Summoning Disciples

Disciples of Jesus are called to leave everything behind, if need be, and dedicate their entire lives to his mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom throughout the Earth. Though the story as recorded in the synoptic gospels is brief, we already begin to glimpse the true cost of discipleship. Jesus began to build his new covenant community in “Galilee of the Nations” by inviting four fishermen to leave their livelihoods and follow him “on the way” which would lead inevitably to his death in Jerusalem.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John were not poor by first-century standards. Their families owned boats and nets, and there is even mention of “hired help.” Fishing was an essential business that occupied entire clans and towns, and investments in nets and boats were often substantial - (Mark 1:16-20).

The fishing trade was important to the economic life of Galilee, and ancient records show that fish from the Sea of Galilee were exported to cities as far away as Antioch in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt.

Four Fishermen - Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash
[Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash]

  • (Mark 1:16-20) - “And passing by near the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And straightway, leaving the nets, they followed him. And going forward a little, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, and them who were in the boat putting the nets in order. And straightway, he called them and leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, they followed him” – (Parallel passages - Matthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-11).

Simon and Andrew had some level of education, and very likely, they spoke one or more languages in addition to Aramaic, including Greek, the language of commerce in the eastern Mediterranean region. For that matter, “Andrew” is a Greek name.

The Gospel of Mark describes the reaction of Simon and Andrew to the invitation of Jesus with the vivid term “straightway” or “immediately.” They responded by leaving their occupations and family assets. Likewise, when called, James and John “straightway” left their father in the boat with the “hired men.” All this suggests a hasty departure by the new disciples with little hesitation and no preparation.


The Greek noun translated as “disciple” originally referred to one who was a “learner,” that is, a student. It is derived from the Greek verb manthanô, meaning, “to learn.”

By following him, Jesus would make his new disciples “fishers of men” who would proclaim the Good News far and wide, bringing many men and women into his Kingdom. With the Kingdom rapidly approaching, the task of preaching the Gospel was of the utmost importance.

However, discipleship means service to the Kingdom of God, and at times it may be necessary for the disciple to forsake everything of value to him or her in this life. Nevertheless, there will be great rewards for forsaking all to follow Jesus “wherever he leads,” if not in this life, then certainly in the “age to come.” This is a way of evaluating life that is completely contrary to how the existing world order does so:

  • He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He that finds his life will lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake will find it” – (Matthew 10:37-39).
  • And everyone who has left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands for my name's sake will receive a hundredfold and inherit everlasting life” – (Matthew 19:29).
  • Moreover, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse that I may gain Christ” - (Philippians 3:7-8).

In the more detailed account in Luke, the multitude that was present “pressed upon Jesus and heard the word of God while he was standing by the Lake.” At that point, he entered Simon’s boat and “sat down and taught the multitudes” along the shoreline - (Luke 5:1-11).

Lake Tahoe - Photo by Dennis Yu on Unsplash
[Photo by Dennis Yu on Unsplash]

Afterward, Jesus commanded Simon to leave the shore and lower his nets. He and his compatriots had toiled all night with little to show for it. Upon obeying Jesus and lowering their nets once more, “
they enclosed a great multitude of fishes.” So much so, that their nets were at the point of bursting.

When Simon saw this, he prostrated himself before Jesus and begged him to depart “since I am a sinful man!” Simon, James, and John were amazed and confused, but he told them, “Fear not. From now on, you will catch men.” It was at this point that the four men left all and began to follow him.

This first instance of calling disciples became the pattern for the Nazarene’s ministry. The “Kingdom of God” was at hand, already it was invading this fallen world. Therefore, it was the time for immediate and decisive action in response to the call of the Messiah of Israel.

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The Word Made Flesh

Language of the New Testament