Christ’s personal invitation to four fishermen to become his disciples started a new chapter in all of their lives. As Pope Benedict XVI explained: “The Gospels agree in mentioning that the call of the Apostles marked the first steps of Jesus’ ministry, after the baptism he received from John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan.”
He went on: “According to the accounts of Mark (1:16-20) and of Matthew (4:18-22), the scene of the call of the first Apostles is the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just begun to preach about the Kingdom of God when his gaze came to rest upon two sets of brothers: Simon and Andrew, and James and John. They were fishermen busy with their daily work, casting their nets and mending them.”
The pope then observed: “But it was another sort of fishing that awaited them. Jesus purposefully called them and they promptly followed him: subsequently, they were to become “fishers of men” (cf. Mark 1:17; Matthew 4:19). Luke, while following the same tradition, gave a more elaborate account (5:1-11).”
It’s significant that these first four disciples were all fishermen. This is because Christ spent much of his public life among the fishing villages of Galilee. Their life was his life. He ate fish, told stories about fish, performed miracles with fish and even preached from a fishing boat (Matthew 13:1-3, 47-50; 14:13-21; 17:24-27; Mark 4:1; Luke 24:42-43; John 21:1-14).
This stained glass scene of the call of the fishermen is found within the church of St John the Evangelist in Gravesend. It’s part of a series of windows around the church that feature episodes from St John’s life. Completed by the Lavers & Westlake firm in the 1890s, its colourful Gothic Revival style is reflected in the richness of the cloaks and the striped columns.
This window pictures the moment Christ spoke to St John and his brother St James, who were working in their fishing boat. St John is the beardless man with his hands raised in prayer. St James is the one with the red halo, holding one of the nets he was in the middle of fixing. Their father Zebedee and one of his employees are stood behind.
St Peter and St Andrew are seen onshore, after having just agreed to become disciples. Christ is calling the other two to follow him too, beckoning them with his hand. The still waters of the Sea of Galilee, the tree in bloom and the pebbles on the shore add natural interest to the scene.
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Where to find this work of art
St John the Evangelist, Gravesend
Read the relevant passage