In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Matthew 4: 18-22 and Luke 5: 1-11
As Jesus was walking along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, he points out two brothers who were fishermen. He calls out a simple invitation, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At first we read this and are astonished how quickly the men responded. In fact, the Scriptures use the words “at once” and “without delay” and “immediately.” Upon reflection, you might wonder, “Who in their right mind would drop their nets and blindly follow the voice of a stranger?
Thankfully, Luke gives us a bit more detail in his rendering of the story; they weren’t so blind after all. Jesus was indeed standing by the lake, with people starting to crowd around him and listening to him share the Word of God. So, as the crowd was thickening, he noticed two boats left there by the fishermen. One of them belonged to Simon (Peter) so he asked if it would be ok if he got in and if Simon would take him out away from the shore so Jesus could continue to teach the crowd of listeners.
In return for his gratitude, and after he was finished speaking, Jesus offers his outstretched arms of love to Simon by suggesting that he row out to the deep water and let the nets down for a catch. Simon respectfully shares with Jesus that they were hard at work all night long but hadn’t caught anything. However, Simon and his companions eventually do as Jesus suggested, and they catch more fish than their nets could handle. In fact, so many fish that their boats began to sink. They were astonished, so Simon falls down at Jesus’ feet and pleads with him to “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Jesus comforts Simon Peter with the simple response, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” It was at that moment that Peter, his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, left everything behind and followed Jesus.
There is something very heartening in this story of invitation and followership. It’s all about Jesus’ love for others, his demonstration of that love through acts of kindness and miraculous affection. Each time he revealed himself and invited others to follow him, it was in the context of their normal lives and relationships. Jesus comes alongside others in very personal ways, reveals himself in ordinary and extraordinary ways, and then makes an offer few could refuse.
In the same way Jesus has come beside you, knows your name, is sensitive to your context, and desirous of expressing his love in tangible and intangible ways. Behold him giving his disciples a loving invitation to follow; believe he will keep calling out your name; belong to the companions of Jesus who love to follow him; and become fully alive in the prospect of eternal invitations which will lead you into an abundant life in Christ.