12 And Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then he said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the Son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Luke mentions Jesus being in temple as a 12 year old boy when he was found by His parents meeting with the religious leaders and teachers. When His parents had finally found Him, they questioned Him, “Son why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”
He answered them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you now know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (See Luke 2:41-50)
Yet it was not until 18 years later that Christ was baptized at the age of 30 and began his ministry. What is the reason for these intervening years between Christ’s understanding God’s plan for him and the start of his ministry?
To answer this, one must understand the Jewish culture and the mission Christ was to perform. In Numbers 4:2-3 it states that a priest should be 30 – 50 years old. Since Christ is considered our High Priest, could this be the reason why? But Christ did not act as a priest while on earth, He is our High Priest in Heaven. According to Jewish custom and law, one could not be considered a teacher or rabbi if he was less than 30 years old. Corresponding evidence of this theory is the ministry of John the Baptist. John was 6 months older then Jesus and began his ministry just a few months before the Baptism of Jesus.
The age of thirty was a cultural norm for those who were leaders within their society in both Roman and Greek culture. Examples of this can be found in the relationship between Plato and Socrates. Plato was Socrates’s teacher and, upon reaching the proper age, Socrates continued to teach Plato’s lessons even after his teacher’s death.
If Christ intended to be a leader, it was important that he fit into the culture of his time in order to be seen as a rabbi or teacher who could lead disciples. It would be considerably more difficult for Christ to be accepted by the people if he ignored these cultural norms by starting to preach and teach at 16 rather than 30. And, similar to the relationship between Plato and Socrates, Christ would be a leader and teacher of disciples who would continue to spread His teachings after his death.
In his account on the life of Christ, Luke- the doctor and historian- gives us a vivid picture of the events about to take place in the passage we have just read. According to Luke, Jesus was walking along the sea shore with a multitude following behind Him. Upon seeing Peter with his boat, Jesus stepped into the boat and asked Peter to shove out a little way in the water so that he might speak to the people from where so they could see and hear Him better.
This might seem a random question to ask those that appears to be total strangers. However, John in his Gospel, informs us that Jesus had first met Andrew, the brother of Peter, around the time of Jesus baptism. See John 1:35-50 for a list of Jesus first disciples and how they came to follow Jesus. Andrew, Peter’s brother had been a disciple of John and upon meeting Jesus had decided to follow Jesus. The same was also true of James and his brother John.
Why were the disciples away from Jesus at this time? It was not unusual for disciples to leave their teacher for a short time periods as they would take up their former profession. This gave them financial support while they followed the teacher. A careful reading of Matthew, Luke and John gives us the impression that this was one of those times in which the disciples of Jesus had temporarily left him to return to their professions.
Matthew is making a point in these five texts that we often fail to see. To each one of us that have accepted the invitation to following Jesus, there comes a point in time where we must fully commit ourselves to following Him. We must be willing to set aside our everyday wants and desires and follow with all our heart. Luke describes these new found Disciples of Christ inviting others to follow Jesus. Isn’t this our mission while here on earth?
As I ended the last part of this series with the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, I will end this part with the same reference. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son of the Holy spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen
It was time for the disciples to put away their earthly careers and start fishing for men instead of fishes. Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (see Matthew 4:19) What is it that each of us is fishing for?