Bible Text: Mark 1:14–20; Luke 5:1–11
Lesson Focus: With the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus called ordinary people, just like us, to be disciples.
Big Question: I’m just a kid—what can I do that’s important enough to be a disciple?
Key Words: MIRACLE, DISCIPLE, ORDINARY, FAITH
• Shortly after beginning his public ministry of teaching and healing, Jesus called his first disciples, the fishermen Simon, James, and John.
• From the start, Jesus called ordinary people to follow him. It is a clear sign that Jesus will use people from many folds for the good of his kingdom.
• The miracles of Jesus were signs that God is powerful and loving. They got people’s attention and opened their hearts to receive the good news of God’s kingdom.
• The call of Jesus is absolute, disrupting the lives of potential recruits. It is a call to make changes in our lives, to think differently, and, most of all, to live differently.
• Jesus calls us out of our old lives and into the new.
Shortly after beginning his public ministry of teaching and healing, Jesus called his first disciples to follow him. Luke records the three—Simon, James, and John—as fisherman, a laboring-class role in society.
The miracles that Jesus performs impress and even astound, but seldom are they the focus of the story. What goes on around the marvels Jesus carries out tells more about who Jesus is and what his life and ministry are about than do the miracles themselves.
This miracle story is no different. The abundance of fish in Simon’s nets illustrates that Jesus is no ordinary man, and those who follow are not called because Jesus is able to perform miracles. The miraculous catch of fish is a precursor of what is to come. Jesus will call his disciples away from the seas and to him.
The good news of this Gospel story shines through vividly: Christ does not come to earth seeking out the powerful or the wealthy. For the first disciples, Jesus selects common laboring folk whose clothes probably smell at the end of a long day’s work. They are ordinary people, yet they are the ones Jesus chooses as his own. It is a sign that the kingdom will be different: it is for all people, not just for the elite. The values of the world are not shared by Jesus; he will bring something new.
The first disciples who were called to follow Jesus certainly knew toil, but now they would work even harder. For these first disciples, as well as for us, following Christ would not be easy. The enormous catch of fish was a reward, but it also meant more work. Responding to Jesus’ call has never been about a promise of an easy life. The first disciples chosen were blessed to follow and yet they were in a complicated position. They left behind the only life they have known. To serve God often means turning life on its ear.
The everyday tasks of living were difficult enough for those members of fishing families in New Testament times. Fishers were low-income laborers. They were forced to lease fishing rights from toll collectors for a percentage of the catch ranging as high as 40 percent (Malina, Bruce J., and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, 1992: Augsburg Fortress. page 314). The family unit was the primary economic source, so when Jesus calls Simon and the sons of Zebedee, the impact of their leaving to follow Jesus goes beyond their three lives. Where is the story of Mrs. Zebedee? What will her sons’ new vocation mean for the family business and for her life?
These first disciples come from a low social ranking. Yet it is among such vulnerable, ordinary people that God’s empire is first manifested. It is a clear sign that Jesus will use people from many folds for the good of his kingdom.
Have you ever overheard kids wishing they were older? Many of us, when we are older, wish we were younger again. What young people don’t always understand is that being a grown-up means you have to do grown-up stuff—get a job, plunge the toilet, pay bills, deal with sick kids, and so forth. Being a grown-up has its advantages, but it is certainly not without its challenges.
There’s a line from an old hymn: “I have decided to follow Jesus . . . no turning back, no turning back.” Maybe following Jesus is a bit like being a grown-up: there are perks, but it’s a lot of hard work for the cause! Ordinary people are called to do great things: to live differently, to follow Jesus in his struggle to overturn the existing orders of power and privilege, and to live with the love of God as our center. Despite Christ’s example, we often naturally lift up the same folks that society does. Our challenge, and Jesus’ way, is to reach out to people no matter their social or economic standing.
The call of Jesus is absolute, disrupting the lives of potential recruits. It is a call to make changes in our lives, to think differently, and, most of all, to live differently. These marginal fishermen show us the way. Peter, James, John—and each of us—are disciples of Jesus Christ because of the power of the Word to call us out of our old lives and into the new, a call we need to hear daily.
I’m just a kid—what can I do that’s important enough to be a disciple?
Jesus called ordinary fishermen to be his disciples. A great learning from this scripture is that youth get the call to follow Jesus just as they are. They do not have to become something, or someone, else. For some youth, this is a revelation. What they do once they have made the choice to follow Jesus is another matter. Knowing that Jesus called ordinary people who were sinners to be his followers may help youth to realize that Jesus calls them as well. Jesus can change their lives as he changed Peter’s life. Knowing that they do not have to be perfect to follow Jesus is a great help to them in accepting Jesus’ call to lead them to a new way of living. As youth are forming a faithful response to Jesus’ call, it can be very encouraging to them to know that they do not have to start out perfect.
Welcome and Review
Help kids dive into the Key Words by asking for definitions and/or providing these definitions:
MIRACLE: an extraordinary occurrence ascribed to God that surpasses all known human powers or natural forces.
DISCIPLE: a professed follower of Jesus Christ.
ORDINARY: something of no special quality or interest; a commonplace, unexceptional event.
FAITH: the act of placing one’s total confidence or trust in God. Faith means believing in God and God’s teachings.
Choose an option to introduce the lesson. Then lead students in the Opening Prayer.
Option 3: Guest Speaker Option: Everyday Disciple
Invite the church custodian to talk to the students about his or her faith in Christ. Emphasize how God has called him or her to serve in a simple, ordinary way. Many churchgoers probably take this job for granted every Sunday, as well as other times, when they walk through the doors. This would be a nice opportunity for students to recognize the importance of those things we take for granted, and it would be an opportunity for the entire group to show gratitude to the custodian for what is often a thankless job.
If your custodian isn’t able to attend, talk with your youth about jobs that disciples do. Encourage your students to thank everyday disciples they know who are working hard to follow Jesus’ call to serve.
Debrief what the speaker shared with these questions.
• What makes a good disciple?
• Why did Jesus call ordinary people?
• What kinds of great things do you see ordinary people doing every day?
Turn the lights down and play soft music in the background, such as “All I Want” by Michael W. Smith (from the CD Healing Rain). Pray this prayer:
God of life, your Son performed numerous miracles while he walked on this earth, and he did them not for his glory but for yours. Help us to see that Jesus’ miracles point us to you. As you call us to live for you, may we be like those first fishers and obediently follow you. Thank you for sending Jesus not just for those who are rich and powerful, but for everyone—those who are rich and those who are poor, those who are extraordinary and those who are ordinary, those who are saints and those who are sinners. Amen
My Faith Story
Ask kids to respond to the Big Question: I’m just a kid—what can I do that’s important enough to be a disciple?
Then share a part of your own faith story using the suggestion below or another way to share about a time when you realized you were a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Open the teaching time by relating a personal faith story about a time God called you to serve. Although everyone likes to have heroes to look up to, it’s just as important for young people to hear that God uses ordinary people to do God’s work. Share with the group ways that your personal call to serve God is similar to that of the first disciples. Were you afraid or skeptical? Did you come up with excuses as to why you should say “no,” or did you immediately say “yes” to God? How is your story different from the disciples’? Keep in mind that although call stories vary, each is significant and important to God.
Open the Bible
Invite all to open their Bibles to Luke 5. Ask for a volunteer to read verses 1–11, the story of Jesus’ calling of the first disciples. Ask students what they thought Simon Peter’s first reaction was to Jesus’ command to go into deep water and put down his net? Ask if they have ever felt as though God has asked them to do something out of the ordinary. If so, what was their response? Ask for a volunteer to briefly share his or her story.
Invite all to open their Bibles to Mark 1:14–20. Read the verses together and talk about the kingdom of God.
Share with the students that Jesus’ call to be kingdom workers resulted in an immediate response and a total commitment from the newly chosen disciples. How does Mark 1:14–20 help students understand the role of Christ’s disciples? Ask if they think it is fair for Jesus to ask that type of response from us today. Why or why not? Since Jesus is not physically walking around with us, ask students how we can follow him today. Discuss their responses and look for concrete examples in the students’ lives.
Open the Catechism
When Jesus and his disciples went out into their world to share the good news, they would often say things like: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” People saw in the way Jesus and his disciples loved and served others that this kingdom of God was something different than they were used to.
Student Book page 301: Invite a student to read the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer aloud. How does Luther say the kingdom of God comes to us today?
Student Book page 302: Read the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Brainstorm ways that God’s will for the world is coming about through you.
• When can you “break and hinder” evil?
• How do you “hallow” God’s name?
• In what ways does God’s kingdom come through you?
• How does God strengthen us for all of this?
Multiple Choice Quiz
1. Jesus came to earth to . . .
a. help the rich get richer.
b. help the poor get poorer.
c. help everyone. (Correct)
d. none of the above.
2. Jesus calls us to . . .
a. change our lives for him.
b. think differently than the world.
c. live different lives than the world.
d. all of the above. (Correct)
3. Whom did Jesus call to be his followers?
a. Rich people.
b. Powerful people.
c. Perfect people.
d. Sinful, ordinary people. (Correct)
4. When Jesus called his first disciples . . .
a. they thought he was crazy.
b. they left everything and followed him. (Correct)
c. they laughed at him.
d. they ran the opposite direction.
5. It was sometimes hard for this disciple to be a disciple because he kept saying the wrong thing.
a. Peter (Correct)
d. both b and c
6. Until they met Jesus, John and this brother were fishermen with their father.
b. James (Correct)
d. both a and b
7. The name of this disciple’s dad was Zebedee.
d. both b and c (Correct)
8. To be a follower of Jesus, you must . . .
a. memorize all 66 books of the Bible.
b. go to church every Sunday.
c. never sin.
d. be willing to follow Christ’s call for you to be a disciple. (Correct)
Take a Break
Disciples serve. Take a break and break bread (with butter and honey or jelly!) together. Practice serving one another as you share some community time together.
Select one of the options below to explore in your small group. Then finish with the Best/Worst activity and prayer.
Option 1: Game Option: Listen Up!
Play a Telephone-style game to practice listening. Turn on some quiet music and have your students sit in a circle. Whisper a chosen verse from today’s texts to one person in the circle. That person passes it to the person on his or her right, and so on. The last person to hear the verse repeats it out loud. Turn up the music some and repeat this process again. Do the activity a third time with the music really loud. Talk about the difficulty of listening AND sharing the message when we’re distracted. It’s not easy being a disciple, and to be great ones, we need to overcome lots of distractions everyday.
Review the activity with these questions:
• What was hard about this activity? What was easy?
• How can we use this activity to teach us about being disciples?
• How did this activity show us that every person can be a disciple?
Option 2: Object Lesson Option: Hear the Call
Invite students to bring a cell phone for this object lesson. You could also do this activity with two cell phones, taking turns selecting and calling the chosen ringtone. (Another option is that a student could simply sing the tone that he or she would choose.)
God calls us with a common baptismal commission to show mercy and to serve others. God also calls each of us as individuals to use our unique God-given gifts in particular ways. Each of us will hear God’s call and live it out in a unique fashion. Each class member gets to demonstrate the particular way he or she is called by someone by responding to a chosen ringtone. (Someone else calls his or her phone so everyone can hear the ring. Then everyone tries to “sing the ring.”) Class members take turns telling the class why they chose a particular ringtone. Kids also get to tell one way that God has called them and a name a career they could choose that would fulfill that call.
Review the activity with these questions:
• How does God call other people through our needs or our strengths?
• How does this activity show us that we are all unique disciples?
• How can we live out God’s call to be disciples using our gifts?
Option 3: Game Option: Speed Disciples
Ask everyone to quickly find a partner. Then give them ten seconds to come up with an example of one way God used an ordinary person in Bible times and one way God uses ordinary people today. Ask volunteers to act out their ideas while other pairs guess whether their idea is from modern times or Bible times.
Review the activity with these questions:
• How is being a disciple today different from being a disciple in Jesus’ time? How is it the same?
• How does God use you?
• What would be the best part about being a disciple in Jesus’ time? The worst part?
Best/Worst and Prayer
Go around the group and have each student share the best and worst thing from his or her week. Remind them to pay special attention to (for example) the person on their right, as they will be praying for that person in a moment. Alternate prayer partners from week to week.
Have each person touch a hand to his or her face, heart, foot, or other hand. Point out that we can follow Jesus with our smiles, hearts, feet, and hands. Pray this prayer, allowing time for the prayer partners to offer prayers for each other.
God of Life, thank you for sending Jesus for us to follow. Help us be strong enough to use our lives and gifts to follow you. We can be disciples by praying for each other, as we do now . . . (Allow time for partners to pray.) Be with us as we spread your good news. Amen.
Pass out pencils and Student Sheets. Look at the front of the Student Sheet together. Pick a volunteer to read each bullet point aloud for the group. Talk about the points with students.
• Why do you think Jesus called ordinary people?
• Who have you met who has transformed your life?
• Do you think of yourself as a follower of Jesus? Why or why not?
Turn to this week’s activity called “Jesus Calls the First Disciples Word Search.” Let your kids pair up to work through the activity page together. After a few minutes, discuss the answers as a group.
Use the cartoon and questions on the Student Sheet to kick off a conversation.
• What do you want to do when you grow up? How can your career be a way to serve God? Are any careers too unholy to be a ministry?
When confirmation-age kids think about their futures, they may have really concrete plans or they may be wary of planning much of anything. Either way, they can start thinking about what gifts God has given them and how they can use those to serve God. Your students may think it’s unusual to think about a career that serves God, but there are lots of ways to do this! Help them by sharing your own story as you discuss these questions.
• What does it mean to you that Jesus called ordinary people to help do his work? If Jesus showed up today for the first time, where might he go to look for help?
Your students see ordinary-versus-extraordinary very clearly. It’s often, “I’m so ordinary and everyone else has something special.” Help them see that ordinary is special because Jesus is calling ordinary people to be his disciples. Take a bigger look at the world, too. Help the students talk about all the people in today’s world that Jesus would use if he were here—and all the people he is using even though he’s not here on earth!
• If Jesus hadn’t performed miracles like the large catch of fish, would as many people have followed him? Why or why not? What would it take for you to give up everything and follow a leader like Jesus?
Skepticism is a big part of being a teenager – and of being human! Jesus knew this. Talk with your kids about what gets their attention. They see leaders every day in class, on the news, and on the street. What catches their attention? Jesus’ first disciples trusted him after that first catch of fish. What does it take to gain your students’ attention? Their trust?
Student Book Connection
Student Book page 51: Read together about the lives of “Jesus’ Twelve Apostles (Plus Judas and Paul).” In what ways did they respond to Jesus’ call? Was it always an easy thing to do? Ask your group what other characters from the Bible followed God’s call. Remind them that women followed God’s call, too. Talk about the story of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Have your students trace a hand on a blank sheet of paper. In each finger, tell them to write one thing that makes it hard to follow God’s call. On the palm, tell them to write one way they’re going to overcome these challenges and follow God’s call this week.
Talk about last week’s Life Connection. Ask your group what they did this week to live out last week’s lesson. What did they learn? What might they do in the future to keep living out that Life Connection?
Look at the Life Connection for this week together. Work together to come up with a to-do list that includes lots of possible actions your class can take this week. Ideas include helping an older person, saying something nice to another classmate at school, and picking up trash outside. Then have everyone choose seven acts to put on their lists. We can all follow Christ every day.
Kids this age have lots of questions about right and wrong, stories in the Bible, and faith and life. Provide time for them to ask questions. Remember, there isn’t always a right answer, but encouraging discussion is great! Questions help kids explore their faith. Help them explore on their path to confirmation.
After their questions, ask one or more of the following questions to connect your conversations with the Lesson Focus:
• Why do you think God uses ordinary people to do God’s work?
• In what way can an ordinary person become a hero for Christ?
• How can you follow Christ’s lead?
Say a processional prayer together. Form a single file line, and give the processional cross to the person in the front. If you don’t have a processional cross, provide a cross that can be carried throughout your meeting space. As a group, sing or say a song about following Jesus while you walk around following the leader who is holding the cross.
Have your students sit on the floor in a circle, leaving room for you as a leader to walk behind each of them. As you place your hand on each student’s head, pray for the person, asking God to give her or him the strength to follow Jesus.