In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus begins his ministry by gathering twelve disciples. In 1:16-20, he gathers the first four, all of whom are fishermen in the Sea of Galilee. With the detail given by Mark, Jesus walks up to these men that he has never met before and simply says “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Instead of pondering it, asking further questions, putting their nets away and gathering some things, etc., it says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
Jesus’ call of “follow Me”, according to “The Gospel According To Mark” was quite unique:
“On this particular point Jesus was a very different leader from the rabbis and scribes of Judaism. There are no rabbinical stories analogous to the calling of the disciples, for rabbis did not consummate the teacher-student relationship by the summons, ‘Follow me.’ Unlike the decisive call that comes from Jesus, entry into rabbinical school depended on the initiative of the aspiring student, not the call of a rabbi.”
These men were definitely not aspiring students. They were fishermen with probably no plan of being religious students of anyone. Yet for these men, there were no prerequisites, no tests to pass, no previous knowledge and study necessary. Jesus simply chose them to follow Him in their current states.
How was Jesus’ call to them so effective? What makes you abandon your nets, your jobs, your family, and follow a stranger? In our culture today, this seems ridiculous. I can’t ever imagine some guy I’ve never seen before walking by and telling me to follow him and I just drop everything and go. No way. So what is it about Jesus that persuaded these men to such immediacy?
Unfortunately, this commentary doesn’t go into that. I wish it would have. One could say that since Jesus was God, He can do whatever he wants and used his power to persuade them. But, I want to believe that isn’t the case. I think He knew exactly who he was going to call. But I think it may have had to do more with the culture and idea of following a rabbi than with God-power-mind-tricks.
I did a little searching the web and found that numerous people assumed that they followed Jesus because they believed that he was the messiah, or that they were surrendering to the will of God. I have a hard time seeing this to be the case since Jesus seems to give them no identification as to who he is. Jesus didn’t say he was the messiah before he asked them to follow Him. In fact, it seems that throughout the Gospels, it takes time before the disciples actually start to realize who Jesus is. It actually takes until Mark 8:29 for any of the disciples to state who they think Jesus really is, when Peter says “You are the Christ.”
I have heard that it was an understanding of the time that becoming a follower of a rabbi was a rare privilege. Many aspired to follow a rabbi, but few succeeded. It was a position of honor and highly esteemed. So to have a rabbi come to you and ask you to follow him, especially as mere fishermen, was an opportunity one could not pass up. This could account for the immediacy too. Becoming a follower was such a big deal, they wouldn’t have wanted to risk losing the opportunity and therefore dropped what they were doing and immediately followed him.