Having moved to the Galilean town of Capernaum, Jesus now begins his ministry. Taking up where John had left off, he starts to preach “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Though the message was similar, Jesus would emphatically fulfill what John’s ministry had framed by personifying the reality of God’s redemptive reign he was to usher in as Messiah. And that this reality would actually be experienced as redemptive, right from the beginning Jesus required the good news he preached to not only have presentation, but also participation. God’s kingdom reality isn’t merely a spectacle; it must be shared in.
Around the time Jesus had started preaching, he was walking along the Sea of Galilee one day and saw two fishermen brothers casting their nets out. Their names were Simon and Andrew. Jesus may have already met and interacted with these men (John 1:35-42) or demonstrated his unique power and presence to them (Luke 5:1-11); Matthew doesn’t bother with their relationship details because his main concern is Jesus’ call. Jesus said to them “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Traditionally, Jewish students had to apply to study under a certain rabbi and wait for his acceptance if he thought they showed potential and were worth his time. To actually be called by a rabbi was a highly unconventional honor. Jesus’ ministry has only just begun and he is already reordering a discipleship tradition in order to reveal God’s grace embedded in the good news he proclaimed. The grace of Jesus’ call then consequently elicits from Simon and Andrew a response worthy of the grace extended to them: “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
After a short walk, Jesus came upon James and John, two other fishermen brothers mending nets in the boat with their father, and he called them to follow; in the upending of another tradition, they also immediately left their boat and father and followed Jesus. By leaving their trade, these four fishermen are setting aside familial responsibilities in order to participate with Jesus in the good life he is beginning to proclaim. What they were as fishermen will now grow to function redemptively as their lives begin to bear witness to the reality being shaped in them with every step they take with Jesus.
The call of Jesus is where discipleship begins.
Jesus’ call to follow is an offering of grace; the disciples’ response to follow is the receiving of that grace. Following Jesus is grace-saturated fellowship with Jesus. His words prepare a path for us to follow; his actions pave that path with the power of his presence. Every faith-filled step we take upon his path brings us further into the reality of his redemptive reign and conforms our character to the wholeness of his holiness.
Discipleship never begins on our own initiative. It is ignited by the grace of his call. As the reality of the good news echoes throughout the world, “Follow Me” resonates in its every hearing and aligns our course. If we have the ears to hear, the grace of his call forms in us the faith to follow him upon the way where his reality is revealed, his redemption is received, and his reign means our rejoicing rest.