Reading things chronologically is a fetish of mine. Whenever I re-read the Chronicles of Narnia or the tales of Middle Earth I follow the time-order, not the order in which they were written. I'm also doing the same with my current Bible reading. For the gospels I am following the chronology as suggested in the Life Application Bible notes. (I would also recommend The Life of Christ in Stereo- an interwoven chronology of the gospels.)
|At the beginning of the ministry of Christ is his baptism after which he is followed by Simon (renamed Peter) and his brother Andrew (John 1:35-42). No surprises here. So I always assumed that other references to their calling were parallel, but just out of sequence. Not so. |
Following the time line through familiar events: the wedding in Cana, clearing the temple, Nicodemus' famous dialog, the woman at the well, teaching and healing, we come to Matt 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. Jesus saw Simon and Andrew fishing, and also James and John. He calls them to follow him with the famous "I will make you fishers of men" offer.
Huh? They had apparently wandered off to go fishing for fish after following him earlier. But this time they "immediately left their nets and followed him."
OK, now they must be permanent disciples of Jesus. Wrong. A demon is cast out of a man. Peter's mother-in-law is healed. Jesus preaches and prays throughout Galilee. Then comes that dismal morning when Simon, Andrew, James, and John have had no sleep, and have also caught no fish. They are back to hoping for slimy osteichthyes, not Homo sapiens. Jesus tells them to cast the net one more time, and then they have more fish than they know what to do with. Which is saying something for four guys dedicated to the fishing profession. Luke 5:11 ends the story; "So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him," AGAIN.
I have heard more than one sermon preached with the attempt to inspire people to leave everything for God, and never look back, like the disciples. Seems to me the truth is that they were looking back about as often as I do. Maybe they got hungry, or needed to pay the bills, or just slipped into the habits of a lifetime. Whatever. But instead of being discouraged when my good decisions refuse to stay decided, I can take heart in the fact that I'm in good company.
Jesus loved those fickle guys. He just kept asking them to re-make the right choices. And he keeps asking me to do the same thing... Issues I thought were settled long ago re-surface under new circumstances and demand to be re-examined and settled again. Life is change, and we have incomplete knowledge; God is unchanging and full of all knowledge. We can only make decisions based on as much of reality as we know at any one time. But Jesus calls us to keep following, again and again and again.
|I've discovered that another great disciple of Christ experienced this too. In The Road to Daybreak Henri Nouwen says, "It struck me that selling what you own, leaving your family and friends, and following Jesus is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. You must do it many times and in many different ways. And it certainly does not become easier."
You said it, Henri.