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The First Disciples

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

The SimplyRevised Podcast

Rejected at Nazareth, Jesus left his hometown and traveled to Galilee. A man with an impure spirit cries out, Jesus tells the demon to "be quiet!" and to "come out of him!" (Lk. 4:31-36). All the people were amazed by the power and authority of Jesus as news of him spread throughout the surrounding area.

We are following Jesus through interactions and conversations. As we do so, we want to discover more about Jesus and his purposes. In discovering more about Jesus, we desire to follow and draw closer to him. The first disciples Jesus calls are some fishermen. What do we learn from their call to follow Jesus?

The Kingdom of God Proclaimed

As crowds pressed Jesus to hear the word of God proclaimed, he stood by the Lake of Gennesaret (or the Sea of Galilee). Then, seeing two fishing boats, Jesus steps into a boat belonging to Simon (Peter). Asking to be pushed out from the shore, Jesus sits in the boat to teach. This area was near Capernaum, and Jesus is likely in the vicinity. Scholars have noted how the shore in this area would "function acoustically like an amphitheater..." 1 Drawing back from the crowd a little way would have made it much easier to hear Jesus.

Let Down Your Nets

When Jesus concluded his teaching, he said to Peter, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." (Lk. 5:4). Have you ever been out fishing all night and caught nothing? Unfortunately, I must admit that I have on more than one occasion. You are exhausted. All you want to do is clean the boat, put it up, shower, and sleep. This is what Peter, James, and John were doing. They were washing their nets and getting things ready for the next trip. I can imagine they are exhausted, and all they want to do is head home for a bite to eat and rest. Professional fishermen who have made their living and supported their families from the water know today is not the day. Just "one more cast" is not going to make a difference.

Nevertheless, at the word of Jesus, the nets are again thrown over the side as they sink into waters that have not produced a catch all night. One more cast made a difference! The nets fill, so much so that they begin to break. Peter calls for his partners for help. Boats are filled with so many fish that they start to sink. A catch like this can only mean one thing.


Given the relativity small region around the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Peter would have been aware of Jesus' ministry. He would have been aware of the miracles and perhaps witnessed one of Jesus' miracles before this day. What may have been running through the mind and stirring in Peter's heart before one more cast, we don't know. However, what Peter did know was for sure. This catch could only mean one thing. Lord!

For Peter, the Messianic claims were confirmed. Jesus is God's Anointed. And what was also clear to Peter was his failures, his sin. He considered himself unworthy to be in the presence of God's Anointed. Fear grips Peter as he falls to his knees. Peter gets it! We cannot pretend to be something we are not when we stand before Jesus. Like Ezekiel, who fell facedown when hearing the voice of the Lord (ref. Ezekiel 1:28), or Moses and Aaron, who fell on their faces as the glory of the Lord appeared to them (ref. Numbers 20:6), Peter understands there is no pretending before the Lord.

Fishers of People

Jesus calms their fears. Looking at Peter, James, and John, he says: "... "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men." (Lk. 5:10b). Bringing their boats onto the shore, the fishermen follow Jesus.

Jesus does not condemn them. He does not tell them they are unworthy to follow. He does not point out past doubts, failures, and unfaithfulness. Instead, Jesus gives them a new vocation. With little idea about where this new vocation will take them, the fishermen lay down their nets and follow Jesus.

Bridging The Context

Following Jesus today, there is no pretending. We can't pretend to be someone we are not before the Lord. Jesus knows our hearts (ref. Rom. 8:27). However, in knowing us, Jesus does not want us to run and hide. Instead, he desires to heal and restore (see 1 Jn. 1:9).

Following Jesus means we will need to step outside of the boat. Peter, James, and John knew a life of fishing. Fishing supported their families. It was a lifestyle that built their community. However, following Jesus will move us outside our comfort zones. Following Jesus means we may not always know the path forward. It means we may not always trust our nets, but we must trust him. For me, this has been one of the most challenging things about following Jesus. I want a plan, I want to know the next step, and I want a backup plan. We may not always know this. Following Jesus is trusting his wisdom and direction.

Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Following Jesus means we will have a renewed vocation. It's not that we all need to quit our jobs and become missionaries or Bible teachers, but that we understand who we are called to be. We may be carpenters, accountants, project managers, or homemakers, but this is not who we are. In the west, we tend to define ourselves by what we do. What we do is not who we are. As those who are Christ followers, we are Christians. As Christians, we have a renewed vocation. This vocation is to proclaim the good news of God's kingdom just as Jesus and these first fishermen did.

The apostle Paul saw his purpose as Christ's ambassador. His ministry was reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17–19 (NIV)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."

Are we pretending, or are we following?

Downloads & Resources

study guide: The First Disciples

slides (PDF): The First Disciples



Scripture quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

1 Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. 2nd ed., IVP Academic, 2014. p. 192.



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