As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:18-22, Common English Bible).
Until I read this lesson in preparing for this post I had never given much thought to Zebedee, the father of James and John. Losing his primary help, his two sons, had to be a crushing blow to his fishing business. Imagine losing two-thirds of your working ability. Beyond that, Zebedee was not a young man. He had two grown sons. By New Testament standards, that would mean Zebedee was not a young man. His ability to put in a hard day’s work fishing would be severely limited. At best his income would be less. Probably less desirable, he might have been forced into retirement, unable to do the work by himself and unable to afford the cost of hiring additional labor.
That really isn’t what I was thinking about with this story. No where in this reading, or any of the other Gospel accounts does Jesus invite Zebedee to join them on this new adventure. Did Jesus not think he would be a good disciple? Did James and John not want their father tagging along? Was Zebedee too old? Or, is this a case where all Jesus’ words were not recorded by the Gospel writers?
My personal thought is the latter. It makes since that none of the Gospel writers would write down everything that was said and everything that happened over Jesus’ three year ministry. I just can’t see Jesus leaving someone behind who really wanted to go and yet, Matthew’s Gospel, in our lesson for today, clearly says, “…they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
Here is the thing. No matter what we do, there will always be someone who chooses not to follow in the way of Jesus. It is unfortunate, but it is also reality. We share. We do what we can. But, in the end, we must respond to the call that Jesus makes on our lives. It may mean we have to walk away.
Though the text doesn’t say this either, I would like to think that James and John maintained contact with their father. I would hope they kept going back and telling him all they saw occur and Jesus’ hand. Then, when the time was right, Zebedee decided to follow Jesus too.
As I see the story playing out in my mind’s eye, Jesus comes and challenges the family to follow him. James and John respond positively but Zebedee stays behind, perhaps even begging his sons to stay with him, he needed them. They recognized their call and walked away to follow Jesus. As time passed, when Jesus and the disciples were at their base of operations in Capernaum they went back to visit their father. He listened as they told him about Jesus turning water into wine. He heard the story of Peter walking on the water. He learned of the many Jesus healed. And in the end, Zebedee accepted the faith and joined into the work his sons had previously accepted.
I realize this isn’t in the story. It is an idea that is purely from my head. But, my understanding is also based on personal experience. When I experienced my call to ministry, my father thought I had lost my mind. I know he did because he told me so. As time went on, however, my Dad came to realize ministry was where I was supposed to be. My dad accepted my call and I believe his acceptance also strengthened his own faith.
When Jesus calls, it makes a difference.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved