-esophageal reflux, which caused her to turn blue from losing her breath quite often; or bringing her younger sister home a few short years later, and watching this very precocious girl try to not only keep up with her older sister, but her older cousins, all of whom seemed to think our home was the fun place to be. Then, so many years later, bringing home my granddaughter, and watching her take her first steps, being so afraid she would slip and fall on our hardwood floors. There are so many memories in this one house, that some would wonder why we (my family and I), would readily abandon it and seek somewhere else to live, to create new memories. But in Mark 1:14-20, this is exactly what Jesus is asking four young men to do, leave what they know, where they are comfortable, and have known all their lives, to follow Him and become something more.
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As He went a little farther, He saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.”
As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon, Andrew, James, and John. And called to them. There were no questions, no good byes. They just simply dropped their nets, and left to follow Jesus. Now if it were me, and I suspect most of you, I would be filled with questions. Like, “Where are we going? What will we do? How long will we be gone? What do I need to take? Where will we stay?” But this conversation doesn’t take place in today’s gospel. Jesus does not offer a map, an itinerary, or a destination, only an invitation. This is not the type of journey you can prepare for. It’s not about planning and organizing, making lists, or packing supplies. It’s just not that easy. If anything this journey is about leaving things behind……to leave behind our nets, our boats, and all that seems familiar.
So Simon and Andrew were casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Day after day it was the same thing; the same sea, the same net, the same boat. Day after day it was wind, water, fish, sore muscles, and tired bodies. They probably grew up watching their dad and granddad fishing, watching their future life, and how they too would spend their time. Cast the net, and pull it in. If you are not casting the net, then you probably sat in the boat mending the net. That’s what James and John were doing. Casting and mending, always……casting and mending. You know about those days, right? How many of us go through our days on autopilot, feeling as if we are stuck in some time loop?
We may not fish for a living but we know about casting and mending nets. Days that all seem the same. One looks like another and nothing changes. We don’t expect much to happen, so this seems like our life. We cast the nets. We mend the nets. Casting and mending to make a living, to feed our family, to pay the bills, to gain security and get to retirement, to hold our family together, make our marriage work, and to grow up our children. Casting and mending to gain the things we want; a house, a car, books, clothes, a vacation. Casting and mending to earn a reputation, gain approval, establish status. And to make our way through another day of loneliness, sadness, or illness. Casting and mending are realities of life. They are also the circumstances in which Jesus comes to us, the way in which we hear the call to new life, and the place where we are changed and the ordinary becomes the extraordinary.
Those future disciples of Jesus, Simon and Andrew, James and John, were not looking for Him. They are too busy with the nets. It is another day of casting and mending. They may not have even noticed Jesus but He not only sees them; He speaks to them. Jesus has a way of showing up in the ordinary places of life and interrupting our daily routines of casting and mending nets. That’s exactly what He did in the lives of these four gentleman. And that’s what He can do for your life and mine. “Follow me” is Jesus’ invitation to a new life. If these four fishermen accept the invitation, their lives will forever be different. They will be different. They will no longer catch just fish. They will “fish for people”. When Jesus says this, He is describing the transformation of their lives, not simply a job catching new members or followers. Whatever your life is, however you spend your time, there is in that life Jesus’ call to “Follow me.”
That’s the hard part for most of us. We’re pretty good at accumulating and clinging but not so good at letting go. More often than not our spiritual growth involves some kind of letting go. We never get anywhere new as long as we’re unwilling to leave where we are. We accept Jesus’ invitation to follow, not by packing up, but by letting go. “Follow me” is both the invitation to and the promise of new life. So what are the nets that entangle us? What are the little boats (or old houses) that contain our life? Who are the people from whom we seek identity, value, and approval? What do we need to let go of and leave behind, so that we might follow Him? Please don’t think this is simply about changing careers, disowning our family, or moving to a new town. It is about the freedom to be fully ourselves, and in so being discover God’s plan for us. We need to let go so that our life may be changed, so that we can now travel in a new direction, so that we may be open to receive the beauty of God’s promises. When we let go, everything is transformed.. That’s why Jesus could tell these four gentlemen they would still be fishermen. But now they would fish for people. They wouldn’t become something they weren’t already, but they would be changed. They would more authentically be who they already are – Fishers of men! Won’t you? Won’t you let go and let God?