Dear Friends,

What does Luke mean in Luke 5:1-11, when he says that after the miraculous catch of fish the men left everything and followed Jesus? It is a very graphic picture. The stunned crowd watching, as fish surge into the nets, so many fish that the boats start to sink; Peter kneeling at Jesus’ feet as the fish flop around him; the boat finally coming to shore, heavy-laden with fish; then Peter, John and James (and unnamed others) leaving the boats and nets and fish on the shore to follow Jesus. As Luke summarizes it, “They left everything and followed Him.” Luke 5:11b ESV.

It seems obvious that this says something about the Christian life and following Jesus. Am I a second or third class Christian because I have a home and a car? Do real Christians leave literally everything? Are my non-Christian friends’ right in saying we Christians don’t really believe and follow the Bible because we pick and choose when to be literal and what we want to obey? What should we do?

Believe it or not there is a piece of ancient wisdom which helps us. This “wisdom” is not novel or unique. It merely encapsulates what the Bible itself teaches and what wise Christians have always understood about reading, understanding, and applying the Bible. It is Article 20 from the Anglican 39 Articles written in the mid-1500s. By the way, the 39 Articles are a foundational part of the historic, biblical orthodox Anglican way. Here it is in modern English curtesy of “The Church Society”.

“20. The Authority of the Church. The Church has authority to decree forms of worship and ceremonies and to decide in controversies concerning the faith. However, it is not lawful for the church to order anything contrary to God’s written word. Nor may it expound one passage of scripture so that it contradicts another passage. So, although the church is a witness and guardian to Holy Scripture, it must not decree anything contrary to Scripture, nor is it to enforce belief in anything additional to Scripture as essential to salvation.”

The whole article is very wise, but note the bit about “not interpreting one part of Scripture so that it contradicts another passage”. So to Luke and “leaving everything” to follow Jesus. If this was the only text in the Bible about the Christian life and following Jesus, then we should take it in its full literal sense. However, there are many passages in the Bible which touch on following Jesus and the Christian life, so we take each text literally, but look at all the text together to understand what it means to follow Jesus. When we look at all the texts, a fuller picture emerges. First, we must be prepared to lose everything. In some parts of the world, that is the cost of following Jesus. Second, we learn that the Acts and the Epistles that people owned property; continued to have jobs; had wives and families. This is recorded in a matter-of-fact-way, not as an example of sin. It is by reading all of the Bible that we understand the parts, and it is by reading each part of the Bible that we come to understand the whole. Quick answer as to what it means to everyone to follow Jesus and leave everything behind. We find our identity, our confidence, our purpose, and our hope in many things – we are to leave all these behind and get our identity, confidence, purpose and hope in following Jesus.