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Reading how Jesus called his disciples, I am always perplexed at how they just leave everything and start following him. An example passage:

Matthew 4:18-22 (ESV)
 18 While walking 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. 19And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21And 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. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

It's really amazing that anyone in their right minds would act like that. Now, one might think that Jesus does some miracles that just aren't mentioned. However, his first sign was at Cana and he already had disciples at that time.

John 2:11 (ESV)
11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Why were the disciples so eager to start following Jesus?

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What we don't know is how many others he called who refused his offer. –  Flimzy Sep 8 '11 at 2:44
    
@Flimzy: right, be we know that it did happen. –  Wikis Mar 28 '12 at 20:08
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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Luke 5 (CEV) tells a little more of the story:

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret (Galilee) when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

So, there was a miracle.

(One explanation for the apparent contradiction with John is that the disciples encountered Jesus on more than one occasion. At the wedding the disciples believed, and at the lake they started to follow)

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A good point about the possible multiple encounters. Especially combining with @Brian Koser's answer: it's to be expected the whole village was in the wedding at Cana, and the disciples knew Jesus at the time -- they didn't even have to be disciples at that time yet. –  dancek Sep 8 '11 at 9:21
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Well, the Apostle John said:

John 21:25 (KJV)
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

So we know that not everything from Jesus' life was recorded. Luke does record an account of Jesus reading the scriptures in the synagogue, saying it was Jesus' custom to do so (Luke 4:16). So it is possible that Jesus was already known, at least as a godly leader, when he approached these men.

My personal belief is that Jesus already knew each of these men before he called them to leave their professions and follow him. Some think that James and John were Jesus' cousins, which would almost certainly mean that they had know Jesus for most of their lives.

I would point out though, that even if these men knew him their entire lives, it was still a huge step for them to leave everything behind to follow Jesus.

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Indeed, the Catholic response I have received for explaining Jesus' "brothers" is that this is Jewish cultural nomenclature for near cousins, similar to father meaning "male ancestor" and son meaning "male descendant". –  Lawrence Dol Sep 8 '11 at 6:59
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And I believe they would have personally witnessed Jesus doing supernatural acts and having supernatural knowledge (as with Nathaniel in John 1:49) –  Lawrence Dol Sep 8 '11 at 7:00
    
@Software Monkey I agree that they witnessed miracles as well. –  Brian Koser Sep 9 '11 at 2:26
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I once heard a preacher claim that this was one of the miracles of Jesus.

Clearly there's no biblical basis for this, but the idea that a man would drop everything, leave his father's house and family business (possibly putting his family in hardship), and follow someone who just walked up and said "follow me" seems pretty miraculous to me.

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Obviously we cannot rule OUT the miraculous, but given the culture of the time where Rabbis always had a following and it was considered a prestigious thing to be such a follower, it seems like it wouldn't actually take a miracle for some dear-in-the-headlines uneducated fishermen to go "who me, really?" and get up a traipse along after anybody with a little education who spoke with authority. –  Caleb Sep 13 '11 at 11:32
    
Good point. Maybe so. If we could only time travel and find out! ;) –  Richard Sep 13 '11 at 12:24
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Before meeting Jesus, his disciples led boring, humdrum lives. With his "miracle," Jesus showed them that he was a competent fisherman, better than they, the "professionals." Their impression was something like, "If the Jesus fellow can beat us at our own game, what else can he do?" Without fully understanding, they felt that Jesus would take their lives to the "next level,"--and they were right.

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