The Tap on the Shoulder
Scripture: And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him (Matt. 4: 18-20).
The late Peter Marshall, for years the young, dynamic pastor of the New York Avenue
Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., and, until his untimely death at forty-six, chaplain of the United States Senate, asked a question which gets at the very heart of my message today:
“If you were walking down the street, and someone came up behind you and tapped you on the shoulder — what would you do?”
Naturally, you would turn around.
Well, that is exactly what happens in the spiritual world.
A man walks through life, with the eternal call ringing in his ears but with no response
stirring in his heart; and then suddenly, without any warning, the Spirit taps him on the shoulder.
What happens? He turns around. The word repentance means “turning around.”
“The tap on the shoulder is the call that brooks no refusal, the call we cannot ignore, the
call that brings us to fall adoringly and wonderingly at the feet of Christ.”
All of us hear many calls — calls of money, calls of position, calls of education, calls of
lodges, service clubs, fraternities, and sororities. Many voices hail us, bidding for our attention and selection. Some calls are loud and noisy, others soft and sweet.
But the supreme call, the one that penetrates deepest — down beneath the physical, the
material, the monetary, the mental, and the social — to the very center of our innermost being, the quick of our soul — is the spiritual call from the voice of Christ. It is life’s supreme moment.
When Jesus taps you on the shoulder in the midst of life’s noise and rush and says, “The
Master is come, and calleth for thee,” your great hour of decision has arrived.
The tap on the shoulder stops you, His voice calls you, His love draws you, His kingdom challenges you. Now you must make a decision. You cannot be neutral. You must turn around and follow Him, or you deliberately walk on away from Him. Life is never the same after He taps you on the shoulder and speaks to your soul.
Jesus frequently visited Mary, Martha, and Lazarus at Bethany. On the occasion of Lazarus’ death, Martha went to meet Him and upon returning to the house called Mary and said, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.”
The greatest moment in life is when Jesus sees something in you that He wants, taps you on the shoulder, and says, “Come, follow Me.”
Peter, a rough, uncouth, uneducated fisherman, had his great moment when Jesus said,
“Come, follow Me, and I’ll make you a fisher of men.” He answered the call, and Jesus made him.
In 1775 a boy of fourteen living in England, the son of very poor parents, was working as
an apprentice to a shoemaker. Jesus tapped him on the shoulder and said, “William, I see
something in you I can use in India.” In June of 1793 William Carey began his glorious work which gave birth to modern missions.
Another English lad felt the tap on the shoulder and heard the Spirit say, “Robert, I can use you in China.” In 1807 Robert Morrison began to write the great story of Christian missions in that dark nation.
A boy named David was working in a factory in England from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. when he felt the tap on the shoulder and heard the voice saying, “David Livingstone, I have need of thee in Africa” In 1840 he placed his feet on that black continent and for thirty-three years poured out his life, dying on his knees, May 1, 1873, in the heart of that pagan land.
The tap on the shoulder comes to all of us. The voice may not say, “India,” or, “China,” or, “Africa”; but it always says, “Come, follow Me, and I’ll make thee.”
If we heed this supreme call, we have peace here and heaven hereafter. But if we walk
away, we head into unhappiness here and eternal remorse hereafter.
One is never the same after the tap on the shoulder.
The call comes to every one of us.
It is coming to many today.
Jesus tapped my shoulder when I was a high school sophomore, and the voice said, “Son, I see something in you that I need. I want you to preach the gospel.”