When Jesus showed up in the lives of his disciples, it was an ordinary day. These four men were out fishing. Another day, Nathaniel was sitting under a fig tree. Matthew was at work collecting taxes. When Jesus called them, it was just another ordinary day in their lives, but it wasn’t an ordinary time.
Their government was going ballistic. Herod, one of the meanest, most violent, and selfish rulers that ever lived, had been frantically building massive impressive structures to impress the king. He was the client, or vassal king of Judea, but he wanted to impress Caesar, the King of all of Rome. He built two cities, Caesaria Maritima and Sabaste to impress and honor Caesar. His son, Antipas, rebuilt the city of Tiberias to honor Tiberias Ceasear, and another city, Sepphoris, which was three miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. These cities were monuments to the royal power and prestige of Herod and his son. But, even though they were places worth sightseeing, the New Testament doesn’t record Jesus ever going into any of them.
On the other hand, the New Testament does record Jesus talking about the Kingdom of God very often. We know that the Bible doesn’t record everything Jesus said or did, but it doesn’t mention Jesus ever entering Herod’s Kingly Cities and it does mention Jesus talking about the Kingdom of God sixty six times and the Kingdom of Heaven another thirty-three. It sounds like Jesus is contrasting God’s Kingdom with Herod’s Kingdom. It seems like an act of resistance, as if he is saying, “The Kingdom of God is Nothing like the Kingdom of Herod.” It is Not about impressing people and showing off your power. It isn’t about currying favor with the higher ups. It is something else entirely.
And it sounds like they were ready to listen. He invited these disciples, and they dropped everything and went with him. A lot of sermons have been preached about how the disciples left it all, and followed Jesus. Then they talk about whether or not we’d have the ability and the courage to do that, but that’s not the point of the story.
This account isn’t about which disciples recognized Jesus, and how quickly they followed him, the Gospel is about God, and what God did in their lives. These people were not trying to find God. They were not praying, going to church, or hoping to meet the Messiah. They were just going about their business in hard times, when their country was going down the tubes, and who knows what was happening in their personal lives? Jesus called James and John, who seemed to be rich, fishing on the boat with their dad Zebedee and their hired men, and Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew, who seemed to be poor. They didn’t have a boat, and were casting their nets from the shore.
But God was in that ordinary day. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God has come near.” There are two words for ‘time’ in Greek, ‘chronos’ and ‘kairos.’ ‘Chronos’ is regular time, calendar time, which is measured in days and hours, like the word “chronological.” Kairos means time into which God has entered: God’s time. And that is the word they wrote for Jesus’ statement, “The time is fulfilled.” In the midst of bad government, politics that took advantage of the poor in favor of the rich, and oppression, when things were looking terrible, Jesus said, “God has entered into this time,” and he followed with, “The Kingdom of God is near,” then, ‘Repent and believe the Good News.”
Repent didn’t mean ‘be sorry for your sins.’ It means “Turn 180 degrees. Turn your lives in another direction.” Part of it means ‘Resist.’ Resist the way things have been for you. Resist the evil and negativity that surrounds you. But turn your lives around, embrace this new life, God’s life, the new way of living in God’s Kingdom, and Believe it. Believe the Good News!
When he told them. “I will make you fishers of men,” it didn’t mean, “Now you have a new job,” it meant, “now you have a new identity!” And they did. They were new people, with a new purpose.
So, what does it mean for us to follow Jesus, to follow God? Do we need to leave everything we know and devote our lives working with the homeless, or becoming a street preacher, or trying to work miracles? God calls each of us to follow within our own lives. Our own lives present the framework for God’s work. We don’t have to leave it. It’s here.
One person wrote:
Sometimes following may mean staying at home. It may mean letting the hired servants go and taking care of Zebedee when he gets too old to fish. Sometimes following may mean casting the same old nets in a new way, or for new reasons. It may mean doing something different with the fish you catch, or spending the money they bring at market in a different way. It may mean reorganizing the whole fishing business so that the drifters down at the pier have work to do, and so that everyone who works receives a decent wage. It may mean doing less every day, not more, so that there is time to watch how the light changes on the water, and how the happy fish leap out of it at dusk… The God who called us, can be counted on to create us as people who are able to follow. (Barbara Brown Taylor, Home a Different Way, pg. 41).
God calls us to different things at different times in our lives. The point isn’t to follow him necessarily with a job list, with specific tasks, but to follow him with our lives. If we love God, then we can make choices that follow God’s Spirit moment to moment. It’s not a shopping list, it’s a way of life.
We don’t need to look outside ourselves to follow it, we just follow the Spirit within us. Jesus said, “I will give you the Spirit of truth. You know her because she lives with you. You know her, because she lives in you. (Jn. 14: 20).