Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 1:26-31
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.Matthew 4:18-22
Jesus traveled from the wilderness to Capernaum in the region called Galilee.
It was a Jewish neighborhood where boys and girls began learning to love Torah at the age of three. Teachers dripped honey on the tongues of little ones or let them lick honey from the edges of a scroll and told them the Torah was just as sweet.
The aspiration to learn and practice Torah well – or even become a rabbi! – was planted in their little hearts. It would carry them through many years of diligent study.
At five, children began studying Torah and by 6 they’d memorized all of Leviticus. At ten they began learning the Mishnah (a commentary on Torah) and by twelve they had memorized the first five books of Torah.
After passing their final exams at around age thirteen, the paths of men and women diverged: women usually married and men usually entered the family trade. But about one out of 1,000 men went on to join a bet Midrash (House of Learning) in which they continued studying the scriptures until the age of thirty.
A House of Learning was a group of students learning together under a rabbi. Disciples didn’t sit in a classroom but followed the rabbi everywhere he went like his shadow – so closely, it was said, that the best disciples were covered in the dust kicked up by their rabbi’s feet.
Men (and one woman that we know of) entered a House of Learning around age thirteen by asking a rabbi to teach them. Rabbis might turn down a student’s request to enter his House, but rabbis didn’t invite students to join his House.
Men who couldn’t find a rabbi willing to teach them – those rejected because they weren’t the brightest or most well-connected – resigned themselves to working in their family’s business.
At the age of thirty, disciples who passed their rabbi’s examination were commissioned as rabbis (masters). From then on a rabbi’s primary duty in life was to make disciples by passing on to his students what had been passed to him since the age of three – the way.
Now, picture the brothers in our passage fishing the Sea of Galilee – Peter and Andrew, James and John. They’re young men still; the oldest, Peter, is only about twenty.
They’re mending nets, casting nets, hauling in fish, counting fish – like they had every day since the rabbis turned them away and sent them home to work for their fathers.
Then Jesus, the newly commissioned rabbi, comes strolling down the beach alone, no students trailing behind him – his House is empty. “Come follow me!” he shouts.
Immediately, they leave their nets.
The hopes of the rejected are resurrected! The unimpressive are invited! The “unschooled” will sit at the feet of Rabbi Jesus (Acts 4:13)! The foolish have been chosen!
• How have you been underestimated or passed over?
• What dream or hope has died?
Wise King of Heaven, you choose the foolish, weak, and lowly. We are loved and grateful, but not proud. We boast in You alone.
Choose us today to be fishers of men and women. Cast our lives out today like nets on the water. Bring the nations to You through us.