Jesus arrives at the shore of Galilee, picturesque even today. His message intrigues: it’s all about “time.” Not chronos, as in clock time passing, but kairos, as in “it’s time,” a pregnant moment, the turning point. In his lovely book, Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was, Gerhard Lohfink elucidates the way the urgency of time, the now! is what defines Jesus more than titles or identities. He showed up and named that God’s dreams and their dreams – it’s now, it’s dawning, it has dawned, can you notice it? Urgency: you have to decide now, not tomorrow, not next year. We think the miracles are Jesus’ healings or stilling the storm. Maybe a bigger one is he walks right up to guys at work who’ve never heard of him, and after the briefest exchange, they drop everything, livelihood and family, and traipse off after him to…. Well, they don’t have the slightest idea where they’re going, what they’ll be doing, or how it will all come down. Jesus must have been beautiful, or compelling in some unfathomable way.
And how unusual! From the thousands of stories we have of rabbis in those days, not one of them asked students to follow. How did old Zebedee manage his boats the next day? What did he say to Mrs. Zebedee when he got home? The preacher can and must underline the radical nature of the impact Jesus had on people. He didn’t say Hey, nice boats, I’ll come visit you again next week! The pearl of great price had materialized, and they dropped everything to follow. Find something to illustrate this, maybe like Will Hunting abandoning his new job and old friends and driving across the country for Skylar. But you might just trust the story as it is. Jesus said Follow me. And shock of all shocks, and yet Grace of all Grace, they did.
Speaking of dreams: when preaching this text, I’ve told about a dream the novelist Reynolds Price reported. After being diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his spinal cord, he dreamed of Galilee. Jesus said to him, “Your sins are forgiven.” Price answered him, “That’s not exactly what I am worried about.” I don’t have any takeaway from this story, but dang, it’s so good. Clearly, this story helps us see that Christianity isn’t about being nice, or goodness, or judging other people. It’s getting in motion, dropping some stuff, off on a new path. And it’s real world stuff. There are some vivid details in the story that remind us of this: the verb, “casting their nets” is amphiballontas, which means throwing around, circular tossing, whirling something heavy. Archaeologists found a boat under the mud in the Sea of Galilee dating to the time of Jesus. If it only had S.S. Simon Peter carved into the prow! I like to show my folks images from classic art. Caravaggio’s stunning “The Call of St. Matthew” shows Jesus with a raised arm and slightly cocked finger, clearly echoing Michelangelo’s fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling of God creating Adam. Notice the posture and seeming hesitancy of the disciples, a bit of a Who me? look about them. And this: evidently Caravaggio, when painting this, went out into the street and rounded up the first guys he found loitering around, sat them down in his studio and painting them as the disciples. And there they are! Our people, you and me included, might just find ourselves caught up in the picture of Jesus’ now.