3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Have You Ever Considered Zebedee’s Feelings?

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 4:12-23

Have You Ever Considered Zebedee’s Feelings?

I’ve always felt for the parents of the first disciples. James and John were working in the family fishing business. Then all of a sudden this charismatic man comes along, and Zebedee’s best workers are gone: “He called them and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (v. 22). (Ok, I don’t actually know they were their dad’s best workers, but possibly. On the other hand, Zebedee might have been glad they found something else to do.)

Can you imagine Zebedee’s wife’s face when he came home that evening with not only two-thirds less catch but also the news that their sons had gone off with a stranger? It sounds a little cultish would be my thought while I put my shoes on to go after them. At least Zebedee saw his sons leave. There’s no mention of Peter and Andrew saying goodbye; they just went: “At once they left their nets and followed him” (v.20). Their parents—and Peter’s wife since scripture does later mention his mother-in-law—potentially never knew what happened to them.

Now, at least, there are cell phone— thanks to the miracles of wifi, just this week I talked to my daughter who’s studying in Morocco—so if both parties choose, it’s possible to stay in touch almost anywhere. When Peter and Andrew and James and John left, there was a good chance their families might not see them ever again.

That’s the radical nature of the gospel. To really follow Jesus, we have to take risks, risks that differ for each of us. Peter and Andrew, James and John had to leave their families and become nomads. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus stayed put and welcomed Jesus into their home which probably drew the ire of the religious leaders of their community. But, how do we know which risks are ours to take? And, how do we stand by and let someone we love take their own risks?

With empty-nesting not far in my future, I’m wrestling with both of those questions. What is my next adventure and how do I let my kids do their own thing, even when it’s not what I would choose? In the latter case, we cede control, which is so hard. We trust that God sees further than we do and we let go. And then we pray and pray and pray. I have to remember to let my prayer be Jesus’s, “Not my will but yours” (Matt. 26:39). (I’m a pro at praying, “Let them choose this and this and this…”) And, I have to remember to do the exact same thing for myself.

Peter’s wife let him go. And, Peter does come back. He comes back with Jesus, the guy Peter left to follow, and Jesus heals his wife’s mother. Peter doesn’t stick around; he continues to follow the wandering preacher and eventually dies upside down on his own cross. So the story doesn’t end with a bow, Peter back forever, the whole family gathered around his new fishing boat. The risk of following the gospel is that things can never go back to how they were.

There’s some sadness and uncertainty in the gospel way. We aren’t promised a life free of either. But if we can pray like Jesus, “Not my will but yours,” we are promised peace in our angst, that God will take it all and make it good (Romans 8:28).

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