What Would Make You Leave It All Behind?
What makes you feel complete?
What are you most passionate about? What gets you up in the morning? What truly gives you satisfaction and contentment? What gives the ability to keep trudging on through life?
For me, it is people.
According to about a million different personality tests, buzzfeed quizzes, strengths evaluations, etc., I am 100% an extroverted people person. I just love people so much.
I love quality time spent with friends laughing about the crazy things that happen in our lives, commiserating about the tough circumstances in which we may find ourselves, sharing an inside joke for the millionth time, or revealing something cool Jesus has shown us that week. I love the moments I get to spend with my students in between lessons when I get to hear about the latest teenage drama or some ridiculous story that makes me double over with laughter. I love the time I get to spend with my family reminiscing about childhood in the 80s-90s or going on adventures with my nieces and nephew.
People can make me feel complete.
Now, whatever that is for you - your job, a relationship, your kids, bungee jumping, photography, travel, sleep, Instagram, cats, a good book….whatever….I want you to imagine what would make you leave that thing behind.
What would make you drop those things that makes you feel complete, turn your back on them, and walk away?
Is there anything?
It’s a hard question to ponder -- for me too, I must admit. But, nevertheless, I’ve pondered it quite a bit lately. And our study in the Gospels this week has made me ponder it even further.
It’s a vivid and interesting scene that opens up for us in Luke 5:1-11. Jesus has been preaching to the multitudes from a boat, and when He is finished He urges Simon Peter to go out deeper into the Sea of Galilee for a catch of fish.
Now this must have sounded pretty crazy to the disciples. They were trained fishermen. One could make the case that they had a passion for their work since while Jesus was preaching they were multitasking - listening to Him and working on their nets at the same time (verse 2).
So, I’m guessing taking fishing advice from a Rabbi wouldn’t have appealed to them very much. You can kind of infer a tone from Simon Peter:
“And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5
I speak a little Galilean Fisherman, so here is my rough translation. “Hey Jesus, we fished all night (when you are actually supposed to fish, might I add). We put in a hard night’s work, and the fish weren’t biting. Just not a good day in the world of the fisherman. But, hey, if you say so, I will put out the nets again.”
It’s an interesting response because we know from Hannah’s blog last week, that Simon Peter, along with some other men, had been living life with Jesus for about a year in that close Talmidim relationship. He had asked them to “Come and See,” and they went and they saw. So there was a familiarity built from a year spent together. And even though Peter was going to be obedient, we can see from his sentiment that he may have been a bit skeptical of Jesus’ suggestion, maybe believing his own level of expertise superior to his Rabbi’s.
That is what makes the next part so incredible.
“And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken…” Luke 5:6-9
So like always, Jesus was right, and Simon Peter and his buddies caught so many fish that it swamped the boat, threatened to break the nets they had just been caring for, and necessitated a whole second boat to haul in, sinking that boat as well.
That, my friends, is one large catch.
And I’m guessing that is the type of load that would make the day of a fisherman. It was the haul of a lifetime, if you will. And, it was all theirs.
But, if you notice, that’s not where Simon Peter’s focus was drawn.
Instead we see Simon Peter’s gaze rest solely on Jesus as he falls to the knees of the Man who had climbed onto his boat and directed his catch. We see a disciple realize the authenticity and divinity of His Rabbi as he looks to himself and sees his sinful state in comparison. “I am a sinful man,” probably roughly translates to: “I thought I knew what I was doing. I thought I knew what was best. But You. You are the Way. You are Lord.”
They were all astonished at the catch of fish. But their astonishment didn’t fall to the catch. It settled squarely on the shoulders of Jesus Christ, their Rabbi.
And then everything ramps up several notches.
“...And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:10-11
Matthew 4:19-20 puts it this way: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
Jesus turned a miracle into an offer.
So we see a transition in the Talmidum relationship from “Come and See” to “Follow Me.” Instead of the disciples just observing Jesus in His ministry, now they would be following Him with a focused purpose, to learn how to be fishers of men.
It was a call to a complete change in pursuit, in vocation, in passion, in everything. It meant that everything would change.
And what did the disciples do?
The gospels record that they acted immediately. They pointed their boats to shore, got out and pulled them up on the beach, left their nets, and followed Him. And what is incredibly interesting to me is what this tells us about the gravity of their choice.
This wasn’t a casual decision because they didn’t just walk away from a day spent at the lake or a fun hobby that fills only days of leisure. They left their profession, their livelihood, and a miraculous catch of fish that might’ve filled their pockets and their stomachs for months to come.
But that’s not all.
Luke specifically writes that the disciples left not only the boats of fish but also everything else.
They left their families, their comfy beds, their roofs and everything under them, their security, their friends, their comfort zones, everything that they had probably held dear for years, and all connections to anything familiar.
Jesus said Follow Me, and they did -- full out, wholeheartedly -- and they didn’t look back.
I’ve read this story lots and lots of times, and when I do I always am floored by this. It’s so big. It’s so opposite to the world that I live in every single day. And, for me, it reveals important Truths about this Christian life I have chosen to live.
One, there has to be a transition from living life on the sidelines of the Christian faith just watching the work of Jesus to taking up His call to Follow Him, joining in His work in my day to day life.
Basically I need to be able to look at my life and say, “That point right there. That moment. That season of life. It was then that I went all in. I surrendered everything, and I didn’t look back.”
And that moment can’t be conditional or contingent on any circumstances that I may find myself. It can’t be some sort of bargain, “Hey I’ll follow if you give me this or promise me this or only if I can hold on to this.” It’s got to be complete surrender. They type where you leave your boats full of the best catch of fish you’ve ever seen on the shore, and you walk with Jesus into His work.
Now for the disciples, they literally left everything behind, but for the majority of us that won’t be our reality. Meaning it will be rare for us to walk away from everything we hold dear. But, you better believe me, what has to result from meeting Jesus in that way is a literal change in the focus of our lives. When I went all in, Jesus became my focus, and that meant that everything else in my life had to take a backseat to a pursuit of Him. Everything else flows out of me choosing Him first, making Him the heart and soul of my every day. I have to know who I am following, and the rest of my life can’t get in the way of that regardless of it’s importance here on earth.
And, two, after I made the choice to follow Jesus, then I have to be willing to consistently take stock of my life and make sure things aren’t creeping back into my gaze, leading me away from following only Jesus.
You see, I don’t believe this experience the disciples had with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee was some sort of magical fix to the priorities and choices they had been living out every day. Like once they walked away from that beach, life got easy, and they never thought about their lives ever again, never missed their families, never wanted to go fishing again because they were now super holy.
I believe for them and for us, that following Jesus is sometimes a daily (maybe moment by moment depending on the day) choice. And sometimes, things creep back into the picture and pull us away from Him. They cause us to slow our steps, and before we know it, Jesus is way ahead on the path, and we don’t know how to catch up.
Lately I’ve felt this concept a little more deeply than normal. I’ve had a part of my life slow me down.
What’s sad about this part of my life is that it is very important to me and initially came from God as an amazing opportunity to serve Him and someone else. It was a really good thing that brought me a lot of joy and completeness, something I would have mentioned in answering those questions at the beginning of this blog. So having it pull my focus from Jesus and cause me to stumble on my path to following Him has felt like a punch in the gut.
After a lot of prayer and intentional time with the Lord in His Word, just like Simon Peter, my eyes went to Jesus, and I fell to His knees. And I’ve worked deeply into my heart and mind the Truth that even something meant for good, that makes me feel complete, can keep me from full surrender. Like I’m trying to follow Jesus while dragging a boat with me.
I had a college pastor that said the Christian life has to be lived “open-handed,” and that’s a concept I think about every single day. On this side of heaven, I want to take the things of this world, of this life, even God-given things, and I want to hold them tightly. I want to carry them with me. I think it is because I allow them so much space in my life it makes me feel complete.
But feeling complete isn’t the same as being complete.
And Jesus said to “Follow Me” and the disciples left everything. They dropped the things in their hands because their Rabbi provided a completeness they had never experienced before. So I have to do the same. I have to keep everything sitting in my open hand of surrender. I have to let the Lord do with my life whatever He wants to, and that means I can’t hold on to anything too tightly.
He has to be it, and I have to be all in.
Amy Bufkin has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember. Even though she basically lived at her local church growing up, her faith and relationship with The Lord was incredibly shallow until her early twenties. It was then Amy learned how to study her Bible, began to truly commune with God, and her shallow faith began to deepen as she got to know her Lord and Savior. Now her passion is to communicate the same truths that changed her life to young women in as many ways as possible. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook