Imagine for a moment that you are at your place of employment, busily working away. Suddenly a stranger, a fairly average-looking guy, walks up to you and says, “Come follow me.” And the really strange thing is that there’s something about him so compelling that you actually get up, leave your job, and follow this stranger.
This is essentially what the disciples did that day Jesus walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee and called, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17). The disciples most likely had heard things about this carpenter that made them profoundly curious about him (see John 1:35-51). It was probably the same with you, when you decided to look into this “Jesus person” more. So here is the call, both to them and to us: “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
A number of things are implicit in this call. First, the call is to a relationship, not to a lifestyle. Naturally, when you decide to attach yourself to a person, your lifestyle changes. If you get married, you are no longer single, and that joyful event has a profound impact on how your daily life looks from that day on. So it is when we decide to attach ourselves to Jesus. As a result of our relationship with him, our priorities begin to change, our activities begin to change, and hence, our lifestyles change.
Let’s look at the first three words of Jesus’ call.
1. Come. This requires action and motion. We have to move from where we are to where he is in order to “come.” A decision is required. Jesus calls us to come, and we decide to get up from wherever we are and go.
2. Follow. Now that we’ve moved to where he is, we discover that he doesn’t want us to stand still, but he wants us to come with him in his journeys, to accompany him in what he is doing in the world. This involves a continual choice. We can come to Jesus initially, but then we must continually make the choice to follow him.
3. Me. Jesus says, “Come to me; follow me.” Jesus is God in the flesh, come to save the world, a living manifestation of God’s love for all of us. This is the God who was audacious enough to come to earth and become human, to forever have humanness as a part of him. This is the God who is loved us enough to offer himself as a sacrifice in our place. (Lots of other “gods” require sacrifices, but none of them offer themselves as that sacrifice.) It is this divine audacity, whether we understand it or not, that compels us to take another look at this Jesus, this love, this God— because it is unlike anything we’ve ever seen or heard.
The second part of Jesus’ call is: “I will show you how to fish for people.” This echoes the words of Matthew 28:13, often called “the Great Commission” because Jesus is sending the disciples out. There he says, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” His call is to fish for people, to make disciples. A disciple is simply the term for one who chooses to follow Christ and obey him.
The call of Christ, then, is two-fold. First, it is a call to come to the person of Jesus, come to a relationship and come to the lifestyle that is an outworking of that relationship. Second, it is a call to go, to be active in your sphere of influence as a disciple of Jesus, so that you, in turn, can be a part of calling other people to Jesus. These two elements must always go hand-in-hand, for you cannot have one without the other. To come to Christ without making disciples is to live a stagnant life. To try to do things in the name of Christ without knowing him is an exercise in futility.
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Anna Aven Howard is the Director of Youth Ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church, Winchester, TN. She has an M.A. in Youth, Family, and Culture from Fuller Theoloigical Seminary and writes regularly for youth ministry journals.