Mark 1: 16-20
‘As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him’.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him.
When Jesus called the twelve to follow Him, it was a surprising group he chose. At that time Jewish children would go through various levels of education in order to qualify as a potential disciple to a rabbi. Up to ten years of age they would attend Bet Sefer (House of the Book) during which they would memorize the first five books of Hebrew Scripture. Better students would then proceed to Bet Talmud (House of Learning) where they would memorise the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures and learn both the art of questions and the oral tradition surrounding the text; this they would do until the age of 14 years. By now only the best of the best remained. Many would return home to the family business during or at the end of their training. The cream of the crop might apply for the Bet Midrash (House of Study) where they would become a disciple of a rabbi.
When Jesus called his first disciples He made a very strategic decision, He called a rag tag group who did not look like disciples at all. Four of them were fishermen, one was a collector of taxes and the rest belonged to the general working classes. They were not men of rank or distinction. The Gospels do not present them as men of genius or original thinkers. They were men of different backgrounds, temperament and habits. All they had in common was their devotion to Jesus. Perhaps that’s the point.
Catholic writer Thomas Merton once wrote, ‘A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.’
It is a helpful reminder that we are God’s not because of our nobility, our goodness, or our qualifications; but simply because we are recipients of the grace of God. This reality is both humbling and liberating.