“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.” – Mark 1:16-18
Read these verses again. Do you see it? What does Jesus say?
I love the way the NIV and NLT versions translate this from the Greek: “Come, follow me . . ..” Think back to elementary English class and sentence types. “Come, follow me” is an imperative, an implied command with “you” as the subject. But not only that, there is a comma in between “Come” and “follow me” so there are actually two commands to be read as “You come; you follow me.” These words, this calling of the first disciples, always make me pause to reflect.
Let’s be honest. I think most of us understand the command to “Come.” By either having been raised in the church or because someone took the time to speak the words of God and His desire for a relationship with each of us into our lives, we know that to receive His grace we need to recognize Jesus as our savior and repent of our sins.
But what about the “follow me” part? Okay. I go to church; check that box. I take my kids to Awana and Sunday school regularly; check that box, too. I have a quiet time most days; I’ll check that box. I have been part of discipleship groups and Bible studies; a check in that box as well. I even prayed for my neighbors this week; another check for me. It seems like I am doing pretty well, right?
Until you realize what Jesus is really calling these first disciples to; He’s calling them to follow Him, to walk in His footsteps, to learn from Him. He does not say to mark our Christian to-do list like we may check off the items on the list of chores we want to tackle on any given weekend. He calls them to follow Him, AND He gives them a promise if they do this: “[He] will show [them] how to fish for people.”
So, how well am I really doing? Before I delve too far into this, take a look at the terminology. These men, Simon Peter and Andrew, we call disciples, and we refer to ourselves as Christians. But, if you look carefully at the Bible overall, you will see that the word Christian is only used three times in the NLT. And actually, some even think that it may have been a derogatory term created by those outside of the Church to refer to Christ’s followers.
If “Christian” is not a word that the those in the early Church used to describe themselves, then what are we? Dare we call ourselves disciples? But if we do, how do we describe a disciple? One definition I found states that, “A disciple has counted the cost and totally committed his life to following Jesus. He accepts the call to sacrifice his own needs and wants and follows wherever the Lord leads; he completely adheres to the teaching of Jesus, making Christ his number one priority; he lives accordingly and is actively involved in making other Christian disciples.” The words that are underlined… do they look the familiar? There is the call, the command, to follow and then the promise of making other disciples or becoming, as I remember from my Sunday School classes long ago, “fishers of men.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, states that “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Read that again. What he is saying is that if we fail to fully take on the role of a disciple, then we fail to be with Christ.
That’s why I always find myself in a time of reflection when reading these words. Sometimes they hurt, but in a good way. They remind me that yes, praise God, I have received His grace and have the gift of His salvation because I have accepted Jesus as my savior. But, they cause me to take a closer look at my life and see where I’m failing to faithfully and fully follow Him. They force me to set aside my to-do list and think about where I am at compared to where I was. Is my walk with Him causing changes in my heart, mind and life? It should be. If it isn’t, why not? What am I holding on to that I’m not letting Him change? Where am I not letting Him lead? As His disciples, these are questions we should be, we need to be, asking.
I challenge you this week to think of yourself not as a Christian but as a devoted disciple of Christ, someone set on following Him and the teachings of His Word. Look again at Mark 1:16‑18 and realize Jesus isn’t speaking to just the first disciples but to YOU as well.