When Jesus calls the two sets of fishermen brothers, Peter and Andrew and James and John to leave their old life behind and enter into a new life with Him as disciples we see an immediate and dramatic response:
18 Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 19 Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.
21 Going from there, Jesus saw two other brothers. They were James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were sitting in a boat with their father, mending their nets. Jesus called them. 22 At once they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus.
Upon being called, they simply drop the nets where they are and leave them to follow Jesus. In a culture where replacing things is as easy as driving down to the local Walmart, we might not get the significance of this action. Whereas we can drop a net and go back to Wally World a few hours later drop down a few dollars and get a new one, the disciples were doing something much weightier, much more lasting. They were abandoning everything important before meeting Jesus in order to follow Jesus.
As fishermen, the nets that the brothers so quickly discard were the heart and soul of their business. They were what put food on each of the disciples tables. In a world where there was no social services or food banks, those nets were what allowed their wives and families to eat and have a home rather than starve and roam the streets begging. There were no jobs programs, no retraining available, fishermen were raised by their parents to fish and that is what they did until their children took over and provided for them in their old age by fishing. It was not a hobby but back-breaking day in and day out labor to survive.
The nets involved were not trifles either. They were hand-made likely out of linen and were the result of hours upon hours of intense labor. There was no machine driven net making factory. Each knot and each thread had to be tied and woven by hand by the fishermen. The disciples themselves would have spent much blood and seat taking the linen and stones or lead weights and fashioning them into the nets that were at times hundreds of feet long. Each day they also would have spent hours fastidiously cleaning the nets to preserve them from the effects of the water and elements. If they did not they would rot and break when they were under pressure. They took that time so that they could go out the next day and do their job and feed their kids. When they responded to Jesus and left their nets, they were not dropping a vinyl net could be replaced after a 10 minute trip to the store or a hobby, but their entire life. Their entire identity, safety and stability, theirs and their families were wrapped up in their nets…in a culture that would discard them without thought if they were down on their luck.
Yet upon meeting the long-awaited Messiah and hearing the call it was a simple thing – all that time, all that effort, skill and stability were like filthy rags. That old life seemed like nothing in comparison to a few words from Jesus and it was left behind like David A.R. White in one of his Rapture movies. Even the father of James and John gets left behind when they are called by Jesus…and it is exactly as it should be.
So in light of this, where do we stand? Are we still heading out each day with our nets and old life clutched with an iron grip in our hands? Are we living a life with Jesus so afraid of what might happen that we are stuck fishing for fish when we should be fishers of men?
After we are saved Jesus challenges each one of us to make a decision of our own free will. A decision to follow or not follow Jesus as Lord. I find this to be one of the biggest turning points in a Christian’s life.
The challenge is whether we are going to hold onto or drop our nets. Are we going to follow Him wherever He leads or only where I am comfortable?
Part of how we answer involves how we look at our life before Jesus. Do we look at our life before Jesus truthfully? Before Christ my life may have provided a good living and been stable and respectable to the community but on the eternal stage it was worthless and leading to eternal destruction. Before Christ we were dead in our sins and trespasses – dead. Only through Christ are we now alive.
Do I hold onto that life of death and just add a smidge of Jesus to it and hope that He doesn’t upset my applecart?
Or do I give all of me, my life, my livelihood, my ability to put food in my kids mouths to Jesus to do with what He wishes recognizing that He gave me this life when no one else could? That He is the long-awaited Messiah.
He may not ask me to leave my profession like Peter and Andrew, but He will rightfully call me to follow Him. It is only fair — He did save me and He is Lord.
It may not even be a “net” per se, a job or way to make money that He asks us to put down. The first thing He asked me to drop was my pride. I thought I was good as I was and He showed me how lost I was. That was hard.
Then He asked me to drop my drinking addiction. I thought I was ok and had things under control, what was life without alcohol. That was awesome but terrifying.
Today He asks me every day to leave behind my fear of people, telling people about Jesus scares me at times….and my fear of not providing for my family, following Jesus scares me at times…..both are a work in progress and yes, both are hard to do just as it was likely hard to leave the nets behind.
But guess what? It is worth it, it is so worth it in ways that you can never, ever understand…until you drop your nets, leave those things that Jesus is asking you to let go of on the beach and RUN, not walk after the one you know is the Messiah.
No one who does so lives a life of fear and regret. Just gratitude.