Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | January 20, 2015

Armchair travelers

Want a life of travel? Excitement? Challenge? Seeing new places and meeting new people? Then follow Jesus.
I’ve always wondered if that isn’t the assumed message heard by the fishermen whom Jesus called on the shores of the Sea of Galilee:

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. [Mark 1:16-20]

Likely, these guys knew Jesus already, had been drawn in by his teaching, and now he was offering them a life on the road. Leave the boats and see places they’d never been? Of course! Why not? And off they went, leaving their towns, their livelihood, their families behind. I’ve read that Jewish rabbis of the time typically didn’t seek followers; their followers sought them. Someone looking to study with a rabbi would do a little research, ask some questions, and then seek the rabbi with whom he wanted to study. Usually, this type of study would mean reflection, contemplation, studying the Torah and other writings.
Maybe the four disciples we read about here recognized something different about Jesus’ invitation. “Follow” suggests going someplace.

“Fishing for people” implies that the interactions they’ll have will involve more than a small group of students.
Travel, people, and excitement. They found all these things while following Jesus, but probably not in the way they expected. Sometimes they had to glean fields or depend on strangers for food. They’d get kicked out of places; they’d find themselves in increasing danger.
Even the teaching, we’ll read later on, wasn’t what they’d expected. Instead of just reflecting on faith ideas, they would experience their traditional beliefs and practices challenged. They’d find themselves at a banquet seated next to rich businessmen, or serving the poor on a hillside. Jesus told them that the types of people they’d been taught not to like were often the types God seems to favor.
But what about those who were left behind? What about Zebedee and the hired workers? What about all the others who heard Jesus but weren’t called to this life on the road?
What about us?
We may need to remind ourselves of this obvious fact: not everyone is called to leave the boats and nets, to leave family and place. The vast majority of us are called to stay where we are as we serve God.
But at the same time, the calling of Jesus all through the gospels is to get out of our comfort zone, to recognize that while we are to keep on fishing right where we are, we must do it consciously. We bring in as many aspects as possible of life “on the road with Jesus” to the everyday.
We pay attention to the outcast, the sick, the poor among us. We challenge the status quo. We seek justice and equality. We live kindly among our friends and family and among strangers. We allow our own faith and assumptions to be upended by new ideas and new experiences. We tread lightly on the earth.
Can we do all this from home? You bet.
But we do it best when we allow ourselves to journey with Jesus, even if we don’t leave town.

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2015

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