We know from the apostle John’s gospel that both John the Baptist and Jesus spent time preaching and teaching by the Sea of Galilee. John the Baptist, as a prophet and rabbi, was surrounded by his disciples, and even urged two of them to get to know Jesus (which they did).
In fact, five men from this region had begun to spend a great deal of time with Jesus whenever He was in town, but had not become His disciples in the way disciples are called by a rabbi.
But today, as the Lord was walking along the lake and saw Andrew and Peter, and later James on John, He called to them with a special request, one that was rich with meaning, "Come follow me!”
It may seem incredible to you and me today that these young men (possibly in their late teens) simply left their dads in the lurch, got up, dropped everything and went to Jesus. Did their fathers really just stand there and let them leave without even one word of astonishment? Caution? Rebuke?
Rabbis were teachers of God’s word. A rabbi would interpret scripture and teach his interpretation of how to live the Torah. This process was called “binding and loosing.”
To “bind” something was to forbid it.
To “loose” something was to permit it.
This was called the rabbi’s yoke, and he would teach it with authority. One day he would give his disciples the authority to teach his yoke in his name, and this was called “giving the keys of the kingdom.” You will see all of this happening in the gospels.
Around the age of fourteen or fifteen most kids had moved on from studying Torah and talmud, to learning the family business and starting families of their own. But there were always a few who showed great promise and continued to study with the village elders and rabbis. These few would apply with a well-known rabbi to become that rabbi’s talmidim, his disciple.
Being a disciple was far more than being a student. The goal of the disciple was not just to know what the rabbi knew, but to be just like the rabbi.
So a student of Torah would approach a rabbi and say, “Rabbi, I want to become your disciple.” I want to take up your yoke.
The rabbi would then put the hopeful young student through a series of interviews to discover if this young teen had what it took to become like the rabbi and one day spread his yoke. Then he would make his decision.
If no, he would send the student home to learn the family business.
If yes, he would say, “Come, follow me.”
After that it was expected that the student would leave his home and family, his synagogue, his friends, his village and devote his life to learning how to be like his rabbi. For their families it was a great honor to produce a talmidim.
Very early on John pointed Jesus out to two of his disciples and told them Jesus was the Messiah. One of those two disciples was Andrew and the other was probably the apostle John. They decided to follow Jesus, surely with John the Baptist’s blessing, and spent the day and night with the Lord.
Then Andrew went to find his brother Simon, brought him back to Jesus, and Jesus renamed Simon, Peter. Through Andrew, Philip and Nathanael also got to know Jesus, and through John James got to know Jesus.
But clearly, they had not yet become Jesus’ disciples because they had been sent home to work in their family businesses of fishing. Now, months later, after John the Baptist had been arrested and imprisoned, and the Lord Jesus had relocated to Capernaum, we come to Jesus' commission,
"Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
“Fishers of men” was a phrase that had been in circulation for hundreds of year. Roman and Greek philosophers used it to describe those who could catch people with strong and persuasive teaching.
By Jesus' command, and with His help, these men had just finished hauling in a remarkable catch of fish. This was Jesus' miraculous illustration to them of the amazing ministry they would one day have in bringing people to faith in Messiah.
It was a particularly apt phrase for these first four disciples, since they were well acquainted with the patience, concentration, perseverance and hard work every day it took to fish.
These were just ordinary men, not seminary students.
But they had the one thing that was critically necessary to become apostles one day: They loved Jesus with their whole hearts and were willing to give Him their whole-hearted devotion.
Jesus would give them all the rest of the equipping they would need. Is that you?
* What new step is Jesus asking you to take in order to follow Him?
* Today is Jesus is asking you to move on from something?
* What will you need to leave behind you?
All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.