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They Did What!? (Calling of the Disciples 1)

July 9, 2010

The story of Jesus call to the first disciples is an excellent example of how stingy the Gospel writers could be with description. Learning how to fill in the scenes is an important skill because it makes the people and their world whole. Only when you picture the Sea of Galilee as a workplace, full of co-workers and family members, can you really grasp the magnitude of what those first disciples did and realize that you may well be called to do the same.

This lesson uses two contextualizing strategies. Students are asked to both imagine the inner lives of the characters and to translate the setting into something more familiar. Perhaps that is too much in one lesson? Let me know what you think.

They Did What!?

Open with prayer. (see tip sheet)

Introduce the Story

Have you ever been to the ocean or to a really big lake where people are working? I don’t mean to a beach – I mean to a place where people are fishing or loading and unloading boats.

(If yes) What was it like?

(If no) Can you imagine what it might be like?

Help the students get an idea of the busyness and the focus on the physically difficult work at hand.

Jesus lived in a place where boats and fishing were important. The Bible tells us lots of stories about Jesus being around water, boats, and fishers. It can be easier to picture what those stories are describing if we know similar kinds of places but, even if we are from someplace far from any water, we can still use our imaginations.

Our story today takes place near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and is set on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a very big lake.

Read the Story

One day, not too long after Jesus had started to travel around and teach, he was walking by the Sea of Galilee when he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishers and they were casting their net into the lake to catch some fish. Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people”. Simon Peter and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed him!

As they were walking away, Jesus saw two other brothers, James and John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee mending their nets. He called to James and John. They immediately got out of the boat and left their father to followed Jesus, too!

(Matthew 4:18-22)


The story is very short. Let’s just summarize the events it tells us about.

What did Jesus tell the two sets of brothers to do?

What were they going before Jesus called them?

What did they do afterwards?

How do you think they felt?

How do you think Zebedee felt?

The story doesn’t describe much about the setting, though. Maybe the person who wrote it thought everyone who read it would know about things like fishing by the sea. Of course, it was also a long time ago and fishing has changed alot! Let’s use our imaginations to try to fill in some of the details. I’m going to read it again and, this time, I want you to imagine what was going on around Jesus. Was it busy? Was it hot or cool? What sounds were there? Smells? What were people doing?

Read the Story Again

Discussion (II)

What did you see? (elicit descriptions from students)

It sounds like the sea was a very busy place, full of people doing important work. I wonder where Jesus would go if he was born in (your town/region) today. Where would he find lots of busy people? (in the mall, in the office buildings, at the power plant, on the farms, in the factory, etc.)

Introduce the Activity

It can be easy to think that we are very different from the people in the Bible because their lives seem so different from ours but in lots of ways we are very similar. People today still work hard and need to earn money to take care of themselves and their families. They still get nervous as well as excited when unusual things happen. They still feel sad when they say leave their families.

We are going to act out this story but not the way it is written in the Bible. We are going to put it in our world and we are going to add words. For example, what did the fishers say to each other? What did James and John say to Zebedee and what did he say to them?

Enact the Story

Divide the students into groups if you have more than 8 or so. Direct the group(s) to pick a setting and to assign roles (you could easily choose to only have Jesus, James, John, and Zebedee in your plays). Provide only as much help as necessary for the group(s) to come up with pantomime for the work setting chosen and some rough dialogue. After some prep time, present the plays to each other/you.


Congratulate everyone on their performances. Ask ‘why’ questions if any seem appropriate based on the plays.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, give us the courage of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John so that we will follow Jesus when he calls. Amen.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2010 11:17 am

    These are great!
    May use them for our older kids in the fall. Two suggestions:
    [and maybe you’ve already done these and I have missed it]
    insert either the text or a link to the Scripture passage on
    include options for downloading pdf or word files of each lesson.

    • July 19, 2010 1:28 pm

      Good idea re: links to the texts. As for downloadable pdfs – they’ll be available for the fall. Preparing them is step two…

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