The Fishermen’s Royal Summons

One of the great surprises in the life of Christ is that He intentionally established a unique order of men to labor with Him in His ministry on earth. Christ was going to advance His kingdom after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension through these otherwise ordinary men. But their marvelous ends were difficult to see in the day of their first call. They appeared to be many things, but “world-changer” was likely not the moniker to stick. Simply put, they were ordinary, forgettable, unremarkable even. The magnificence of what they would become was not due to any intrinsic wonder within them, but in their King, who would empower them by His very own Spirit. This is the story of the first Apostles.

The list for the Apostles can be found in various places in the New Testament. The locations are as follows: Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13. Jesus’ twelve disciples were: Simon, called Peter, John, James, the brother of John, Andrew, Phillip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus, Judas Iscariot. Rather than examine each name in brief, I want to examine more closely the calling of the first apostles: Peter, Andrew, James and John.

When looking at the first call of these men we notice a point of camaraderie: they were fishermen. The Lord did not initially call men of the academy (not yet at least, Paul, a man of much study, would be commissioned later). These four men were working when Christ called them. In fact, they had worked the whole evening. Jesus had been preaching to great crowds on the Sea of Galilee around them as they concluded their work.

After preaching, Jesus said to the men, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4 ESV). Having labored all night with no reward, Peter was more than hesitant. Nevertheless, he said respectfully, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5 ESV) This was not Peter’s first meeting with Jesus. In Luke 4, Jesus had already healed Peter’s mother-in-law, so he knew that Jesus was someone to be respected. What Peter did not know was that this man who beckoned him to let out his net, was Creator of all things. 

The fishermen obeyed Christ and the haul was overwhelming! But even more than the fibers of their nets, the hearts of these men are overwhelmed. The increasing awareness that this Jesus was more than a rabbi rose to the surface. Peter fell at the knees of Christ and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8 ESV) In that moment, Peter knew the One who stood before Him was holy. Even more than that, Peter knew he was anything but holy.  

Nevertheless, Jesus’ first words reveal His own character. He could have agreed with Peter, for Peter certainly was a sinful man. But He doesn’t do that. Instead, in kindness and mercy He comforts him and the rest of the men present by saying, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10 ESV) In that one exchange, Jesus transformed these men’s lives forever. They would give their lives over, not to fish, but in drawing great crowds to hear the word of God and be saved (cf. Luke 6:17). Peter would one day his first haul after the resurrection come in the thousands on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:6).

Luke tells us the outcome in the very next verse, “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11 ESV) This was not merely a literal following of Christ (though that is entailed) but this is the language of discipleship. On that very day, these men fulfilled the words of Christ: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV).

You and I are not likely having a bad night fishing at the moment. Nevertheless, Christ still calls us to follow Him. Now every calling is different (1 Cor. 12:29), but every calling from Christ is equal in its self-sacrificial commitment to the King of Kings. Jesus gave this promise, and it was fulfilled in His Apostles and every Christian, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24 ESV) Are you willing to make Christ the greatest commitment in your world today? Or will someone or something else have the final word in your future? To be a Christian is to be Christ’s. May He so guide your every step, for no individual is deficient in His hands. If He could transform these ordinary men into His ambassadors of reconciliation than He is indeed limitless. Do not doubt His power today. If He was able to make the world of nothing (which He did), imagine what He could do with you. Our limits, deficiencies, and failures are mere foils to display His glorious wisdom and power.