What Were Jesus First Disciples Doing When He Called Them?

When we think of Jesus’ disciples, we often imagine them as devout followers who immediately dropped everything to join him on his mission. However, the reality is that these individuals were living their own lives when Jesus called them. Let’s take a closer look at what some of Jesus’ first disciples were doing before they became his followers.

Simon Peter and Andrew

Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen by trade. They spent their days out on the Sea of Galilee, casting their nets and catching fish. It was while they were in the midst of this work that Jesus first called to them.

Matthew 4:18-19 tells us, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'”

It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t ask Peter and Andrew to give up their livelihoods entirely; instead, he promised to use their skills in a new way. They would no longer catch fish but would instead bring people into God’s kingdom.

James and John

James and John were also fishermen and were partners with Simon Peter and Andrew. In fact, Mark 1:20 tells us that when Jesus called them, they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

It’s worth noting that James and John weren’t just fishermen; they were also known as “sons of thunder.” Mark 3:17 explains that this was a nickname given to them by Jesus himself. This suggests that they had fiery personalities and may have been quick-tempered or impulsive.


Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector. Tax collectors were often despised in Jewish society because they worked for the Roman government and were seen as traitors. They also had a reputation for cheating people out of their money.

Matthew 9:9 describes Jesus’ interaction with Matthew: “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.”

It’s significant that Jesus chose to call a tax collector to be one of his disciples. By doing so, he was breaking down societal barriers and demonstrating that God’s love extends to all people, regardless of their profession or background.


Nathanael is often identified with Bartholomew, one of the twelve disciples listed in the gospels. John 1:45-46 tells us that Nathanael was skeptical when he first heard about Jesus: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’

‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.”

However, when Jesus met Nathanael in person, he demonstrated that he knew all about him: “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’

Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you'” (John 1:47-48).

This encounter convinced Nathanael that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.


Jesus’ first disciples were all living their own lives and pursuing their own careers when he called them. They weren’t necessarily seeking a religious leader to follow, but Jesus saw something in them that made him choose them to be his followers.

As we see from their stories, Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to give up their skills or talents when they became his followers. Rather, he used those skills and talents in new ways to further God’s kingdom. May we all be open to the ways that God can use us, just as he used these first disciples.