‘Follow me, follow me, leave your home and family,
Leave your fishing nets and boats upon the shore.
Leave the seed that you have sown, leave the crops that you have grown,
Leave the people you have known and follow me…’
Calling of the Disciples: The Pied Piper
When the average person tries get people to do something their way, let’s just say it’s a struggle. I sometimes find it irritating when people ask me to do something when I am busy doing my own activity. Why is what they want me to do more important than what I am in the middle of?
If this is the case, how come when Jesus calls his disciples He gets instant cooperation? It seems that, rather than Jesus demanding them to follow, it is them who are more willing to follow Him!
The Pied Piper of Hamelin was hired by a rat infested town to lure the rats away. He does this by playing music on his magical pipe. However, when the town refuses to pay for what he has done, he uses his instrument’s magical powers to enchant all the children from the village away.
One of the most poignant things about this story is the way the children are so drawn to the Pied Piper that they follow him without hesitation. In the same way, the disciples are drawn to Jesus. We can see this when Jesus calls his first disciples in all of the four Gospels:
Matthew (4:18-22) and Mark (1:16-20): When Jesus says to Simon and Andrew to follow him whilst they are busy fishing, they leave their nets to follow him without hesitation: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.’ Then Jesus calls James and John to follow him when they are busy preparing their nets with their father, and ‘immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.’
Luke (5:1-11): This is a more descriptive encounter of the same events in Matthew and Mark, but it depicts even more clearly how people are drawn to Jesus: ‘The people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.’ People do what Jesus says whether they think it seems logical or not, for example when Jesus tells Simon to let down the nets, Simon replies: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Indeed, they caught so many fish that the nets were at breaking point. They then follow Jesus without hesitation when he says: ‘“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.’
John (1:35-51): In this passage the disciples follow Jesus without being directly asked: ‘“Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.’ What is ironic about this, especially when compared to when we desperately try to get people to cooperate, is that Jesus questions their motives behind following Him: ‘Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”’
Jesus appears to have a similar effect on his disciples to that of the Pied Piper on the children. The disciples seem intrigued by Jesus, wanting to know where he is staying and what there is to learn from him. He acts as a magnet of innocent curiosity, where people want to “Come and see” what he is doing. What Andrew says in John could be perceived as an amazing missionary act – something that we long to be able to do, but rarely achieve as Christians: ‘He brought him to Jesus.’
One variation of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is the inclusion of a lame child. They are unable to walk fast enough to keep up with the rest of the children following the Pied Piper’s tune. I think this symbolises those of us who desperately want to follow Jesus, but are not quite succeeding yet. Maybe it is because they are not in the right place spiritually or don’t quite know how to yet. The good news is that, unlike the Pied Piper’s tune, Jesus’ never fades. Instead of becoming more distant, it is at these moments when we feel far away from Him that He is closest to us.
I hope that many of us may be called towards Jesus as the children followed the Pied Piper, enchanted by the wonder of what there is to learn and understand through Him.
Here are the verses to the song whose chorus I quoted at the top of this post. A little girl sung it to me today and I thought it matched beautifully to what I was writing about:
‘The foxes have their holes,
and the swallows have their nests,
but the son of man
has no place to lay down.
I do not offer comfort,
I do not offer wealth,
but in me will all happiness be found.
If you would follow me,
you must leave old ways behind.
You must take my cross
and follow on my path.
You may be far from loved ones,
you may be far from home,
but my father will welcome you at last.
Although I go away
you will never be alone.
for the spirit will be
there to comfort you.
Though all of you may scatter,
each follow his own path,
still the spirit of love will lead you home.’
– Hymn with music by Sr. Madeleine and words by Michael Cockett