30 November 2013

Matthew 4:18-22

"[Jesus] said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.'" (v. 19)


On St Andrew's Day the Church prays for the success of God's mission throughout the world. This theme provides a lens through which to read today's passage. It helps us to focus on one theme only. Through the call of Jesus comes the call of God to follow him, within the fellowship of all Jesus' disciples. The common aim of Jesus and his followers is to announce and pray for the coming of God's kingdom. Disciples strain every fibre of their being to transform personal and social life in the light of a vision of peace, justice and prosperity for all.

Because it is God who calls, there can be no negotiation, no dithering. The call is crystal clear. It overrides every other commitment. It may cost nothing less than life itself (eg Luke 9:23-24).

How we crave for more circumstantial details to fill out the background of this passage! We would love to know how often Jesus had met the fishermen before he called them; and what had transpired between them.

We long to understand how the four fishermen squared their decision to follow a poor, itinerant preacher with their family and business responsibilities.

We may feel that if we knew such details, we would be better equipped today to be effective evangelists and disciples. In fact, there is no single pattern to such matters. For each of us the detail has to be worked out in context, according to circumstances and with respect for our gifts and experience. There is no prescription on offer for introducing people to the kingdom and its demands; or for working out the consequences for someone who obeys the call of Jesus.

However, we are never left to our own devices to sort these important details. Fellow disciples have plenty of wisdom to share. And God's Spirit works in every human heart to support and guide a life dedicated to God.

The style of this passage prevents us getting lost in such matters. Important as they are, they are secondary. The heart of the matter is hearing and responding, fully and immediately, to the call of Jesus.

To Ponder

  • Take time to reflect on one or two key moments in your life when you have felt an overpowering sense of God's call or the claims of conscience.
  • Would it be valuable if Christian people shared with one another their sense of vocation, in a natural and open way? If so, where and how could this happen in your local church?
  • In what ways could you and your congregation more boldly and clearly present the call of Jesus in your neighbourhood?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.