Whenever I come across Jesus’ words, “Follow me”, I can’t help remembering my Nannie. Nannie was from Belfast and whenever we got into a tough spot, Nannie would laugh and say, “Follow me! I’m right behind you!” Like many Irish sayings, on the surface it sounds ridiculous, laughable. How can I follow you if you are behind me? And then the penny drops, and you realize how can I follow you if you aren’t behind me? Good leaders always have your back.
So, fellow followers of the Way, what does it mean for us to respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of people”? For generations this invitation has been interpreted by the church as a mission. Jesus wants you to go out there into the world and fish for people. There’s plenty of fish in the sea! So, let’s go out there and get them, hook, line, and sinker, and then let’s reel ‘em in, in here. Let’s fill up our nets, so that the church will be full to overflowing. As my Nannie would say, “Ah Jesus!”
Ah Jesus, if only it were as simple as that! Some of us are of an age where we can remember hordes of little children standing up in front of congregations, singing their little hearts out, casting imaginary fishing rods, and reeling em in.“I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men. I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me.” If you follow me?
Ah Jesus? What are we doing wrong Jesus? Come on Jesus. How about it? Won’t you lead us back to the good old days? If only we could point Jesus in the right direction? It certainly would make following Jesus easier if only Jesus would lead us where we want to go? Trouble is, Jesus never was much interested in taking people where they want to go.
Take poor old Andrew and Peter for example, professional fishers struggling to make a living at their trade. Jesus, we are told, wanders along the lakeside and sees them casting their net into the Sea of Galilee, and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fisher of people.” What possessed them to change their profession, chuck in their nets and follow Jesus? Farther along the shore, more fishers are called upon, a pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee’s boys, Jesus calls them, and they too abandon their boats and their father, to follow Jesus. You know there just has to be more to this story than meets the eye. If it were as simple as it looks on the surface, surely, we too could figure out how to reel em in just like Jesus did. Maybe there’s more to this fishing metaphor than meets the eye?
“Jesus called them, and immediately they abandoned both boat and father to follow Jesus. Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the Kin-dom of heaven and healing all kinds of diseases and sicknesses among the people.” “basilea Ouranos” “basilea” the Greek feminine noun for “sovereignty” traditionally translated as “Kingdom”, dominion, empire. “Ouranos” means sky or heaven but it is also the name for the father of the Greek Gods, in Latin Uranus” In Greek mythology, “Ouranos was one of the primary realities, who, with his wife, Gaia, or Earth, brought forth all creatures. The creative father spirit imagined to exist in the fine ether of the sky, somewhat remote from earthly life yet very much involved in it. The cosmos began with these two realities, earth and sky, mother and father to all beings.” The basilea Ouranos points followers of Jesus beyond the confines of Empire to the Realm of the CREATOR of ALL.
Follow me, I’m right behind you. Follow me, don’t worry about the power of the Empire, life is bigger than the power of Rome. Follow me and you will see beyond Rome’s power to confine your life. When we peer beyond the surface of the words, we can see the signs of the times. Life upon the Sea of Galilee was locked up by the power of Rome to tax a fisher beyond their ability to pay. Jesus invites the oppressed fishers to abandon their servitude and become “fishers of people” Where we see potential converts, Jesus calls us to look beyond our immediate needs to something so much more than filling sanctuaries on a Sunday morning. Jesus is pointing us to the baselia uranos beyond our wildest dreams to the Realm of the CREATOR of ALL. Jesus uses a metaphor, an image that directs the oppressed beyond the words. As observant Jews and fishers, Andrew, Peter, James and John would have understood exactly how the prophets like Amos and Ezekiel used the metaphor “hooking a fish” in relationship to catching humans as a euphemism for judgement upon the rich. Jesus was inviting the disenfranchised fishers to follow him to learn how to “hook fish” in a struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege. Hooking fish was a metaphor for seeking justice! (Ched Myers, “Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus”)
Jesus lead his followers throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, proclaim the Good News of the existence of the baselia uranos – the Realm of the CREATOR of All, a kindom beyond the powers of Empire – a realm in which healing and compassion create the kind of peace in which no one is oppressed because greed, self-centeredness, and violence gives way to justice for all. Follow me! Abandon your boats! Jesus invites his followers to seek justice for the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the persecuted, the poor; “follow me and turn the world upside down”.
What fish need to be hooked today? What systems do we need to see beyond in order to usher in the Realm of the ONE who is the CREATOR OF ALL? Do we have our sights set upon too small an endeavor? Are we inviting people to follow Jesus into the church or are we inviting people to follow Jesus and turn the world upside down? Can we see beyond the way things are and imagine how things may become when healing and compassion are the hooks, we use to usher in the baselia of the CREATOR of ALL who is the LOVE we call God? Are we prepared to hook a fish or two?
Or, maybe we should begin by asking ourselves are we prepared to be hooked? Are we prepared to follow Jesus? Are we prepared to follow, trusting that Jesus is right behind us? For surely, in one another we can see the power of CHRIST alive in, with, through, and beyond us, moving us on toward the Kin-dom of the CREATOR of ALL that IS and ever shall BE. Unlike fishing which can be a solitary endeavor, following Jesus happens in community; a community which has your back.
Follow Jesus for we are all behind you. This is the kind of invitation our world is hungry for. Following Jesus as together we build a Kin-dom where compassion, leads to justice and justice leads to peace. Now for that, surly we can leave our small boats behind and follow the one who leads us beyond the beyond and beyond that also, as together we usher in the Kin-dom of the ONE who IS our LOVER, BELOVED and LOVE ITSELF. Follow Jesus, for we are all behind you!