Foolish Or Wise

Complimentary Story
April 2024

   It was a sunny morning on the sea of Galilee. The team of fishermen were about their usual business. Some were throwing their nets out into the water to try to catch a few more fish before the day got too hot. A couple of others were sitting in their boats carrying out the daily chore of painstakingly going over their nets, knot by knot, to check there were no holes, and when they found one, mending it with fresh twine. Most of the night’s catch had already been sent off in baskets to the market, and they were enjoying the quiet of the morning.

   Life was pretty good for these fishermen. They had a sure source of income. They enjoyed their work, and they were good at it. They should have been, because fishing ran in their blood. Their father was a fisherman, as was his father before him. So they knew their trade and were happy doing it.

   But things were about to change. The quiet of their morning was about to be interrupted as a figure appeared in the distance walking along the edge of the lake. He looked somehow familiar, though they couldn’t quite figure out why. But, as He got closer, they realized who He was. He was the preacher who’d recently begun telling people that the kingdom of God was near. He’d caused quite a stir around Galilee. There were plenty of people around there who were sick and tired of the Romans throwing their weight around, so the idea that God might have finally sent the Promised One, the One who’d restore the kingdom to Israel, got people pretty excited. And the way this guy spoke had a certain ring to it. It had an authority about it that they hadn’t heard before in all their experience. Even the Chief Priests and the teachers of the law didn’t speak like that.

   But what was He doing here on His own by the Sea of Galilee? They watched as He drew closer, His feet crunching on the gravel and shell grit at the edge of the lake. First, He came to Peter and Andrew as they were casting their nets into the water. He stopped beside them, and they looked up, wondering what He might want. “Follow Me,” He said to them “and I will make you fish for people.” He went on a bit further to where James and John were mending their nets and said the same thing: “Follow Me and I will make you fish for people.”  “What, us? Why would you want us to come with you? We don’t know anything about PR or human psychology or motivation or whatever it is you need to fish for people. We’re just honest fishermen. Besides, how could we leave our safe secure jobs and go off into the never-never with you? We’d be mad to even think about it.”

   “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” It doesn’t sound like a very wise thing to do, does it? Just give up everything you’ve learned  and go off with Jesus to whatever He has in store for you? It sounds a bit foolish in fact. Or is it?

   Well, what would you have done? Jesus is standing there in front of you saying “Follow Me and I will make you fish for people.” What would you do?

   Do you know what these fishermen did? We’re told immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

   These four men obviously didn’t think it was foolish to follow Jesus. Rather, they thought this was the wisest thing in the world. What better thing could you do, than to follow someone who spoke with the authority that Jesus seemed to have, Someone who was able to perform miracles of healing the way Jesus did, someone who even had authority over evil spirits.

   No, this wasn’t foolishness, it was wisdom. They were the first of many, in fact, who chose to follow Jesus and who later realized just how wise a decision that had been.

   But there were others who thought about following Jesus, but for the wrong reason. They foolishly thought that following Jesus would be fun, would be an easy path to fame perhaps. And some thought of following Jesus for the right reason but in the end weren’t wise enough to go through with it.

   It happened a couple of years later. Jesus was on the road, teaching and healing people, when someone came up to Him and said “I will follow You wherever You go.” He thought Jesus was pretty cool. He thought it’d be fun to be one of Jesus’ followers. But he was actually being foolish, because he hadn’t thought out what following Jesus might mean. So Jesus turned to him and said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man (that’s Jesus) has nowhere to lay His head.” It wasn’t going to be a picnic being one of Jesus’ followers. It’d require courage and commitment. It might mean giving up some of the creature comforts he took for granted.

   A bit later, Jesus spoke to another one of the crowd who were following behind Him and said, “Follow Me.”  But this man said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

   This man wanted to follow Jesus some time later, after his father had died and he didn’t have any other responsibilities. But to be a follower of Jesus requires total commitment right now. You can’t claim to be a follower of Jesus and then go home to your normal life as if nothing had happened. It’s no use putting it off until a better time. That’d be a foolish thing to do when you have the opportunity now to follow God’s only Son. But that man wasn’t the only one who gave that sort of excuse. Another man said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” He saw that following Jesus was the wise thing to do in the long run, but he wasn’t quite ready to commit himself, just yet. So Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” God doesn’t want us to turn from one direction to another like a leaf blown in the wind. He wants us to be single minded in our focus and direction in following Him.

   It isn’t always easy to see which is the wise and which is the foolish way to go. What seems wise may not be so when you look at the results. What seems foolish may, in fact, be the wisest decision in the world in the end. David Frost put out a book some years ago, called David Frost’s Book of the World’s Worst Decisions. I remember being amazed at how stupid some very smart people could be when their decisions were looked at with hindsight. Like the executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler who were offered the design of the Volkswagen after the second world war and all turned it down because, they said, it would never sell! Or the decision in 1938 by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel to sell all rights to the comic-strip character Superman to their publishers for $130, a tidy $65 each. They pale into insignificance next to the executive of a small recording company in Memphis who, in 1955, sold the contract he had with Elvis Presley to RCA records for $35,000. Not very wise!

   It might not seem wise to follow Jesus when He says something like this: “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” It could seem foolish to follow someone who offers you the cross at the end of your journey. But then He adds: “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake will find it.” To follow Jesus might seem dangerous or foolhardy, but at the end, after the suffering is over, He promises we’ll save our lives through His death on the cross. At the end, He promises that we’ll enjoy eternal life just like He does now.

   The message of the cross might seem to be foolish at first sight. To think that Jesus should waste His life by allowing Himself to be crucified! That’s one of the messages of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”  isn’t it? At the end, His life was wasted. But, in fact, it wasn’t wasted. Through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection that we just celebrated, Jesus prepares the way for us to enter into God the Father’s presence, without fear, without guilt, without shame. In the end it’s only through the foolishness of Jesus’ death and resurrection that we can come to know God.

   All the wisdom in the world, you see, has been unable to find out what God is really like, as much as people have tried, as much as people have come up with theories on what God might be like. But Jesus has revealed Him to us. In Jesus we discover the amazing love and mercy of God; His graciousness toward fallen human beings; His eternal plan to bring people back to Himself; His great wisdom, in showing the way back to Him through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

   Right after April Fool’s Day, I want to challenge you to make the wisest decision in the world. You might even have made this decision years ago, but if so, why not make it again today. That is, to be a follower of Jesus Christ for the rest of your life. To depend on His death and resurrection to give you life, when this life is over. To take the risk of trusting Him to look after you even when life is hard, even when life with Jesus involves the suffering of a cross.

   Remember, the message of the cross sounds like foolishness to those who don’t know Jesus Christ, but to those who come to know Him and to trust in Him it’s the power of God for salvation.

   Foolishness or wisdom? Some people choose to ignore God. Others make the wisest decision anyone could make. That is, to follow Jesus Christ to the end of their lives.

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