“And 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.”
Matthew 4:21, ESV
“And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
To mend nets was tedious but necessary. You would take your net and spread it on the ground in an open space. Every knot would be carefully examined. All holes would be repaired. Nothing was overlooked. Fishing nets were painstakingly maintained. Every day, without fail.
Fish would school, and if your gear was right, and you were in a prime place, you could catch a lot. But simultaneously, you could let hundreds of fish escape through a hole in your net. Each fish that escaped meant money lost.
Jesus walking along the beach surveyed the boats and crews. Since most of these guys had worked through the night, they were tired and maybe a bit “punchy.” Some had gotten somewhat lucky, while others had little to show for working so hard. Most likely the different crews teased each other as they unloaded.
Jesus walked through the bunches of fishermen. He looked at their hauls to see what they had caught. But it wasn’t the catch He was looking at, it was the men. It was from these laboring fishermen that He would choose. These men were rough-and-tumble rednecks. If they had chewing tobacco back then, they would use it.
He stands, looks, and then commands them.
Now if you are looking for disciples– future apostles and leaders, the seashore is not the best place to recruit. They really have a rudimentary education. No theology, and just a meager understanding of Jewish ritual and religion. Essentially there was no time for them to think outside their occupation. Sure there just might be one, or two that possessed more, but that would be the exception.
But Jesus had no desire to interview them, and take the best of the lot. He didn’t have a Human Resources Department, and there were no tests and no forms that had to list references. He simply commanded, and those who understood followed. Only after they left it all did He get their names and addresses. I think that it is the same today.
Will we leave our boat, with your nets? Really, you can keep mending or follow Him– it’s your choice. Most of the time though, decisions have a tendency to be irrevocable. Perhaps you have a moment, an instant of time to decide.
Sometimes mending nets can be back-breaking and tedious. But following the Lord Jesus is an unknown; too many choose to keep fixing. Others are launched into something new, and eternally significant.
The glaring truth is the necessity of obedience to Jesus’ command. There is no other voice we must hear. As a matter of fact, hearing (and really apprehending) is the only foundation we can trust to make our obedience true.
You can keep mending your nets and preparing for another night on the water. That is always your prerogative. But if you decide to follow you will need to leave what you know behind. That is authentic discipleship.
“Rest in this – it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.”
-Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians