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Encountering Christ

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Encountering Christ

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’.  And they left their nets at once and followed him.   Mt 4:18-20

How deep Peter and Andrew’s love of God must have been to enable them to leave their nets immediately and follow Jesus.   They already knew and loved God, so they weren’t really following a ‘stranger’ but one with whom they already had an intimate relationship, now walking incarnate before them.  How close to each other these brothers must have been that, when called, they did not need to discuss their response with each other, nor did one need to inform the other of his intention to follow!    Their response was immediate and their knowledge and love of God and of each other was such that no communication was necessary.

Contrast Peter and Andrew’s first encounter with Christ with that of the Rich Young Man.  He had asked Jesus what he must do to possess eternal life.  Jesus had told him to keep the commandments.  Then…

The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these.  What more do I need to do?  Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’.  But when the young man heard these words, he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.   Mt 19: 20-22

One cannot meet Jesus and remain unchanged. The Rich Young Man failed to respond positively to Jesus’ challenge and – where so many others we hear of in the Gospels leave Jesus’ presence happy – he went away sad.

Sometimes, through the grace of God, we are able to respond like Peter  and Andrew.  Sometimes, though, we fail to meet the challenge… but let that never be the end of the story.  I like to think that the Rich Young Man did not then give up his quest for eternal life.  He had lived diligently according to the Law; he sought Jesus out to ask that question of him – he was serious about living a good life.  Even though he failed there and then to ‘rise up and follow Thee’, that response of Jesus’ would have stayed with him; it would have bothered his conscience and hopefully would have informed his subsequent life-choices.  Perhaps, little by little, he began to let go of his attachment to his material goods and eventually gained his soul’s desire.

God knows we don’t always get it right and just a couple of chapters later in Matthew, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons  (‘My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.’  ‘I will not go’ he answered, but afterwards though better of it and went’. Mt 21:28-32), which – if he came to hear of it – would have been a great comfort to the Rich Young Man and was perhaps the very thing he needed to spur him further along his way to eternal life.

When we fail, let it not be the end of the story, for God is infinitely patient and will help us again and again to rise up and follow him.

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