Fishermen are busy with their fishing nets. A man appears on the shore of the lake. He begins to speak. More and more people gather around Him. Then they witness a miracle. They willingly leave their nets and, ultimately, abandon their work and follow Him.
Spur of a Moment—or Well Thought Through?
We are called to follow Jesus wherever we are
By Bernd Sengewald
Fishermen are busy with their fishing nets. A man appears on the shore of the lake. He begins to speak. More and more people gather around Him. Then they witness a miracle. They willingly leave their nets and, ultimately, abandon their work and follow Him. They give up everything that protected their livelihood and instead, without any security, decide to follow someone little known to them into an uncertain future (Matt. 4:18-22).
Have you ever marveled at this story in the Gospels when Peter, Andrew, James, and John just seem to leave everything to follow Jesus? Did you ever ask yourself if you’d be willing to do the same—spontaneous and spur of the moment-like?
What’s the Model?
If you’re anything like me, you would like to have a little more time to think and, above all, pray about such a far-reaching decision; and you would like to know as much as possible about the person whom you are planning to follow.
Here is good news: Peter, Andrew, James, and John did not just decide at the spur of a moment. The particular incident recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke took place around the summer of Jesus’ twenty-ninth year, roughly one and a half to two years after Jesus began His public ministry.1
This point gets overlooked easily; yet it becomes obvious from a careful study of the biblical text. In Matthew 4:12 we read: “Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.” The same reference can be found in Mark 1:14, and the context in Luke also makes it clear that Jesus had already begun His ministry in Galilee when He invited the fishermen to follow Him. Jesus was active before the arrest of John the Baptist.
However, these reports are found only in the Gospel of John. There we read of the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12), the first cleansing of the Temple (verses 13-17), followed by the succinct words: “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did” (verse 23). John writes about the nighttime encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and that both Jesus and John the Baptist baptized at the same time. In connection with the latter we read: “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison” (verses 23, 24).
When Jesus came to Galilee the second time, His popularity among the people was so great that a royal court official, living 25 kilometers (about 15 miles) from where Jesus was staying, heard that He was back in the region and traveled from Capernaum to Cana to ask Jesus to heal His son (John 4:45-47).
The four people who seemingly left everything spontaneously to follow Jesus actually had a lot of time and opportunity to get to know their Lord and Savior. They were very closely associated with Him, and they saw and experienced how He lived (John 1:35-42). They heard His preaching and saw His miracles. They even baptized on His behalf (John 4:2). Jesus Christ did not require a spur-of-the-moment decision from them. A short while after His baptism, Jesus had taken them in as part-time disciples (John 1:35-51), and now, about one and a half to two years later, He called them to full-time discipleship.2 As human beings, we usually need our time—especially for important decisions. Jesus acknowledged this fact with His disciples.
Immediately With Jesus
However, there is also an “immediately” when Jesus calls. For example, as the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well became convicted that she was in the presence of the Messiah, she immediately left her water jar and went into her village. There she spoke openly and enthusiastically about her newfound faith, and consequently there was a great movement among the local population (John 4:28-42).
The demoniac of Gergesa in the Decapolis region is another example. His plea to be allowed to stay with Jesus was refused. Instead, Jesus told him to go to his family and talk about the miracle that had taken place in his life. The man left Jesus and wandered throughout the region of the Decapolis to talk about his experience (Mark 5:18-20). Sometime later, when Jesus visited the region again, 4,000 people gathered to meet Him. For three days He taught and healed them, concluding in the second account with a miracle feeding. In contrast to the feeding of the 5,000, where mostly Jews were present, in this case most of the people were Gentiles from the Decapolis region. In other words, they were from the home of the former demoniac of Gergesa, who had immediately begun to share his experience with Jesus Christ (Matt. 15:29-39).
It’s important to take what we have learned from Jesus, immediately put it into action, and pass the blessing on to others. Undoubtedly, this is one way of responding to Jesus’ “Follow Me.” Yet Jesus Himself was careful, and His service to others was well thought through. He knows our hearts and how much He may, at times, require of us.
By the way: Have you ever noticed that Jesus’ preaching followed the same model? In Acts 1:8 He said: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” In the first year and a half of His ministry, Jesus preached only in Jerusalem and Judea. When the resistance by the Jewish leadership became too great there, He took His kingdom message to Galilee. However, on His way He stopped in Samaria (Matt. 4:12) and preached there. When the resistance in Galilee became too great (John 6:66), He ministered in areas where Gentiles lived, including in the region of the Decapolis (Matt. 16:13).3
It’s easy to overlook important links and intriguing aspects of the ministry of Jesus when we read rapidly through the Gospels. Chronology is not always easy to grasp. But everything has and takes its time, especially when it comes to human beings. Christ’s “Follow Me” still invites us today to entrust our lives completely to Jesus. He knows exactly what we need most, and when we need it.
1 The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1956), vol. 5, pp. 315, 316. Compare additional notes on Luke 4 in SDABC, vol. 5, charts on pp. 216-218 and 229-231.
2 Ibid., p. 319.
3 Ibid., p. 428.