Leaving is Part of Following

(c) Museums Sheffield; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

James and John were at work. It was just another day at the office, when all of a sudden this guy shows up. They had seen him around, and had heard a little about him. But what was he doing here, at the seashore? It looks like he is coming over to our boat? What could he possibly want with us?

Matthew and Mark both recount this amazing story of Jesus’ first encounter with the brothers.

Matthew 4:21-22 – Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

While I have always loved the story, and have heard it used in multiple sermons over the years – what has always amazed me is the fact the these rough cut fishermen would hear Jesus’ words and leave everything to follow Him. They left their jobs (training,income,future security) and their families to go travel with a man they knew little about, to places completely unknown. And, they did so – immediately.

What was it about Jesus that was so compelling, so attractive that they made such an immediately life-altering decision? Was it His conviction, His passion, His persuasiveness, His charisma? There must have been something in what He said or how He said it that so moved them that they were willing to risk everything they knew to pursue it.

I consider myself a Christ follower. There was a day in my life when I too “heard” His call to follow Him. I didn’t have the privilege of seeing Him in person, or hearing His voice or experiencing His charisma – but I felt a definite drawing to Him and His promise to save me and give me an abundant, eternal life. My response, however, was quite different than our fishermen. I didn’t walk away from life as I knew it. I didn’t leave home, school, girlfriend, friends or my plans for my future – to follow the Shepherd. The parts of my life that I gave up were the more seedy, sinful, unsavory parts that needed to be thrown away anyway.

You see, I, like many Christians today received a Savior (which is a wonderful thing obviously) but didn’t necessarily want a Lord. I wanted the eternal life He promised, but I really didn’t want to give up much to have it. My preference was to have eternal life when I died, but to enjoy (control) my own life before then.

I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my fishing boat. I must admit, I was fine with going to church, being a part of a small group, even leading one – but turning my life, relationships, plans, money, job, friends, thoughts, words, actions  over to Jesus to influence and control – was altogether different. It was actually quite foreign and pretty scary.

The older I get, the longer I have had to learn what it means to have a Lord in my life and to walk with Him and the more I have come to appreciate the amazing decisions made by the very first followers. These brothers heard a call that pierced their heart in a way I must say I did not. I was not ready to leave in order to follow. God is so amazingly gracious that He allows us the opportunity to walk along our self-focused path, and even comes along with us, softly speaking and gently leading until we make enough mistakes and discover enough truth to finally hear what James and John heard- and allow our hearts to be pierced by His lavish love. Then, we can finally find the courage (faith) to get out of our boat, leave the life we thought would fulfill us – and follow our Lord into the greatest, most fulfilling adventure of all.

Are you still “following” Jesus from your boat, or have you made the live-changing decision to stand up, step out of that life – and follow Him?

Think about it,