There are two different versions in the Gospels of how Jesus calls His first disciples. In both versions Jesus calls them by changing their profession from being fishermen to becoming fishers of men. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew 4:18-23 we find this version of the story:
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.
The call of the disciples and their immediate obedience to Jesus is in itself miraculous. We are not given an explanation as to why they so completely submit themselves to Christ, but they do. And though they leave the boat and their father to follow Christ, we know later in the Gospels they still have a boat to use and in John’s Gospel are still clearly fishermen after the resurrection of Christ – so they aren’t abandoning the profession completely, but now additionally follow Christ after being called.
The other version of the call of the disciples, found in the Gospel according to St. Luke 5:1-11, has Jesus performing a miracle in helping the disciple make a huge catch of fish and then they are called to follow Christ. In the Luke version the response of the disciples to Christ’s call is explained by the miracle of the catch of fish.
Sister Katrina, a nun of New Skete wrote of the response of the fishermen after the miraculous catch of fish to follow Christ:
“When we go to the depths with Christ, we learn who we really are – often by learning who we are not, and leaving that behind. It’s interesting that the choice Peter and his fishing partners make is to leave behind exactly what they thought they had been hoping for, and working so hard for. They learned something about who they really were. When they realized who they really were, the amazing catch became just a smelly heap of dead fish.” (Gospel Reflections, pps. 9-10)
Part of what Christians come to realize is that all the success in the world really does not amount to all that much when one considers that life on earth is relatively short when compared to the eternity of existence. We can pursue all the material wealth we want on earth, but it really is only borrowed goods and never permanently ours for when we die we do not take the material wealth with us. Our pursuit of the things of the earth proves to be a temporary illusion – a mirage on the sojourn through earth. For earth turns out not to be paradise but despite it offering us some oases along the way, still a desert compared to the paradise of God.