- Bible Reading: Luke 5:1-11
- Free Resource: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (Devotional Resource – NL)
- Unit Theme (December 25—January 31): Revelation of the Son of Man
- The Point: The fishermen see and hear Jesus, call him Lord, and follow him as disciples.
Jesus has grown up, been baptized, tempted, and has begun his ministry. In between his rejection in his hometown in last week’s readings and this reading, he has exorcised an unclean spirit, healed, and preached. In this region, he’s famous. Given said preaching and miraculous healing, that’s not surprising. Now, Jesus is ready to gather students to teach.
Jesus was so popular, that a big crowd gathered to hear the word of God from him. Being heard by a crowd is difficult, so Jesus commandeered a boat to get some distance and acoustics. After class, Jesus decided to recruit his boatman and friends with a miracle catch of fish, just in case they hadn’t figured out how awesome he was.
They clearly knew who he was; they couldn’t have been out fishing for that long. An interesting point to Luke’s account is that Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law before calling Simon to be his disciple (Luke 4:38) unlike Matthew and Mark). So, either Simon was there and had already met/seen Jesus up close, or he had heard about this directly. In any case, they knew Jesus was a miracle worker and had just listened to his teaching the word of God. But this miracle was personal. If they might have wavered in answering Jesus’ call before, there is no way they could do it now.
Those Left Behind
One of the things that strikes me about this story is that many were left behind. Matthew and Mark’s accounts specifically state that James and John left their father behind, giving him triple the work to get done. Simon has a mother-in-law in his house. This either means that either Simon is married or that Simon is a widower and now supports his mother-in-law, at least in part. I can only assume that none of these men have children. So, these men are not only sacrificing the life they have had personally, but their leaving negatively impacts family members.
Some of this is supposition on my part, so it’s irresponsible to state this as fact. But it is undeniable that these men would have been a part of family and community systems that would have to adapt to their loss, economically and emotionally. This is especially true given the patriarchal society where women were reliant on men to take care of them.
Couldn’t Do It
When I try to place myself into this story, I confess that I don’t think I could do what Simon and the others did, leaving everything behind. If Jesus showed up and said, “Greg, put down your mouse and keyboard, leave your life behind, and follow me,” my anxiety would skyrocket and I would likely say “no.” There are several reasons, some which are different than these first disciples.
- I can’t leave my family. This is not only due to my emotional attachments but abandoning my family who I support economically and otherwise is wrong on so many levels.
- I can’t abandon my business. In case you aren’t aware, Spirit & Truth Publishing is quite small in terms of staffing. I’m the owner and only full-time worker. My customers and contributors are relying on me.
- I don’t want to. This, of course, is not a good reason. It isn’t about responsibility, but the limits of my comfort, my worldly attachments. Perhaps I lack the commitment to my faith to fully be Jesus’ disciple.
A reasonable, and factual, response to this could be that Jesus called a small number of disciples directly away from their lives and responsibilities. Most people stayed in their families, communities, and livelihoods. Jesus would not likely create so many “broken” homes. Most of us are in similar situations. No matter how committed we are to Jesus, we have people relying on us who would be harmed if we just left.
Okay, so I can let myself off the hook in terms of abandoning my current life, relationships, and responsibilities. However, there is still my third reason: I don’t want to. And I am not alone. Many—even most—of our congregational members are in a similar boat (pun intended). How, then, can we address this without scaring people away? Probably the same way we should usually address major changes: baby steps. Ask people to figure out where the limits to their comfort zone and determine one or more small steps to cross that boundary. We are quickly approaching Lent, so it’s a good thing to start thinking about.
One way to support small changes in your people’s faith lives is to start simple daily or weekly devotions. Our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (NL) product can help. This resource provides a short weekly guide that includes prayers, daily readings, conversation starters, and other devotional helps. This week, download the resource for the week starting January 24, 2021 to give it a test-drive.
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
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