“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Some “random guy” comes up to Peter and Andrew, someone they have never met, and tells them to stop all they are doing and follow him. Fishing is their livelihood, how they make their living. Rationally speaking, when you look at this situation, it makes utterly no sense why you would just stop your job in the middle of the day and follow someone for, well, the rest of your life, without any real prior knowledge about who this guy was, what his motives were, etc. Think of some guy coming up to you at your cubicle at work, in the middle of a meeting, or on a construction work site, and he tells you to stop what you are doing (making a living!) and follow him. And on top of that, the random guy is someone the world would despise, someone your company or office would cast out on the street if they even set foot on the premises. From the prophetic indications we have in Isaiah 53:2-3, this is exactly who Jesus was in the eyes of the world. He “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” “One from whom men hide their faces?” From the world’s eyes, Jesus was nothing, a nobody, a misfit, an outcast from society, rejected by the world. Even His family thought He was nuts!
So why do Andrew and Peter respond the way they do to a stranger? Were they naturally inclined more than others to see Christ as valuable? How is it they saw this “random guy” as someone worthy to follow, someone who was despised in the world? The only answer is Jesus’ call to follow Him was uniquely divine and effected this response in them, otherwise, like others in the world, like that of their kindred (the Pharisees) they would have despised Him. Their response resulted from a cause. The very reason they saw something in Jesus that was irresistibly beautiful, was by a work of the Holy Spirit, that only could have been granted by divine knowledge outside of themselves. God gave them spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear the call of Christ. A work was done in their hearts to make them see Christ as valuable, so valuable, in fact, that they dropped everything to follow Him. The Father revealed Jesus to them as uniquely greater than all others, for, as Augustine has said, “Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all.” Clearly they valued Him above all! They left everything! In Matthew 15:16-17, Jesus says this very thing, that God grants eyes to see and spiritual renewal first. “‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’” The only reason Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ is because the Father has revealed this divine knowledge to him, otherwise Peter would have seen Jesus as just a fool and a madman. And the same rule applies: Andrew and Peter, the rest of the disciples, and all who call upon Christ for salvation, follow Him because they were granted the very desire and faith necessary for salvation. God specially grants what He requires by a divine, supernatural work and then accepts what He grants.
Without this special, effectual, divine revelation of the Father by the Holy Spirit to see Christ as infinitely valuable, no one comes to Jesus, no one believes in Jesus, no one sees Him as worthy of anything, because we naturally despise Him. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44) And also, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:20-21) Unless the nature is first reversed from the fall by a divine work of God (regeneration), no one comes to Christ, because they willingly hate Him. But rather, those who do what is true (like repenting of unbelief, believing, and turning to Christ in faith) do so that it may be clearly shown that God has born them anew. The reason they came to Christ to begin with was because God first changed their entire disposition. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Regeneration precedes or immediately gives rise to faith in Christ. Regeneration is the cause of our change, and faith in Christ is the result. And those whom the Father sets out to save, He continues to sustain by supplying them the faith necessary to persevere to the end. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) The Lord God is the Alpha and the Omega of our salvation, and indeed our entire lives.
So what is the point of this story? Is it about how great Peter and Andrew are for following Jesus and how we should imitate them? No not really. Sure, okay, we should imitate them and follow Jesus, absolutely! But unfortunately, if that is all we take away from this passage, it is just not enough to effect change at the level Andrew and Peter experienced. The Holy Spirit has revealed so much more in this amongst many other places in Scripture, that is worthy of our attention. Did Peter and Andrew seek out Jesus in any manner? No. They were doing their jobs, fishing. In fact, Jesus says to the disciples in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” Jesus came to them where they were and called them outwardly. Yet there was another calling, inwardly, that does not just sit and wait, but a calling, a divine calling, by the Holy Spirit, that gets the job done and is not dependant on man’s frail, deficient, wavering, sinful will. Instead God regenerates the will from the bondage of sin. In this effectual calling, the Holy Spirit gave Andrew and Peter eyes to see Christ as someone uniquely and infinitely valuable above all. This story is about God and His work (not ours) to bring sinners to Himself through the Gospel. Jesus comes up to them, and the only reason Andrew and Peter do not respond as the Pharisees do (in hatred and scorn) is because of something God does to effect a positive response in them. Jesus does not believe for them, we may note as well, they follow Him willingly and trust Him. But they follow Him willingly because of the work of God before and underneath their willing and believing. This is effectual calling. The Pharisees response is one of hatred toward Jesus. They were not granted this saving faith. Andrew and Peter’s response is dropping everything and following Him. As Jesus said, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
By way of application, what can we take away from this?
As it pertains to us as believers in our own experiences:
1) It is God alone, by His grace, we are saved from the bondage sin has had on our entire lives. There was no cooperation on Andrew and Peter’s part in coming to Christ. Jesus comes to them, grants them eyes to see Him for who He is (the Son of God), and then in response (as a result of this singular work of God in their hearts), they cannot help but follow Him, because Jesus is irresistible and draws those He reveals Himself to. Same with us. This quote from C.H. Spurgeon sums up what our attitude should be about our salvation: “The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, ‘I ascribe my change wholly to God.’”
2) When God saves someone, He makes it happen. “God saves sinners.” So many times, salvation is presented as God just sitting there twiddling His thumbs, eagerly waiting for us to respond to His cries, as if He is helpless, lest He violate our human will. I praise God He went underneath my will and regenerated it that I may love Him, because oh how He knows I was bent on destruction if He let me go! No, rather, the way Scripture speaks of salvation is that when God saves someone, He gets it done. “The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14) “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
3) This truth of God’s effectual calling should humble us to think that God did not have to grant faith and repentance to us that we may be saved. In seeing the depths of what God did to save us through Christ, tears should stream down our faces in wonder and amazement that He chose us for salvation from all eternity. And it should cause us to tremble before His mighty throne. He could have let you go your own way, and yet He had mercy on you! Just like Isaiah, even though he was one of the most righteous men in Israel, he fell flat on his face before the sight of God, stating, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) And Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:28, “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face…” May God shine His light in our hearts through the work of the cross that this may be our response in all areas of life, all to His glory!
Pertaining to others we relate to:
1) As far as witnessing is concerned, this should not hinder us (as many allege it does), but rather do the opposite: it should embolden us, making us even more courageous to witness, because it is God alone who grants salvation to whom He pleases, we are just commanded to preach the Word, and God will do what He pleases with those whom the Gospel is preached to. All the weight is off! Either people will accept and believe (by a work of God first) or left to their natural, sin-laden resources that are bent toward destruction, reject the message of their own choice.
2) God has a people from all eternity He has chosen to save; we have no clue who they are, nor can we tell; we simply go out and preach His divinely inspired Word to all, persuading with loving acts and words, with the assured hope that God is sending us to find His lost, chosen sheep who are out there. That is the hope of evangelism! God has people out there He will save, and by His mercy and grace, we get to be apart of it! We save no one, God merely uses us as conduits and saves effectually by the work of His Holy Spirit alone. What a wonder that God uses broken sinners like us to proclaim His message of salvation, and He infallibly saves His people!
3) Because we know we were saved by sheer grace and mercy in the cross, we should not approach those engrossed in sin as people below us, as those who are inferior, as if we are better than them. Rather we should sympathize with them in their bondage, because we were in bondage. This reality should make us tremble that we did not go down the same path, but were spared by God’s sheer grace, because we would have jumped head first straight into hell. Our hearts are so wickedly deceitful, we absolutely would have done the same things, were it not for the grace of God alone intervening and turning us from our natural bent toward hell. May we humbly love and persuade people into the kingdom with loving words and deeds done in the hopes that God will have mercy on many!