Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Matthew 4:18-22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
I have a hunch that a great number of us in this room have been to at least one conference on leadership and read at least one book on the subject. But has anyone here ever been to a conference on “followership?”
Today’s reading recounts Matthew’s version of Jesus calling his first disciples and makes crystal clear what it means to be a “Christian.” A Christian is a “disciple” or “follower” (mathetes) of Jesus. Our fundamental identity is not a “leader” but a “follower” or “companion” of Christ.
After locating in Capernaum, Jesus began to call people to “repent.” Sometimes we use the word “repent” as if it means “to feel sorry” for having done something or as if it means “to apologize.” But, the word literally means “to turn around.” It means if you’re heading south, you go north. It means if you’re headed east, you go west. It means if your headed down, you go up. In other words, to repent means to turn your back on some things. It means changing directions. It means moving in our lives from one place to another. It means change.
Notice the calling of Simon Peter and Andrew, the sons of Jonah and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus said to these fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” They answered Jesus calling by following him and when they began following Jesus, they left their boats and their nets and all the other fishing equipment. In the case of James and John, they left their father, Zebedee.
To follow Jesus means change and movement. One cannot follow anyone or anything and stay put. To follow means to move and it means giving up some things, as well as taking on some others! Some of Jesus’ hardest words had to do with this reality. Listen to his words:
- “…whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” [Matthew 10:37-39]
- “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” [Matthew 16:24]
- Marks gospel records how Jesus responded to a man who asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ [Mark 10:21]
- “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:59-62]
- “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:27]
- Even Jesus’ image of being born again—born from above—is an image of risk and change. In John 3:5, Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” To be born means to leave the safety and security and warmth of the mother’s womb.
Following Jesus isn’t easy. It is the “narrow way” Jesus talked about. So, Jesus didn’t call just one disciple, he called a group. And they weren’t just a collection of individuals—they were that—but they became a community with all the joys and conflicts and accomplishments and failures and fulfillment and disappointments that are a part of any community. Jesus called them into relationship with him and with one another and together they would follow in the way of life. He called a group so that they could support and challenge one another and together accomplish great good.
Following Jesus, patterning our lives after his life and teaching, is something we do together. We need each other! I discovered long ago that being in relationship with God, seeking the will of God, doing the will of God and being who God calls me to be is not something I can do in isolation. If I’m at all effective in my own discipleship, my followership, it is when I am connected with others. It is together that we follow Jesus because it is through a community of support, accountability and the pooling of resources that we are able to grow and change and risk and serve and accomplish what Christ calls us to do today.
Together we can help one another to embark on and remain on a journey. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is only a beginning point—the beginning point of a life-long journey. It is on that journey with the Body of Christ, the Church, that we come to know Christ.
At the end of Albert Schweitzer’s book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Schweitzer writes these words: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside. He came to those who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands, and to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal Himself in the toil, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster