Matthew 4: 18-22

Another short section, but a really disturbing one. I’ll reprint the whole thing so you can see it’s creepiness:

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Once again this has to be a paraphrased version of the conversation that took place, because if it isn’t then Jesus comes across as a really spooky kidnapper. Like Mary in Matthew 1, the four men who just walk away from their lives are voiceless. If they had any doubts or wanted more information from Jesus about what his message was, how they were going to support themselves with no job, or even how their families were going to support themselves with the sudden loss of the brothers, then these are never expressed. We are told nothing about them but their names and profession, apart from James and John having a father called Zebedee. What Zebedee thinks of his sons leaving to follow a stranger who “called them”, we do not know. But imagine yourself in the same situation and you’ll see that if this were real, it would appear like they were brainwashed by a cult personality.

The lack of background to the situation also adds to the darkness of it. There is no explanation for why Jesus chose these four men. There is no explanation why Zebedee doesn’t join them too.  And the power of Jesus to convert people reminds one of the power of the angels to convince Mary and Joseph. If people really are convinced to accept such life-altering changes by such meaningless words then there has to be a supernatural power at work, for there’s is no other explanation why these words would convince these men to leave. You got to admit that in reading them on the page they don’t come across as words to abandon one’s life for. And if a supernatural power is at use, and I can’t see how there isn’t, then the freewill of the men to make the choice must be called into question.

I’m reminded of the Sunday school song from my youth, “I will make you fishers of men”, but until now I didn’t realize that that jaunty song had such a dark message. I’m sure Christians see these verses as something positive, like the power of Jesus’s message to transform lives, but there’s none of that positiveness displayed in the text. I really hope that this slender invitation, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people,” was not the sum of Jesus’s discussion with these men. And I really hope this never happens to your family.

4 thoughts on “Matthew 4: 18-22

    1. winstoninabox Post author

      People who view these verses in a positive way must be filling in the goodness by themselves. Based on what’s presented in Matthew this is a surreal scene. Imagine it in your head. A stranger comes walking along the shore and talks to a father and two sons who are at work. He utters one sentence and the sons leave their father, their friends and family, and go with the stranger to ‘fish for men’. It’s something from the mind of Guillermo del Toro.

      Now defenders could argue that more was said and done, but that’s my point. It’s impossible to take the words spoken in this scene at face value and say, “This is what Jesus said.” These verses are at best a paraphrase of what happened. But this scene needs an awful lot of fleshing out to make it less something from a horror. Even if the brothers left after a few hours of conversation Jesus would still come across as a kidnapper. Imagine if a family member returned from work today and said they were leaving home because they met a man at the station who convinced them to go and travel with him for the purpose of attracting more followers. You’d fear that they’d been brainwashed by a cult. This scene is all kinds of creepy.

  1. vonleonhardt2

    You bring up good points on the not having a job etc. I think it’s part of the whole faith dynamic.

    Aquinas made a funny point about it:
    A pope walked him through the treasury of Rome and said “Nowadays we can’t say silver and gold have I none…” but Thomas just looked at him and said “We also can’t say get up and walk.”

    I think Matthew is really just showing how crazy they all probably really looked.


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