Updated: Sep 24, 2020
To continue our discussion from last month's blog about Jesus' 2nd Call to "Follow Me," let's take a look at the Scriptures.
In most harmonies of the Gospels that I have seen, the three recordings of Jesus’ calling of Andrew, Peter, James, and John are shown as one and the same event. But what if these are not all the same event? What if Jesus called these men and they followed, but then they returned to their old routines and agendas? What if Jesus later had to come back and call them again before they were solid Followers of His, ready to truly follow Him all the way to Gethsemane?
For five strong reasons, I believe this alternate scenario is exactly what happened! Although the calling of these men in Matthew and Mark appear to be the same event, I believe the record in Luke is a different, later event. Consider the following:
1. Matthew and Mark make no mention of the miraculous catch of fish that Luke does. Isn’t it strange the first two weren’t inspired to mention something so impressive?
2. On the occasion recorded by Matthew and Mark, we’re told that Andrew and Peter leave their nets and follow Jesus. Jesus then goes on to James and John, who respond by leaving their boat and their father (and hired servants) and following Jesus. Although close together in time (chronos), these are two separate moments (kairos) for the two pairs of men.
However, in his Gospel, Luke tells us that Jesus called all four men at the same time and that all four leave “everything” at the same time and follow Jesus. Leaving everything is very different from just leaving their nets and boat, or even family and co-workers. This does not sound like the same occasion described by Matthew and Mark.
3. The significance of leaving everything makes even more sense when we note Peter’s brokenness recorded by Luke. Seeing the great catch of fish brought about by Jesus, Peter recognizes his utter inadequacy, even as a fisherman, and falls at Jesus’ feet, declaring, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” This act of wholehearted surrender to Jesus is the true, appropriate response to His call to “Follow Me.”
4. In Matthew and Mark, the promise Jesus gives for following Him is future tense, something that is to come later; “I will make you fishers of men.” However, in Luke, Jesus’ promise becomes present tense: “From now on you will be catching men.” This also suggests two different events separated by some amount of time.
5. To view the event in Luke 5 as the same event recorded in Matthew 4 and Mark 1, one must rearrange Luke’s chronology. One has to move it to follow Luke 4:30 and precede the events in 4:31-44. This may not seem like a big deal, since, in order to harmonize the Gospels, other minor rearrangements must be made in Mark and Matthew, as well as some major rearrangements in Matthew. However, there are only two instances where the harmonizers have rearranged Luke, this being one of them. I’ve not researched the other one, but I have to wonder about rearranging any events in Luke, given his opening statement in the Gospel which God gave us through him:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4
Note the underlined portions. Luke is a physician, a man of precision. I’m betting he got it exactly right!
I believe the evidence of these five differences make a compelling case for the following scenario: Peter, Andrew, James, and John -- men who became apostles and “turned the world upside down” -- heard Jesus’ call, responded in enthusiasm for a time, but then went back to what they knew (fishing) when Jesus headed out of Capernaum on His first preaching tour of Galilee. They were business partners along with the father of James and John, so there were probably family and financial pressures not to “leave everything” indefinitely. A few days off hanging out with Jesus in town had been one thing; leaving everything was quite another. After all, who was going to pay the bills and take care of them?
So Jesus comes back some time (months, even) later to where they are, by the shore, cleaning their nets. But before calling them again, He demonstrates that He is fully capable of taking care of their business and of supplying their needs. In fact, He can do it better than they ever have! Then He says again, “Follow Me!” Humbled, they finally are ready to drive the stake, “leave everything,” and follow Him. They give Jesus the signed blank check to their lives.
The period of time from Jesus’ first saying “Follow Me” to the time of His third call is 10-11 months. From other events going on during this period, it appears a majority of this time (at least 6-7 months) elapsed between the first and second times Jesus called the four fishermen. Although Scripture does not record Jesus' specific calls to follow Him for most of the other future apostles, it is likely that all of them except Matthew were called and “drove their stakes” to follow Jesus during these months. Jesus’ call to Matthew occurs shortly after the great catch of fish.
Understanding the significance, enormity, and “cost” of answering this second call shows us why so many Christians are stuck between Believer and Follower, not looking all that different from the majority of unbelievers, as we have discussed in previous blog posts.
In our next blog, we will explore Jesus' 3rd calling: Come and Be With Me!