Kevin, our Community Pastor, spoke about Christ’s calling of Simon, Andrew, James and John to be his disciples. As fishermen, their families’ livelihood depended on this trade, yet they simply dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. Why? What was it about Jesus that caused people to leave their families and livelihood to follow him, and what was Jesus tapping into in these four early disciples?
This week Kevin Johnson, our Community Pastor, delivered the message from the Gospel of Matthew 4:18-22. In these verses we find the calling of Simon, Andrew, James and John to come and be disciples of Jesus. What may be striking about this passage for our 21st Century eyes is the fact that they simply dropped what they were doing and followed! They were fishermen. Their livelihood and their family’s livelihood depended on this trade and they simply dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. James and John even left their father in the boat to mend nets by himself!
Kevin prefaced what follows with a couple of probing questions: What was it about Jesus that people left family and livelihood to follow him and what was Jesus tapping into in these four people?
We have been watching the Olympics lately and we see there the results of lives driven by dreams. Dreams to be the best, dreams to be somebody, to do something truly extraordinary! All humans are created with this capacity to dream of great things. Kevin followed the research of Rob Bell to illuminate this text by showing how Jesus was offering these four men another shot at their dreams. Just as the world athletes dreamed of becoming the Olympians, so also in the time of Jesus, the Jews had dreams as well. As Jews, they were raised to love, study and embrace the Word of God, which at that time consisted of the Old Testament. Their training would have them memorize the first five books of the Old Testament (referred to as the Torah) by the age of 10! From there they would work on memorizing the rest of Old Testament as well (a little more intense than our typical Sunday School curriculums today)! But as Kevin pointed out, our children have a gift for memory too. You’ll notice that children pick-up on the words to songs, the lines of movies they like, and so forth. They can commit these things to memory seemingly effortlessly. The question, of course, is: what is it that they will focus on? What will they memorize? In Jewish communities of Jesus’ time, it was the Old Testament.
The dreams of that time and place were that a child might be able to become a rabbi, a teacher who helps others learn and obey the Word of God. Some even had special authority to offer interpretations that were collected together and referred to as a “yoke” (a particular way of understanding and interpreting the Word of God). But, like the Olympics and so much in life, not all of the children could become rabbis. Only select few were invited to come and follow a rabbi and become a disciple. The rabbi’s role was to assess the student to see whether the student could bear the burden of the “yoke” that would become their new way of life if they should become a disciple. This was among the highest honors in the Jewish culture of that day (like winning the gold medal in the Olympics). Because we find Simon, Andrew, James and John out fishing for a living, we know that they were not chosen to be disciples of the rabbis they learned under. Their dream of fulfilling that honor had not come true, so they followed in the trade of their fathers.
So what does this tell us about Matthew 4:18-22? Kevin highlighted two main points. Simon, Andrew, James and John where given a second chance at the dream of becoming the disciple of a rabbi – this was great news! It was a second chance at their dreams. They had been passed over by the other rabbis, but Jesus called them to follow him. Zebedee, the father of James and John, didn’t get the short end of the stick when the boys left. He was honored with sons who were given a second chance at their dreams and his own dreams for them!
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