FOLLOWERS AND FRIENDS
Like most people today, I am on Facebook. I am also active on Twitter, Google plus and other social media. The activity meter on these social media forums tick depending on how many 'followers' you have on Twitter, how many 'friends' you have on Facebook and on how many 'circles' you are on in Google plus. If you are a celebrity, then of course, you have many fans and friends and then Facebook allows you to create a page and allows people to 'like' you. In this digital age, the terms friends and followers have taken on a new meaning. All it takes to befriend someone, become their follower or like someone is a few mouse clicks.
By this reckoning, Jesus didn't start too well. Jesus began with just four followers; Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. We don't really know why they followed Jesus, or why James and John did, but their father, who was in the boat with them at the time, did not. John's gospel tells us that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist; so perhaps the men already knew of Jesus, or even knew Him. It is not clear whether Jesus had done lots of supernatural things to attract people to Him, or done great healing or miracles; if so, they are not recorded in the gospels. According to Matthew, all He seemed to have done is to go to the local synagogues and preach a few times, just a simple message of repentance and the fact that the kingdom of God had come near.
Perhaps the four fishermen were not so much attracted to the message of repentance, but more to the message that Jesus was preaching about the kingdom of heaven being at hand, and saw in Jesus the personification of the popular vision of the promised Messiah as a military leader who had come to overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to the Jews. But follow Jesus they did, and as a result of their faith and the faith of others like them, we find ourselves as His followers today. And our call to follow Jesus is the same as theirs.
We know that the disciples left their nets and followed Jesus. Following someone like an itinerant preacher like Jesus implied that life was never going to be static and that they were therefore always going to be on something of a journey. There was an initial decision to follow Him, followed by the actions (and upheaval) that it would entail. The disciples did not know where it would lead them or the joy and hardships which were to come, but they followed Jesus. They embarked on their own personal journeys, drawn by the attraction of Jesus and what He said.
Extending His Kingdom
As they went on the journey with Jesus, their knowledge and experience of Him would evolve and deepen, it did not remain static. They discovered new things about Him, sometimes radical and shocking, and began to understand about what His presence in their lives and the world really meant, and the real meaning of His incarnation. In the same way, Jesus invites us as His followers on that same journey, invites us to come to know more and more about Him and His relevance for us and the world as we walk with Him on the journey of our lives. And in the same way, our spiritual lives should not remain static and our faith should develop from our early understandings as we follow Him. We should expect to learn more about Him.
Almost by definition, if you are on a journey you can't take everything with you. Just like the disciples, we too may be called to leave some things behind as we journey with God, sometimes the very things that give us security and some degree of comfort. But moving on does imply leaving some things behind. A part of that leaving behind is contained in the key message Jesus gives to all who would seek to follow Him, "Repent. Turn (back) to God, because the kingdom of heaven is near." This means coming close to God, so He can come close to us as we turn to Him, turning away and leaving the things that separate us from God and turning to the things that draw us closer to Him, and being active and involved in extending His kingdom.
Fishers Of Men
As Christians, a part of our calling is to speak out against injustice and prejudice in the world, and to ensure that events such as the Holocaust never happen again. We are to speak out so that God's kingdom breaks through more and more here on earth. And in order that that can happen, we are called to follow Him. Jesus calls us as His followers to be fishers of people, to go and tell the good news of His kingdom, and the good news of justice, peace and equality for all, so that others may come to be His followers too.
Like the early disciples, we may not know what we are being called to. Like them, we may not have witnessed miracles of healing or supernatural acts. But like those early fishermen, we are called to leave our own nets, those things which give us earthly security, and follow Him. We know that from time to time the fishermen disciples went back to their nets. But when they did, it was with a different outlook. Jesus, the Messiah was their security, not their earthly skills or possessions.
Likewise, we too may go back to our own nets, but after an encounter with Jesus, we will never see them in the same light. Ultimately, we are all called to be Christ's followers-followers who will join with Him and our fellow believers on the journey of the acknowledgement of the kingdom of God and its authority in our lives, followers who will hold our nets of security in the perspective of God who became incarnate, and who live out the journey of repentance and reconciliation with God and each other as we respond to His call.