Jesus Chooses Ordinary People
Why were Jesus’s first disciples fishermen?
I figure it was more arbitrary than anything else. Perhaps Jesus just picked two random dudes — sometimes that’s how life works. However, Jesus probably saw the future for these two. He chose two people in Peter and Andrew who were often overlooked and neglected and gave them an opportunity. I know that’s also how life works sometimes.
I have seen some commentaries that state that Jesus knew Andrew and Peter before picking them as disciples. I can imagine that Jesus, even though he was God’s son, had the same inclinations to choose his friends to follow him.
However, the fact that Andrew and Peter were Jesus’s friends before they were his disciples is just conjecture. Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 4:18 to see the context behind why the verse is so important to Jesus’s mission and the Gospel.
First of all, Jesus is walking which shows him as a preacher traveling from place to place. And he found Simon Peter and Andrew at the Sea of Galilee. Let’s take a deep dive to see why Jesus encountering his first disciples in Galilee is so important. Galilee is a mountainous region in northern Israel that refers to a region that housed more Gentiles than Jews, so Jesus being from Nazareth, a city in Galilee, and encountering his first disciples in Galilee, shows that Jesus extended the grace of God to not only Jews but also Gentiles.
What does it mean that Jesus performed most of his miracles and told most of his parables in Galilee?
In Jesus’s time, Galilee was part of the Roman Empire. Galilee was a land that was often abandoned and overlooked. “Galilee was the most pagan of the Jewish provinces,” says theologian Frederick Bruner. Galilee was a crowded place that wasn’t always valued in the eyes of the Jews of the Old Testament, and as such, the fact that Jesus chose Galilee as a centerpiece of his ministry shows that God looks after the forgotten, the poor in spirit, the weak, and the needy. It isn’t the strong and righteous but the poor and the needy that we, as Christians, should work with and minister to.
My pastor once equated our church’s community in Sandtown-Winchester — a blighted community and center of the Freddie Gray Uprising in Baltimore — with Galilee. If God watched over Galilee, my pastor said, then God will watch over Sandtown. The New York Times referred to Sandtown as a “neighborhood that has been depressed for decades.” Sandtown has more people incarcerated than any other part of Baltimore. And Sandtown, abandoned and overlooked, is a lot like Galilee.
I am a teacher of kids from a lot of neighborhoods just like Sandtown in Baltimore. My mission is to give hope to the hopelessness, but I am not Jesus and I am not God. If anything, I have learned much more from my students’ strength, survival, and resilience than I have taught them.
Jesus preached in Galilee because he came from Galilee. I, however, do not hail from Sandtown or Baltimore, even though to me Baltimore is a place I call home. I want to give strength to kids who feel like life has nothing to give, but instead, these kids have given life to me.
Andrew and Simon were commoners and not famous people. They lived ordinary lives, and not many people knew who they were. To me, this shows that God picks ordinary people in the world to preach His word and live by His teachings, not the celebrities or the high-profile figures in this world.
I have been struggling with my faith recently, and Matthew 4:18 provides me much reassurance. I work a very difficult job as an inner-city teacher. My kids frequently curse me out. My co-workers are very anti-Christian and even the mere mention of God leads them to shake their heads. That isn’t to say I don’t like them and love working with them, but their negative views on Christianity are shaped by their personal experiences. My co-teacher often reminisces to me about how his mom used to tithe to their church even when they were very poor, and he would see his pastor drive sports cars while his family lived without electricity.
Jesus doesn’t work that way, I tried to convey. The prosperity gospel and purity culture have turned whole generations of people away from Christianity, and for good reason: they’re false teachings that demonize human behavior at the expense of loving your neighbor.
I look back to Matthew 4:18 and see the terminology Jesus used. He calls Simon and Andrew “fishers of men” because, to me, they were ordinary people that could connect with the masses while simultaneously following the Gospel.
Fishermen had traits that Jesus valued in his disciples. He chose disciples that were willing to learn. He chose disciples that were patient and determined. And above all, Jesus didn’t choose kings for a reason; he picked ordinary people because they needed Jesus to go on.
Jesus chose me because I didn’t have a choice. I need Him every day as I fail and lament in my incompetence as a teacher, friend, brother, and son. We need Jesus because we’re all just ordinary people who fall short day in and day out. Jesus is how we reconcile and spread the Gospel.
Originally published on Koinonia on February 7, 2020.