Leaving behind our nets to follow Christ


I’m intrigued by the way the Gospel Passage this morning treats the way that the first apostles leave behind their fishing careers in order to follow Jesus. Of course, there’s the stunning courage of leaving behind a whole life of fishing—hard work that would be chosen out of economic necessity—in order to follow Jesus in his ministry. But beyond that, there is the language of leaving behind the nets. Peter and Andrew leave behind their nets. James and John are mending their nets when they leave them behind.

Nets are double sided kinds of things: on the one hand, they can catch what we want: fish, for example, for nourishing food. But for fishermen the work of catching fish was also tied up with a real danger of also becoming trapped in their nets themselves. Fishermen who are not careful when heaving heavy empty nets overboard could get caught in the material and drown. Even today, fishing is one of the most dangerous industries in which to work, between storm related risks and equipment.

Jesus tells the men not simply to mend their nets but also to leave them behind altogether. How often do we look at the “nets” in our own lives and try to patch them up ineffectively rather than undertaking a radical conversion of heart in order to follow Jesus more nearly? How often do we really leave behind our “nets” altogether for the peace and freedom of Jesus?

One way to pray with this passage is imaginatively : imagine being in a boat and envision the nets. What holds you back or preoccupies you such that your freedom to love and serve others is limited? What does that look like—maybe even as a visual image? What does Jesus look like and where is he calling you to go instead? What would it feel like to set down your nets and to follow Jesus instead? For in Christ there is freedom, a freedom to love.