Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
09/07/16 – 564 – Jesus Calls His First Disciples
Yesterday we talked about what it meant to be called to be a disciple. It’s much more than simply studying the rabbi’s teachings, it means to become as much like that rabbi as possible. Many rabbis purposely made this as difficult as possible, I believe simply as a way to make themselves appear better, smarter or more spiritual than anyone else. In other words, making the clear statement that only the best and brightest can even hope to be anything like me, because that’s just how good I am!
Then along comes Jesus. The Son of God. I can’t think of anyone who could possibly be more special, yet who does he call to be His disciples? The rejects, the ones who have long since been weeded out and sent home. The ones that no other rabbi would even consider as being ‘good enough’ to be like him. Yet here was Jesus, saying exactly that. “Come, follow me. I will teach you to be like me.”
“Yes, I think you are good enough.”
The first 4 men He called were 2 sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew, and John & James. We know they had been rejected because they were all working as fishermen when Jesus found them, rather than still studying in school. They all followed, because in that society they had just been given a great honor – one for which they had long since lost hope.
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 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.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
So Jesus had now called disciple #5, Philip. But then the pattern changes, did you notice? Jesus wasn’t the one who went to Nathaniel directly. Instead, this is our first example (I think), of a disciple calling someone else to discipleship. It was Philip who went and told his friend Who he had found, what had happened, and invited him to join them.
Of course it would be the rabbi’s decision to take on anyone, which makes it so impressive to me that Philip had enough faith in Jesus as the Messiah that he felt he could make this invitation, and have Jesus stand by it! Of course, it wasn’t Jesus but Nathaniel who voiced his doubt – until He actually met Jesus.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
I have a feeling that most of us are a lot like Nathaniel. When we first hear about Jesus, we just aren’t sure. Even when we accept Him for who He is, we often have doubts in our own ability to be a true disciple – to be like Him. We say things like “No one’s perfect” or “only Jesus is without sin”, even using His holiness as an excuse for our failures. Yet His call for us is “Be holy as I am holy”
Apparently our rabbi thinks we can do it. That we can be like Him. Where we are weak He sends His Spirit to help us. All we have to do is let Him. So there really are no excuses. The only condition is this: it’s an all-or-nothing deal. We are either His disciples, or not. No part-time. No on-demand.
His offer is on the table – always has been. Your ability to do it is not in question – you can. So what’s left is your willingness. And that is what your talk with Him today is all about.