Imagine leaving your house with the door unlocked and open, wallet on the counter, job offers in the e-mail inbox, so you can hitch a ride in a rust-bucket car with a man who claims to be God. He’s offering you a job that “pays better than paychecks.”
Talk about blind faith! But isn’t that the type of faith Christians are called to? To trust God no matter what? Didn’t the disciples abandon their occupations to follow him?
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18)
Wait a minute…they just abandoned their livelihood to follow Jesus because he said so?
Not quite. As many skeptics may claim, followers of Christ are not called to blind faith. Luke elaborates on this account to show the reason the disciples “left everything” to follow the Lord:
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on [Jesus] to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)
The disciples had an encounter with God. They saw a miracle and were compelled to follow because of the evidence displayed. But this was not the case for everyone who witnessed Jesus’ power, as the crowds whom Jesus fed illustrate:
You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. (John 6:26-29, emphases added)
The crowds wanted the Bread of Earth and the disciples wanted the Bread of Heaven.
What about us? What sort of Christians are we? Do we cling to the promise of Heaven because we imagine it to be the best version of Earth, free from all the pain and toil we experience now? Or do we cling to Jesus because he’s the only reason Heaven is what it is?
Imagine the success of Peter’s fishing business if they were able to hire Jesus. They would be a Galilean fish-market monopoly. Yet they abandoned any idea of personal gain and followed Jesus.
Today, there are those who proclaim, explicitly or implicitly, that God wants us to be well-off, established and healthy in the here and now. It’s commonly known as the “health and wealth gospel,” but the Bible proclaims something else entirely (e.g., Matt. 6:25; Acts 9:15-16; Phil. 4:11-13; 1 Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5). Jesus called his disciples to a business of ministry, of catching men as if they were fish. It was a transcendent calling that regularly entailed earthly hardships.
Jesus does not lead us to a comfortable life as if we’re just waiting in line for the eternal roller coaster that is Heaven. He calls us to lose ourselves in him. Where he leads, we go. Whether we get involved with ministry or not, we’re all called to be a part of the Body. We don’t stay in the boats for him to come get us more fish.
Do we honestly think we can gain something from being a Christian? A ticket to heaven? A comfortable earthly life with knowing our eternal life is secured?
Or do we simply want God because we know how sinful, empty and foolish we are without him?
Peter and the disciples just wanted Jesus, and they abandoned their livelihood to pursue a transcendent one. They desired to be with Christ, through anything and everything. Although they, like the other Jews, frequently desired to make Jesus conform to their ideals (Matt. 14:13-21; 16:21-23; 17:1-4, 14-20; 19:13-15; Mark 9:33-41), they remained with him and accepted the grace he showed to their inadequacies (e.g., Peter’s denial, John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-19 and Thomas’ doubting, John 20:24-29).
At the close of our days, when we lay in the mortuary cooler, we will, like the Apostles, leave everything behind. Let’s hope that when that day comes we’ve taken our fill of the bread that is Christ and not just the bread that perishes.