Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, called by Jesus into discipleship. Since Andrew was a disciple of Jesus and also called by Him, our devotion is on Matthew 4:19: “I will make you fishers of men,” and is taken from Follow Me: Discipleship According to St. Matthew by Martin Franzmann.
Psalm 139:1–12; antiphon: v. 17
No Stress on the Quality of the Person Called
The call is Jesus’ sovereign act. And so there is no emphasis whatever, in Matthew’s account, on the qualifications of the persons called. There are no likely candidates for discipleship. All that we learn of the first four who were called is that they were fishermen; and even that is no picturesque detail but is recorded to enable the reader to appreciate the metaphor with which Jesus described their future task: “I will make you fishers of men” (4:19). The list of the twelve apostles indicates that they were an oddly assorted lot of men, ranging, as regards religious convictions, from the tax collector, who had decided to take the cash of this world and let the credit of Israel’s promise go, to the Zealot, who was willing to stake his life on the strength of God’s promise to Israel, however blindly and mistakenly he did it (10:2–4). But the disciples are never really characterized very fully in the Gospels. Beyond a few obvious and dramatic traits, such as the volatility of Peter, we know next to nothing about them as personalities. People who write character sketches of disciples and apostles are to be admired for their enterprise; they do not have much to work with. The one thing that is certain about them all becomes clear from Jesus’ reply to Peter when Peter asked, “How often shall I forgive?” In the parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus is treating Peter’s case as normal and is making plain what the call meant for the disciple. This, Jesus says, is what happens when the kingdom of heaven reaches a man in the call—this establishes the rule of forgiveness between brother and brother. The normal, usual, characteristic thing about the called disciple is that he is like a forgiven debtor. The call has reached him in a situation of desperation and has meant release and restoration of a man whose whole existence was a lost and forfeited existence, an existence under inexorable judgment (18:21–35). That is the characteristic of the called disciple at his calling. It is no wonder that the word “call” came to be so loaded a term in the New Testament proclamation of the Christ: Paul speaks of called saints; and the New Testament knows no other kind.
Fishers of Men
The disciples had been marked out as missionaries from the first. When Jesus called them, He told them, “I will make you fishers of men” (4:19). Jesus’ call had put them into communion with one who “went about Galilee teaching . . . preaching . . . healing” (4:23). It was from a Teacher whose life was one great mission of revelation and mercy that they heard words which pointed them, too, toward a missionary ministry. When Jesus put His disciples into the succession of the prophets, the spokesmen for the God who acts (5:12), when He called them the salt of the earth and the light of the world and bade them let their light shine before men in order that their Father in heaven might be glorified (5:13–16), when He prepared them for a life of conflict with Judaism by taking from them the right of judging and by giving them the power to pray and to love (7:1–12), He was molding their wills for a life of mission activity.
But it was not only this or that aspect of Jesus’ teaching which gave disciples’ life its missionary impetus; it was the whole Messianic impact of Jesus on the disciples, the impact of His words and deeds and person as one indissoluble unity. Matthew has indicated this by including the missionary impetus in his record of the calling of the disciples and in his description of the Messianic molding of the disciples’ will in the Sermon on the Mount. He has further indicated it by prefacing the missionary discourse of Jesus to the Twelve (9:35–10:42) with the fullest account of the mighty deeds of Jesus to be found in his Gospel. (8:1–9:34)
Devotional reading adapted from Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew by Martin Franzmann, copyright © 1961 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.