by Richard Stearns
As He was going along by 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 become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16–17 nasb)
I try to imagine Peter and Andrew saying something like this to Jesus: “We’d love to come, Jesus, but you need to understand that the fishing business is just starting to take off. We’ve found some new investors, and we’re about to expand our fleet to four boats. We’ve rented some retail space and are planning to expand to ten new market locations. Besides, Andrew has just broken ground on a brand-new house and is carrying two mortgages. We’d love to join you, Jesus, but now is just not a good time. You understand.” That pretty much sums up what I wanted to say to that recruiter that morning. In fact, I did say something pretty similar—that I wasn’t interested or available. But that’s not what Peter and Andrew said. We are told that Peter and Andrew immediately dropped their nets and followed him. No hesitation and no questions asked. “Jesus, we’re all in. Just show us what you want us to do.”
As we saw in the parable of the king’s wedding banquet, Jesus knew that his invitation would be refused by many. When Jesus invited the rich young ruler of Matthew 19 to “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (19:21), the ruler couldn’t do it. He could not lay down his most precious possession if that was what was required to follow Jesus. Instead, we read, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (19:22). Thanks for the invitation, Jesus, but the cost is just too high.
In Luke 9, Jesus invited another man to follow him:
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” (Luke 9:59–61)
Each had good excuses.
I had plenty of excuses too. I had five kids to put through college. Reneé and I were living in our dream house. My career was in high gear and promised some big financial rewards in the next few years. Besides, my identity, my security, and my reputation were all tied up together in that job and that lifestyle. “I’d love to join you, Jesus, but it’s just not a good time; you understand.” Jesus understands quite clearly. It’s always a matter of priorities: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24).
Although I lacked the immediate enthusiasm of Peter and Andrew, I ultimately did make the difficult choice to follow Jesus. I often wonder what became of the two men who told Jesus they couldn’t follow him quite yet. Nothing more is written about them. But we do know that Simon Peter and Andrew went on to change the world. They weren’t extraordinary men by any measure, nor were any of the twelve disciples. Peter and John were described in the book of Acts as “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). I believe that Jesus selected them precisely because they were ordinary to demonstrate the amazing things he can accomplish through average people. But while they may have been ordinary, they were also willing. They were available. They left their nets and followed Jesus without hesitation. They were willing to be used of God. They were disciples, not merely deciders, and that made all the difference.