And immediately they left their nets and followed him. — Mark 1:14-20
Why did they follow him?
It’s the burning question here, isn’t it? Those very first disciples — Simon, Andrew, James and John – what made them drop their nets, and go? I mean, if a stranger approached you and asked you to follow him, would you go? Wouldn’t you at least ask for some references, maybe google him first?
Okay, so… maybe he wasn’t a stranger, after all. Maybe the fisherman had heard Jesus preach. Maybe they had known him for weeks, or years. Maybe.
Or maybe there was something about Jesus himself, something different, something compelling. Maybe there was some sort of aura about him. Maybe.
Or maybe it wasn’t something they saw in Jesus; maybe it was something Jesus saw in them. In the story, Jesus calls out, specifically, to Simon and Andrew, James and John. So maybe he saw something in them, something ripe for the harvest. Maybe they were ready to go, and just waiting for a good strong breeze to shake them loose from the family tree. Maybe.
Maybe, but Mark doesn’t say so.
This story would be a whole lot easier to understand if it came later on in Mark’s gospel. If Jesus had already performed some miracle, some sign. Cured a leper, exorcised a demon, walked on water, something. But all that will come later on.
All Mark’s gospel tells us, is that Jesus calls them, and they follow.
So maybe I’m trying too hard here.
I remember a student I taught many years ago, let’s call him Matt, who auditioned for a play I was directing. He did a terrific job at the audition, but I didn’t have a part for him; so I asked him if he would be my stage manager, help with sets and props, help actors learn their lines and blocking, stand in for other kids when they were absent. He did a terrific job at this, as well, always ready to help.
After a few weeks of rehearsal, Matt’s advisor took me aside and asked, “What is your secret with Matt?” I was puzzled by the question until she told me that apparently, some of Matt’s other teachers found him to be something of a problem in the classroom. But I honestly had no idea why he behaved differently with me. So I told her, “I don’t have any secret. I mostly just boss him around. I feel like the only thing I say to him is, Matt, I need you to move the chairs, Matt, I need you to run lines with the cast…”
The other teacher smiled and said, “And what he hears is, Matt, I need you.”
So maybe there is no secret behind today’s gospel reading, either. Maybe the only miracle here, is that Jesus called them.
(excerpt from sermon preached at Belchertown UCC on January 25, 2015)
(photo: Elmina, Ghana, January 2012, by Liza B. Knapp, all rights reserved)