With the number of Help Wanted signs and banners visible from the street highlighting bonuses that are available to work at different places, it’s easy to see good employees are in high demand. So what tone do you hear when I say the phrase, “There go a couple of workers.” If you are an employer it might sound one way. It may have an air of disappointment because of their value to the team or the work it will take to replace them. Or maybe even relief since they were more of a burden to the team than an asset. If you are a coworker, it may have yet a different tone – one of sadness since they were more than a coworker, but someone who had become a close friend. Maybe you hear it and burst with pride. Proud because you were part of preparing them for the next chapter in their life, or the connection and relationship you have with them.
In Matthew 4:18-22 the passage in my NIV Bible has the heading of Jesus Calls His First Disciples. It begins with Jesus inviting two brothers, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, to “Come, follow me.” which they do at once. The next couple of verses repeat the process with two more brothers, James and John. And immediately they do too! In good storytelling, it helps people make an emotional connection with someone by using their name. It makes it more personal. As we go through these couple of verses, along with comparing them with companion passages in Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:4-11, and John 1:35-42, we discover just how personal this invitation was, and how much it was going to change the lives of more than just those being called.
Another name is part of the story. One that can be quickly passed by unless we linger a little longer and let it sink in. Zebedee. What do we know about this man? He’s a business owner – it’s his fishing boat. He’s a business partner – Luke 5:10 speaks of the partnership between the sons of Zebedee and Peter and Andrew. He’s also a dad – it’s his sons that we are reading about! So if Zebedee were to say these words, “There go a couple of workers,” what tone do you hear him using? When Zebedee started his day he probably didn’t know he was going to have to fill significant gaps in his workforce. He didn’t know there was going to be even more pressure on keeping this business venture afloat, (yes that pun is on purpose.) Or that his sons were going to be given a chance of a lifetime! In those days it was more common for a person to ask to follow a rabbi to have a chance to learn from them. But for a teacher to invite someone to follow them was truly special. And Jesus was already beginning to reveal what a special teacher he was. I can’t help but think that Zebedee was more caught up in a proud dad moment knowing the rare opportunity his sons, mere fishermen, were getting. Was there going to be a price to be paid? Yes, but just like his sons discovered, the price of discipleship is worth leaving everything behind. What are you willing to leave behind to experience a life of discipleship with Jesus?