Don’t Worry, Immediately, In Scripture, Is Not As Fast As You May Think…
Undoubtably, if you have been a church goer for any length of time, you have heard a sermon referencing Matthew 4 telling you that James and John “immediately left the ship and their father” to follow Jesus. And then you would have heard the pastor go on about what that means for our walk with Christ. The problem with this line of thinking is that the Biblical writers’ sense of ‘immediately’ and our modern sense does not quite line up. And this is good news for those of us who feel guilty for our lack of an ‘immediate’ response to some matters of faith. For when you reconcile Matthew 4 with Luke chapter 5 you see a much different picture.
As you probably already know, Jesus came upon the group after a night when no fish, or at least very few fish, were caught. The lack of fish means the nets received very little wear. There were two ships present: Simon and Andrew’s and James, John and their father’s. And these men were partners in a fishing company of sorts. Jesus approaches and asks to borrow Simon and Andrew’s boat so He may preach from it. They put the boat out a little ways so everyone in the crowd can see Jesus, and He preaches. Andrew, Simon, James and John have thus just heard Jesus preach, and Jesus is not known for short sermons… (This is why feeding the crowd becomes important later on.)
Jesus then asks Simon to take the boat out and to let down the nets. Simon protests, but does it anyways. When the boat’s nets break, they call to James and John to join them, which they do, and both ships are filled with fish. They return to shore and begin to mend nets. It seems Jesus spoke to Simon and Andrew first at their boat, which would make sense as that was the boat he was in, and then moved on to speak to James and John. It was then, after hearing the preaching and after seeing the miracle, that James and John ‘immediately’ left their ship to follow Jesus. Additionally, scripture tells us in John 1 that Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist and when he saw Jesus approaching went to Him, bringing Him to Simon and telling Simon that he believed Jesus to be the Messiah. This group of men already knew about Jesus prior to this meeting, and were already aware of the teachings of John the Baptist.
In many areas of scripture we are advised to consider our actions, to do our research and look into the scriptures and to seek wise counsel before making a decision. These men did just that. But when the evidence was there, they did not hesitate to do what is right. That is the Bible’s definition of ‘immediately.’