The other day I was at Walmart. You know, Walmart: The King of Customer Service. I was looking for something specific in the pharmacy, and because the Walmart Pharmacy area has aisle after aisle of products, I was not having any success finding it. A pharmacy employee walked by clearly headed Someplace Important (his break?), and I called to him and asked the location of the product. He literally didn’t even slow down, but kept walking and shouted back at me, “It’s on the aisle just after the vitamin aisle,” undoubtedly thinking, “My Cup-O-Noodles isn’t going to cook itself, Lady.”
Okay. I found the correct aisle, and yet it took me a very long time to find what I was looking for. I finally did. Hoo-rah!
Believe it or not, I thought about this situation when I heard the Gospel reading Sunday from Matthew. In the gospel, Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking along beside the Sea of Galilee and came across, first, Andrew and his brother Peter, who were casting fishing nets, and then, two more brothers, James and John, also fishing with their father Zebedee. As Jesus passed them, he shouted out, “Come and follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” And so, they all did.
How much nicer it would have been if the Walmart employee had said to me, “Come and follow me, I will show you where your item is located.” There is, of course, no comparison to a Walmart employee demonstrating simple customer service and Jesus asking strangers to follow him and help change the world. Still, that invitation to follow me is welcome in times of trouble and distress.
I have often wondered, and frankly did as I listened to the story this time, if the men knew of Jesus beforehand, if they had heard his teachings, and that’s why they dropped what they were doing and followed him. Or was there just something so charismatic about Jesus that they followed without question? The problem with scripture readings, of course, is that they are snapshots. There is some context to this whole story that we must fill in ourselves. The priest/homilist pointed out that every story we know from the scripture makes it clear that the apostles weren’t crazy about their career choices. Scripture tells us about the frustration of empty fishing nets; the discomfort of rough seas; Peter, Andrew, John and James sitting around mending their nets, a mundane activity for sure. Matthew was a despised tax collector, and he couldn’t have loved that job. So perhaps they had simply heard about Jesus and thought to themselves, “What could it hurt? We can follow him and see what happens.”
As I listened, I also wondered just what Zebedee thought when his sons up and left him to pull in the nets by himself. He couldn’t have been very happy about his sons walking away. And then he had to go home and tell his wife that James and John weren’t coming home because they followed that crazy preacher. A few chapters later in Matthew’s gospel, he tells us that that James’ and John’s mother asked Jesus if her wonderful sons could be on his right and left when they were all in heaven. I bet she thought that was the least he could do after having taken her sons away from she and Zeb.
Nevertheless, follow Jesus, they did. And they may not have been the most reliable of disciples (betrayal, denial, doubt), but their decision to follow Jesus changed our lives as well as their own. Now it’s my turn to say yes to Jesus when he asks me to follow him every day of my life.
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