Come Follow Me
Key Verse 4:19
“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.”
Jesus began his gospel ministry by declaring these words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (4:17) Then he began to call a few disciples to follow him. What did he want to do with them? He wanted to be their shepherd and friend; he wanted to help them live the lives God wanted them to live. That’s also why the Lord calls us and trains us, so that we might mature in our inner person and be able to live the lives God intends us to live! Jesus only had three years and half to teach his disciples how to mature until they could live a life that pleases God. And this is why he invited them to stay with him: He said: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men (19)” This is an amazing call. “Come follow me”, carries with it a challenge of faith: And the words: “I will make you fishers of me”, carries with it a wonderful promise: And Jesus’ challenge to all of us is the same: “Come follow me!” And his promise to anyone who accepts this challenge of faith is this: “I will make you fishers of men”. Exactly what does Jesus mean by that? He means to make those who follow him workers in his kingdom. There is no doubt that Jesus came to establish the kingdom of heaven and to fill it with lost sinners. And there is no doubt that he also wants to do that through those who believe and who accept his call to follow him. But to accept or reject his call is not a small thing; it is truly a matter of life of death; of whether you live the life God wants you to live or not; of whether you fulfill the purpose to which God created you for or not. To those who accept this call, he gives the kingdom of heaven and eternal life. These people change and begin to lives in service to him and his kingdom. Every one of them enters God’s service. But to those who reject the call ends up with nothing but a pointless life and in the end, condemnation. Jesus came to invite all of us: “Come follow me”. No one is exempt! And to make each of us a worker in his kingdom. How do we respond!
Read verses 18 and 19. “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’” Why call these nobody fishermen rather than the well educated religious leaders who were already supposedly in God’s service? Because they were supposed to be shepherds for the people; but they were hypocrites instead. They too lived in the darkness— the darkness of self-righteousness. How so? They pretended to live a holy life. But they had no idea about the truth of God. And they were worldly! And they had a lot of selfish ambition in them. They knew the word of God really well. But they used it only as a cover. In reality they enjoyed all kinds of sinful thoughts and desires just like everyone else. They wanted fame. They wanted fortune. And they got rich at the cost of those who were poor and oppressed. God was terribly unhappy with them because God on the other hand loves his suffering people. In a situation like this, what could Jesus do? Well, he could destroy them or remove them from office, or even despair at their false leadership. But Jesus didn’t! Here is what he did. Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and found some fishermen casting their nets, and he called them to serve God’s great work.
Who were they? To begin with, they were simply ordinary people living ordinary lives. Their hopes weren’t so great either. At the most they probably hoped for three meals a day. At best they hopes to simply enjoy a little more sleep, a raise in salary, a work free weekend. In a sense, they seemed to be such useless and hopeless people, especially when you think about the enormous responsibility Jesus wanted to give them as his servants. But they neither looked hopeless nor useless to the Lord Jesus! The moment Jesus saw them, his heart went out to them. He loved them. He hoped they would break from their worldly existence and begin to live on a higher spiritual level. And that was Jesus’ great hope! That these ordinary men would replace the spiritual leaders of the time to become the true shepherds and Bible teachers of the nation and then the world. These men were living in the darkness of despair. But Jesus’ hope for them was amazing. He loved them. He believed in them. And he was happy to call them into God’s service.
Look at verse 19 again. “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’” No one had ever hoped for these men before. Maybe they didn’t even have hope for themselves either. But Jesus called them to follow him. He invited them to leave their ordinary life of catching fish and follow him in a new life— a life of faith— and a life of godly mission. Why is this so important to consider? Because people don’t know this, but they are living in darkness as long they believe that life is simply to survive— to eat and to drink and to work and to have some fun. That’s how most people think— that as long as they eat a little better and make a little more money and enjoy a little more fun, that is living. But a life like this is really a life lived in darkness. Actually it’s also sinful to live like this. Why? Because human beings are noble creatures made in God’s image and called to live a higher nobler life than simply to survive. We are all called to live a spiritual life— a life lived for the glory of God.
We are sure that Peter and Andrew generally were good men! They lived good lives. They provided for their families as best they could. And they enjoyed their families, and if they had children, they would enjoy them to. But that’s the trouble! As long as people, no matter who they are, as long as they live for themselves and not for God— in other words, as long as they live to serve themselves rather than God’s purpose for their lives— and as long as they did not mature in the image of God— as long as they do not do that, the Bible calls that living just a selfish and sinful life. And that’s living in darkness. But when Jesus came he changed everything! Jesus actually came to restore dignity into our lives, to restore and to nurture the image of God in all of us. He came to restore the original purpose which God created us for— and that’s very clear— -to serve God’s purpose with our lives. And Jesus came to call all of us our of the darkness of am ordinary life. He came to call us to follow him in order that we might each become his great servants. Jesus came to restore our faith in God and our mission to God. For this reason, Jesus challenged the first disciples Peter and Andrew: “Come, follow me”. When Jesus said that, it was really God’s voice to sinful men to leave behind your life of sin— leave behind you life of meaningless existence— and come follow a new way of life in Christ Jesus. Jesus’ words: “Come, follow me” are words of light to hearts that have been living in darkness. Satan never wants us to hear these words. He never wants us to accept them. Why? Because they are words of truth. Because they challenge us to think carefully about what we are doing with our lives, and if need be, to change them according to the truth of God. And this is not only for believers, it is for believers especially! Ask yourself “What am I doing? Am I following the meaningless ways of the world? Or am I really following in Jesus’ footsteps— footsteps of faith and holy mission?” Everyone must stop to ask that question!
Look at verse 19 again. Jesus didn’t just leave them and us with a challenge of faith— to follow him, or to continue following in the ways of the world. Jesus gives them a promise: “I will make you fishers of men.” What a great promise. These men were satisfied only to fish all day and then to put some food on the table at night. But Jesus clearly teaches us that that’s not enough to define our human lives and existence! Jesus is the Creator God. He fully knew that every human being is created to do something great with his or her life— in other words, to serve God’s purpose and his mission. And Jesus knew that there is no greater mission than to lead men back to God through the gospel way of life. So he promises that if they, or anyone should follow him, he would bless our lives and make us fishers of men. In other words, he would make them and us fruitful as we should be. Christian life is absolutely the most noble of lives! But within it the most noble is to bring the gospel to the hearts of others. It is most noble to lead those who are walking in darkness out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God. We cannot deny that these first disciples were young and inexperienced and fearful. It certainly didn’t seem they could live up to this calling, and to bear this kind of promise! But it didn’t matter! What usually really matters is Jesus’ promise. His promise is real. It is absolute! Peter and Andrew who were nobodies all became great fishers of men. The promise will also come true for you and me— when we believe. It is never a matter of our ability or situation in life; it is ever a matter of his Word coming true.
How did thee early disciples respond to Jesus’ invitation to the Christian life— to the life of faith— to the life of mission? Look at verse 20. “At once they left their nets and followed him.” This is indeed amazing! They left their nets right away and began to follow Jesus. But how can this be? How is it that they didn’t hesitate to drop everything they were doing and follow him? I’m sure they thought about the outcome of their response. I’m sure they understood that most people would never understand them. Their family— their friends— would surely be concerned about the sudden changes in their lives. But one thing is clear! There was never a doubt in their minds that Jesus is the Savior, and therefore the greatest and most important decision of life would certainly be none other than to follow him. How many people actually come to that conclusion! This response to drop everything and follow Jesus only seems sudden and rash. But here’s the truth! Their decision to follow Jesus was the most reasonable and most appropriate and clearest decision anyone can make in life. We ought to learn from them that when it comes to obeying Jesus’ call or his challenges of faith, no one should hesitate, because it is the right them to do!
One more thing! Their response to Jesus’ call was in fact what every person must do in light of the Lord Jesus’ call. What that response amounts to is leaving the life of sin behind and beginning to follow the new life that Jesus calls us to follow— the life of faith and the life of mission. Those who believe the Bible know that every human being is a sinner and everything they do in life— even the most noble of things— is a product of our sins especially if it’s not done in Christ or done for the glory of God. Therefore, every one who is not in Christ— who has not been forgiven and redeemed by Christ are living a life of sin. But God never left it that way. That’s why he sent Jesus. He showed us mercy in Jesus. How? Jesus interrupts our lives of sin and calls us to follow him in the Christian way of life. If we’re backslidden, he still calls us to turn away from sin and follow him and life in him. Our decision to leave sin behind and to answer his call is the most important decision we can make in life— no matter when it comes— no matter how it comes. Why? Because in putting our life of sin behind us and trusting to follow Jesus brings on God’s glorious mercy— it gives us eternal life and brings us right into the kingdom of heaven. People always have so many excuses why they cannot or will not follow Jesus. Some have excuses why they cannot follow Jesus now! They want to follow later. They never consider that God is ever calling them through Bible study, through sermons, through the prayers of others, and even through constant conviction in their hearts. But no excuse is worth what will happen if you and I do not follow Jesus. No excuse is worth what happens when we let sin continue ruling our hearts instead of making room for the Savior to come in. It’s tragic to ignore or to postpone Jesus invitation to follow. It is always best to put aside everything and follow Jesus here and now, as did Peter and Andrew!
Peter and Andrew seemed rash in their decision. But they were not the only ones who heard and obeyed the call to follow Jesus in faith and holy mission. Look at verses 21 and 22. Jesus did the same to John and James, two other fishermen who were with their father in his fishing boat. When Jesus called them, they did the same thing. Matthew makes it even clearer the urgency of listening to Jesus challenge by saying that they did so immediately! Ever since Jesus came to live among us, to die for us and to rise from the dead in order to give us eternal life and the kingdom of Heaven, so many children of truth from every generation left their lives of sin behind in order to follow Jesus. Such faith is amazing and praiseworthy! This kind of faith is ever an encouragement and an influence even to this very day. Jesus has said to them as he does to every one of us: “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields— and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark10:29-30)
Today, Jesus is still calling people to repent of their sin and to put their faith and trust in him in holy obedience: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. This is the challenge time and again to everyone to a life of faith and mission— to those who have not yet renounced their lives in sin, as well as to those who have gone astray following the world’s many temptations. When people listen to Jesus’ call, and believe his promise, they are not only delivered from their slavery to sin but they grow in a life giving relationship with Jesus, and ultimately bear the fruit of becoming fishers of men and women in this life. When we follow Jesus, he leads us through life in its many struggles and pains but we do bear the fruit of leading others to Christ as well. There is no greater joy than to live the life God wants you to live, and to bear the fruit God wants you and I to bear. It beats the pointless existence that many seem to live through from day to day. We have a glorious invitation today: “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”