Let’s face it: when Jesus said He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword, He wasn’t kidding.
And the Good News He proclaimed wasn’t happy “fluff” designed to make people feel good.
Jesus the teacher – rabbi in the culture of the day – appeared on the scene some 2000 years ago and by His very words cut to the heart of contaminated religious systems, social injustice and elitism, unveiling a kingdom so simple and effective that it blew the minds of the wise and yet made perfect sense to ordinary sinners.
I don’t know about you, but I am an ordinary sinner.
An average, ordinary sinner who has been called by a Rabbi (who is really God with skin on) to follow Him into a REVOLUTION.
How do I know this, you ask?
Jesus’ Call is PERSONAL
Now, in order to feel the full impact of this, we have to look back in time and understand the world in which Jesus lived. For Jewish students of the scriptures, there were several levels of education. All of the children would attend synagogue (or church) school up to about age 10. They were so well-versed in the scriptures by this time that they literally had the first five books of the Bible MEMORIZED!
After this first level, many of the students would shift gears to learning the trade of their family or preparing for future home-making responsibilities. Serious students who showed promise were invited to continue their training in the scriptures, and they did so for several years before most of them also shifted focus to practical preparation for work and family life. Only a few – the best of the best, cream of the crop, top of the class – got to continue their studies beyond this point. In fact, to even be considered, a student would have to “apply” to a particular rabbi for the opportunity to walk (or study) with him.
Here’s where the revolutionary part comes in:
Rabbis never had a shortage of potential disciples. And because these teachers were so sought after, their “system” required that the best-of-the-best come to them… seek them out. It was through this process that a rabbi would call a disciple to follow him.
ENTER RABBI JESUS… walking along 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.”
Jesus the Rabbi CAME TO THEM! He CALLED THEM! They didn’t come to Him, asking for the opportunity to follow and learn from Him, but JESUS went to where THEY WERE and said, “Follow Me” – I CHOOSE YOU!
Isn’t this what He has continued to do for us?! Jesus’ words in John 15:16:
“You did not choose me, but I CHOSE YOU!”
He doesn’t wait for us to turn in our application. He doesn’t sit on some distant, holy hill with guards to screen out those with the most “potential”. Jesus ELIMINATES the MIDDLEMAN and comes DIRECTLY to us HIMSELF!
As the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom when He died, exposing the Holy of Holies to everyone, Jesus came to provide direct access to God for EVERYONE! Hebrews 4:15-16 says it this way:
“Now that we know what we have – Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God – let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all – all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”
Not only is this Jesus approachable and ready to give us mercy and help, but HE CAME TO US FIRST. Called us. Chose us. As we are. Sin and doubt and messy lives. Ordinary us.
Jesus’ call FITS.
Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen. Jesus’ call to them was an invitation to continue fishing – something they were good at. Something they knew how to do. Something that they understood. Something that had meaning and relevance for them.
But scripture doesn’t indicate that Jesus called ALL of His disciples this way – asking them to fish, that is. When he calls Matthew, a tax collector, He simply says, “follow me.”
I wonder if we haven’t oversimplified this “fishers of men” call? I mean, look at me! I don’t fish. Oh, I’ve gone fishing before, but I don’t really like to fish. It’s kind of SLOW for me. I don’t catch much. I don’t understand the gear and the bait and when to use which to catch what…
But ask me to teach, and that’s a different story! I GET that! I know how to DO that! I understand how that works and which tools are available and how to decide on a method that will lead to learning… Teaching fits me!
Remember the story of the rich young ruler? He approached Jesus and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus didn’t tell him to go fishing… He said,
“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come, follow me.”
Jesus’ response FIT the rich guy. He knew that what made this guy tick was treasure. He GOT that. He understood that. Jesus used words to paint a picture that was relevant to the life of this one man. And Jesus called him, “come – follow me.”
Honestly, if Jesus’ call on my life was rooted in fishing language, I don’t know if my response would be positive! It would make me wonder if Jesus really knew me, or if He even knew what He was doing – calling someone like me to “fish” for souls! But Jesus says,
“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn how to live freely and lightly.” Matt. 11:29-30
Maybe the REVOLUTION in His call isn’t just that He chooses to invite the simple, ordinary sinner to follow Him – although He does that!
Maybe the REVOLUTION in His call isn’t just that He is raising up an army of fishermen to reel in lost souls – although He does that, too!
Maybe the REVOLUTION in His call is the way He makes it RELEVANT to each one of us. What if the point behind the fisherman’s call to discipleship wasn’t that every one of us is to be a fisher of men… WHAT IF the point is that Jesus KNOWS US well enough to know how to CALL US to action? He knows how we’re wired. What we understand. What will resonate deep within us.
Maybe He’s calling YOU to action in this same way today, and what you need more than anything is to drop the ill-fitting language and listen to what He is saying to YOU:
- Nurses: Come & Follow Me – there are lives and hearts in need of healing.
- Teachers: Come & Follow Me – there’s a classroom as big as this world in need of what we will teach them.
- Accountants: Come & Follow Me – there are unbalanced lives in need of justification.
- Pastors: Come & Follow Me – there are sheep in need of a shepherd.
- Highway Workers: Come & Follow Me – there are people on roads in desperate need of repair.
- Hairstylists: Come & Follow Me – there are people who have no idea how beautiful they are to me.
Ordinary sinners: Come & Follow Me – what you’re doing is ordinary, but I am calling you to be extraordinary by the power of my Spirit in you.
Jesus’ call requires a RESPONSE.
“Immediately… they left their nets and followed him.”
In a sense, we can’t physically follow Jesus today. If we could, I think it might be easier to lace up my sandals and walk in His dust. Today, to follow Him means:
Taking Him as a model to imitate.
Accepting His authority.
Choosing to obey.
As it was for the disciples, it takes time for each of us to begin to “look” like our Rabbi Jesus. Yet, that is the goal. Jesus’ disciples not only wanted to learn what their Rabbi knew, but they wanted to BE LIKE HIM. And to be like Him requires a response to the call.
Be careful, now, because this isn’t a response that leads to SALVATION! HE CALLED US, remember?! There is nothing we can do that will embellish or strengthen, add on to or “sweeten the deal” when it comes to our salvation – Jesus has already done it ALL.
But when He CALLS US to FOLLOW HIM, realize that we take action even if we DON’T TAKE ACTION at all. Because, if we FOLLOW, we’ve responded by becoming a disciple of Jesus. If we DO NOT FOLLOW, we act on our desire to follow SOMETHING ELSE.
After all, the truth of the matter is, we’re all following something.
Jesus. Wealth. Health. Success. Security. Knowledge. Comfort. Popularity. Celebrity. Survival.
That sword Jesus brought with Him cut through the “opt out” option for every one of us. We’re either with Him, or against Him.
This is a Revolution.
Choose a side.