There was an ancient phrase called “following in the dust of the Rabbi.” It meant that disciples, or followers, of a teacher would follow so closely that the dust kicked up from the rabbi’s feet would get on the people following. It was an honor and privilege to follow in the dust of a Rabbi. Usually someone would seek out a teacher they wanted to follow. A teacher could allow or disallow someone to follow them. This practice was usually formal and occurred in Jewish religious centers.
This is where Jesus differed. Here, the Rabbi was walking around the Sea of Galilee, far away from Jerusalem where the religious schools were. And it was not followers seeking Jesus, but was rather Jesus seeking followers. Where he actually called Peter, Andrew, James and John is debatable, but we know they grew up in Bethsaida, a town that means “house of fishing.” Bethsaida was a town of only about 600-800 people. It’s likely, given the narratives in the Bible, that they were fishing in their hometown when they were called.
According to Matthew, Peter and Andrew were casting their nets when Jesus was walking along the lake. He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 ESV). They immediately left everything and followed him. He saw James and John with their father a little while later. They were in their boat mending nets. Jesus called them and they, too, left everything to follow Jesus. The rest is, as they say, history! It took a tremendous level of commitment and courage to follow Jesus. Sometimes we forget that these disciples left everything to follow in the dust of the Rabbi. And he calls us to follow him too!