“Jesus called them, and they left their father in the boat with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:20).
Mark provides enough detail in today’s Gospel to tell us how serious a decision Simon and his brother Andrew, and James and his brother John, made in answering Jesus’ call to discipleship.
First, they are already out on the water in the boat, so to respond to Jesus, they will need to leave the boat and swim ashore. This "baptismal" theme will be repeated in John 21 when Peter again jumps into the water to come to Jesus on the shore.
Second, these fishing boats were family businesses. When James and John leave their father they give up their inheritance of a business large enough to employ them and additional hired men. They are walking away from the most important loyalty there was in the ancient world -- father and family -- and, in doing so, financial security for themselves and their own children.
The call requires a leap of faith in the unknown, total commitment to an upstart preacher whose only credentials are that he is a carpenter from the small village of Nazareth in the hill country of Galilee. What kind of impression must Jesus have made on these simple fishermen to move them to take such a dramatic step in their lives?
One artful attempt to capture their motivation is found in the lyrics of a song American songwriter Harry Chapin wrote for the stage presentation of “Cotton Patch Gospels.” The disciples sing: Everybody wants to touch their dream just one time. I know I’ll never ever get this close again. Everybody wants to feel that feeling one time. That’s why I don’t want this day to come to an end.
Out of the random and routine events of our lives comes a distinctive call to go beyond the script, to risk everything to say yes to an adventure that will define the rest of our lives in larger terms than we could have ever imagined for ourselves. We are free to hesitate, even say no, but we will settle for the safe and more predictable course already laid out for us by family, culture and country.
Simon and Andrew and, later, James and John, must have seen something in Jesus that moved them to abandon their world of boats and fishing nets to follow him.
The first decision any of us will make is to be open to that same mystery, and so sensitive to our dreams that we will hear God’s call when it comes to each of us in our own unique circumstances: “Come follow me.” Let me be the focus of your life, the prize you keep your eyes on each step of the way. When the call comes, say yes. You may never ever get this close again.