I don’t know why but once in a while I read something in the Bible that makes me wonder, “How realistic can that be?” Don’t get me wrong, I accept the accounts in the Bible as truth but I sometimes wonder if there’s more to the story than the brevity in which it’s told. Take for example the disciples reaction to Jesus’ words, “Come and follow me.” We are told that the disciples left their families and fishing business to follow someone they seemed to have just met (Matthew 4:19-20). These guys were not religious scholars, but fishermen who worked with their hands. So I ask myself, “was it really that cut and dry?”
One day, I sat down and layered the four gospel accounts one on top of the other as I prepared for a Sunday school lesson. I put the accounts in the order I thought would make the most sense.
After John the Baptist baptized Jesus, he immediately went into the wilderness to fast and pray. Jesus’ calling came into focus during the 40 days he spent in the wild. When he faced temptation in the wilderness, it did not weaken his resolve, but steeled him. Jesus emerged from the wilderness and began to teach (Luke’s account).
John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to his disciples as he passed by and two of them called out to Jesus asking where he was staying. “Come and see,” Jesus said. These two men followed Jesus and spent a whole afternoon with him getting acquainted. The brother of Simon Peter, Andrew, was one of these men. He was convinced that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah and rushed to tell Peter about him. “Come and see,” others were told, and introductions were made to a handful of men who would later become some of Jesus’ disciples (John’s gospel).
Peter, an impulsive fisherman, would find out first hand the power of the Son of God. Jesus was teaching from Peter’s boat. By now they (Peter, Andrew and others) were acquaintances of Jesus and probably heard him speak on a number of occasions. But Jesus desired to take his relationship with some of these men to the next level. After he finished teaching, he asked Peter to row out away from the shore and put down his nets. Peter voiced his objection, because the fish weren’t biting that day. He became astonished, however, at the catch of fish from Jesus’ intervention and demonstration of God’s power. Peter had to call on his fishing partners, Andrew, James and John to help haul in all the fish (see Luke’s gospel). Peter, Andrew, James and John now had an even greater understanding of who Jesus was and what a relationship with him would entail.
Next, I moved to the accounts found in Matthew and Mark, which are very similar. They simply state that Jesus encountered Peter, Andrew, James and John as they were fishing and told them, “Come and follow me.” Based on the relationship and experiences these men already had with Jesus, when he spoke these words to them, I could imagine them dropping their nets and following him without hesitation—leaving everything and everyone they knew to do so.
The four gospels together seem to tell a more complete picture. From this I concluded that the disciples didn’t follow Jesus for a weekend religious experience, they followed him completely because each one desired a serious relationship with Jesus.
Isn’t this the way our lives work? We meet many acquaintances as we journey through life; often, it’s our loved ones who introduce us. Some of those acquaintances may progress into friendships. One or two of those friendships might even develop into a serious relationship. For some of us, we took one serious relationship to extreme lengths and m
arried the person we esteemed above all others. It’s the relationship I have with my wife, not the institution of marriage that keeps us together. So it is with Jesus Christ. A true Christian does not subscribe to a religious institution but a relationship with their Savior, Redeemer and (best) friend.
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:41-42)