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Jesus Calls the Disciples (and You)

Bible Background and Lesson Objectives



Passage: Luke 5:1-11

Key/Memory Verse: “Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”  Luke 5:10b-11 (NRSV)

Note: This story is also found in Matthew 5 and Mark 1.  We are going with Luke's version because it adds the memory of Jesus getting into the boat with Simon Peter, James and John, and telling them to let down their nets, before he invites them to follow him. 

Learning Objectives for This Lesson Set 

  • Locate the story in the New Testament.
  • Retell the story in their own words.
  • Know what a "disciple" is and ways Jesus calls us.
  • Feel called to follow Jesus.
  • Consider what in your life or attitude you need to put aside in order to follow.
  • Understand that Sunday School is training camp for disciples.


Bible Background3

The word “disciple” means "follower" or "learner," and there's some great wisdom in just that one word!   It means we are constantly learning, ever the servant. As followers, we are always a step behind, knowing that Jesus not only goes with us, but ahead of us.  

Jesus called the first disciples, but they were certainly not intended to be the last, and thus, these stories become stories about us as well.  We are out doing our thing with perhaps only an inkling of some great purpose to life, and then Jesus finds us.  There's comfort in that too —that Jesus comes looking for us, and that Jesus promises to "make" us into what we need to be.

This was especially shocking in Jesus' day because religious leaders and teachers were expected to gather "students" around them, not fishermen. He was ridiculed by others for the kind of people he surrounded himself with, and the truth is we fit right in. 

The only qualification and cost is being willing to go. That's the disciple's sole qualification: a willingness to leave the past behind and follow Jesus. You don't have to have great faith or be really smart or powerful.  Doesn't matter who you are. You are chosen based on his power, not yours.  

You don't make yourself, Jesus makes you.

All you need to do is follow and be the student.

It's important to note that while some like Peter are called to go to new places, others are called to be a disciple right where they are. There's only one type of disciple, —the forgiven, believing kind. But there are many different ways and places to be that disciple. Each of us has to learn to listen to where Jesus is calling us.

A Disciple is both the fish and fisherman!

  • Peter catches fish.
  • Peter is "caught" by Jesus.
  • Jesus promises to make Peter a fishermen of people.
  • But Peter is still the "fish" —still being caught by Jesus right up to the Resurrection.
  • And as we learn in Acts, Peter continues to learn even as he becomes the teacher.

This is why Peter is such a fascinating disciple to share with our kids. A disciple is someone who is always learning, always seeking to be caught by Christ's call, while at the same time, leading others to him.  Peter is far from perfect and doesn't know everything, and indeed, even after the resurrection, his education continues!

We know from Peter's life that the transformation from fish to fishermen was not easy. Indeed, Peter denied his master three times and hid in fear. This raises the important question for our kids: What turns a fish into a fisherman?  Will coming to Sunday every week do it? Will praying and giving away money do it?   Those are nice things for a servant of Christ to do, but they will not make you a disciple.   The fish doesn't become the fisherman until  they meet the resurrected Jesus. That's where all disciples are eventually led —down the road, through doubt, and eventually towards a personal encounter with the risen Christ.

Everything we do in church and Sunday School is to prepare our students for those many moments when Jesus will make himself known to them in a personal life-changing way. This is one of the reasons we spend four or five weeks in a row in the Rotation Model on a story like Jesus Calls the Disciples.

  • This story will inform their own.
  • This story will prepare them for that moment (and moments) when Jesus says, "put aside ________ and listen/follow/believe."  
  • It is at those moments when the image of Peter, James and John leaving their nets behind become inspirational. 


About the Story's Setting

The Sea of Galilee, also known as Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias, is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. About 30 fishing towns surrounded the Sea of Galilee during Jesus' time, the largest town being Capernaum, visible on the right in the picture below. It is a fresh water lake and it is from this "sea" that Israel's homes have water. 

The Sea of Galilee is the location of the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. It is here Jesus begins the proclamation of the Good News we can share today.  Let us explore what happened near this lake.

Israel Tiberias taken in 2012 by tango7174 shared under a CreativeCommons licence

The calling of Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John

Jesus’ calling of his first disciples is one of the most remembered stories of the Bible.  The event is recorded in all four gospels, although it is described slightly differently in each of them.  The first four disciples called were two pairs of brothers — Simon Peter & Andrew and James & John, the sons of Zebedee. (Luke does not mention Andrew in his version.)

Isn't it interesting that Jesus called brothers!   Since most of our students have siblings, it indicates that there's something powerful about families following Christ together, and helping Jesus "catch" the other fish in your family.

Who are these brothers?  While they may have been simple fishermen, this is not to say they weren't community leaders or unskilled in the Torah. Indeed, Peter's brother Andrew, whom Luke doesn't immediately mention in the story, was a disciple of John the Baptist. 

Andrew seems to have met Jesus before Peter did. When John the Baptist points out Jesus, saying "Behold the Lamb" Andrew begins to follow Jesus. One of the first people Andrew was called to bring to Christ was his brother Peter. Then Andrew was required to take a back seat and allow his older brother to be the lead disciple.  But imagine the conversation between brothers around the family table. How could your students encourage their family members to meet Jesus?

James, son of Zebedee, was the older brother to John. James had a fishing partnership with Peter and Andrew. He and his brother were bold and energetic —which is probably why they are nicknamed "Sons of Thunder."  

Do you have a student in your class that has a little too much "thunder" ?   Perhaps God has a special role for them!

John, also a son of Zebedee, was the younger brother to James. Like Andrew, he had heard John the Baptist say "Behold the Lamb" and became willing to be a disciple.  But Jesus approached Peter first, and who knows why. Look around your own church and you may start to wonder why some were called, and others just don't seem to get it.... yet. Jesus is patient.

One thing we can conclude from these backgrounds is that the first disciples were likely "seekers."  They had taken the time to go hear John the Baptist, perhaps much in the same way that our friends and family "give church a try."   They were receptive though not yet believers. As a teacher, you undoubtedly have kids who are ready to hear, and these stories tell us that we might be surprised who responds!

"Big D" Disciples?

Sometimes teachers get caught up in the "Disciples vs disciples" dichotomy. The scripture says that Jesus calls everyone. "Every knee...." so to speak. We are all "Big D" disciples. Capitalizing the "D" is merely a way to let folks know you are referring to the original disciples. There is no pecking order among disciples. Jesus tells us that the mark of true discipleship is self-less-ness.  Jesus continues to be our leader. He pushes the fish towards our net.  He is The Great Fisherman. Our job is to help him with the haul.


Carol Hulbert, Jaymie Derden, Neil MacQueen, and Wendy Sempf

Photograph of Lake Tiberias, Israel; panoramic view near Capernaum, 2012, is offered by Tango7174 under a Creative Commons 3.0 License via Wikimedia Commons.  Photos from "Son of God" copyright 20th Century Fox, used under the educational-reference exception clause of US Copyright Law.

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Last edited by Luanne Payne
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