Although this passage teaches us about the calling of the first disciples, it was not the first or only time Jesus would call these men to follow him. In the gospel of John, chapters one and two, we read about the time when these men first met Jesus. He invited them to follow him, and they did. Then they went with him to a wedding at Cana in Galilee a couple of days later. There Jesus performed his first miracle, ‘‘and his disciples put their faith in him.’’ After this they went down to Capernaum with him and eventually up to Jerusalem for the Passover. While on this trip to Jerusalem they watched Jesus clear the temple. It appears that these were contiguous events and Jesus’ new disciples were with him the whole time. It also appears, though, that after this episode they all went back to their nets. With this understanding of the order of events we can see another powerful leadership quality in Jesus: he had vision for his followers. He believed in them. He continued to give them opportunities even after they had parted company with him. In fact, he had to call them back to following him again and again.
How many second and third chances do we give to people? Do we continue to believe in them even after they make a mistake, even if they are ‘‘clued out’’ about what we are trying to do? Suppose an employee of yours has let you down or disappointed you. Do you continue to have a vision for how he could change and what he could accomplish? Typically I feel somewhat discouraged after I have had to correct someone or call him back to his commitment or responsibilities. I tend to share his doubt that he can and will change. But it’s at these times that he needs to be believed in more than ever. He needs to be shown that I still believe in him and that I will give him another chance. An ineffective leader frequently expresses doubt in his people’s abilities. People will tend to not surpass our expectations or our vision for them. We need to believe in people, like Jesus did, and in so doing, give them hope.
It is mind-boggling to think that Jesus planned to turn the world upside down through twelve plain ordinary men. No one would have believed him if he had announced it in advance. Jesus not only had an unrelenting vision for these men; he also had a radical vision, for them to become men who would change the world. He didn’t limit his vision for these men due to their low ratings on all the conventional measures. They lacked formal education. They didn’t have long resumes stating that they were talented or that they could lead effectively. They may not have had natural speaking ability or people skills. One thing that anyone could see, however, was that they were tough and could work long and hard. They weren’t ‘‘wimps’’—fishing back then wasn’t the cushy hobby that it has become today. But other than this one quality they weren’t all that impressive. Jesus didn’t let their existing qualities or lack thereof affect his dream for what they could become.
Do we dare to dream the incredible? Do we fight for our dreams and refuse to live ordinary lives? If we truly want to be like Jesus and to be men and women of impact, we must dream great dreams. We need to look and see the bigger picture. We must accept that all great projects begin with a humble infancy stage. Greatness does not suddenly appear. It is the end product of a process which begins with a dream. As an example of this, consider the developmental process of a human being. In a purely physical sense a human being starts out as one cell with a spectacular plan. This one cell multiplies itself and copies the same plan into each new cell. Cells with discordant plans (ie. viruses and cancers) are destructive to the whole body and must be eliminated. Eventually these new cells carrying the original plan mature and associate themselves with other cells to do what they are best at doing, and together they successfully achieve their goal. This very familiar process is commonly referred to as the miracle of life. The developmental process reveals a paradigm illustrating what it takes to make an impact in this world. What an amazing concept, that a single cell could develop into a mature, diversified, multifunctional, adaptable and intelligent being! In the same way, each of us is destined for greatness, but we must first dream great dreams. We are, after all, created in the image of the God who envisioned this universe and then said, ‘‘Let there be light….’’