Experiment: Reading the Bible without any assumptions
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When Jesus called the first disciples
In my second time of reading the Bible, I was struck by the readiness of Jesus' first disciples to follow him.
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew 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.”At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Fishing was the livelihood of these men. They were obviously already actively working for the day when Jesus approached them. How did these men have the discernment to realize that what Jesus was offering was more important than what they were currently doing?
I translated the situation into modern terms and mentally put myself into the picture, which is something I do sometimes when a passage puzzles me. My modern-day translation goes something like this:
My brother and I were behind the counter in our donut-and-coffee shop, taking a new batch of donuts out of the fryer, when a man we slightly knew as Joseph's son came in. "Come, follow me", he said. "I will send you out to be salt and leavening for other people." At once, my brother and I walked away and followed him.
I still found it a little puzzling - there is so much left unsaid! Yet, probably, for someone to have without hesitation walked away from their only source of livelihood, they must have known that this was something really important. They must have known this without asking questions like "Well, what does this entail?" "Where would we be going?" or anything like that.
So, I think that for these people to leave their only way of earning a living, they must have known that this man was talking about something far more important than what they were currently doing. Even if they didn't necessarily know that Jesus was the Messiah at this point, they must surely have been able to discern he was a holy man. They must have also had the discernment to know or sense that there was something bigger at hand here than there might seem to be at first glance.
Note that the text didn't say "Jesus sought high and low in all the ends of the country to find just the right people to be his first few disciples." It says:
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee.... from Mark 1:16
When he had gone a little further... from Mark 1:19
It did not say he looked everywhere. He looked for his disciples by walking, but not too far from where he lived. Thus, the first disciples he called were chosen, yes, but also, it appears that a willingness to freely follow Jesus was also important. In other words, he didn't say "OK, according to the scriptures, you have to come with me." Again, this comes down to free will - we all have it.
If Jesus had called me, would I have recognized Him? Possibly not. If Jesus had called you, would you have recognized Him?
Sometimes we fail to see God's handiwork in our lives - sometimes we fail to see Him himself, even when he appears to us through another lens (e.g. the lens of music, science, art, etc).
Ultimately, while Jesus certainly chose to ask certain people to be his first disciples, these disciples also made their own decisions of their own free will to follow Jesus. They must have been men of perception and discernment to recognize that here in Jesus was something bigger and more important than their very way of life. If you found this post interesting, you might also like these related posts on this blog:
This is a concept I used to grapple with, and still do: the question of when it's important to pray, and when it's important to do works.
Ideally one would do both.
Still though, there are times in the Bible where it has been made clear that one or the other is more necessary, depending on what the situation was at the time. One of the clearest examples is when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. Prior to that, he had been praying. He had even asked his disciples to pray, but they were tired and fell asleep.
When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter immediately acted, but not in a way that Jesus wanted. Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers with a sword. Although from Peter's point of view he was defending Jesus, it was not something that was necessary. Let's read the passage:
Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus…
These days so much has changed since the days of Adam and Eve. To them, today's life and culture would be almost unrecognizable. About the only thing that has not changed since then is nature (in the post-fall period). The sky, mountains, valleys, trees, oceans and seas would be similar.
Of course, huge amounts of time has gone by since then, including events like seismic shifts, so the landscape won't be the same. Still though, whenever I see tree leaves against sky, I remind myself that at least this is the same type of thing as what Adam saw.
This is one way I have that helps remind me that the Bible is truly relevant to us. We are all human just as Adam and Eve were, and although culture and technology has changed, we are still on the same planet.
Another way that makes me feel linked to Adam and Eve is whenever I work in the garden. Planting seeds always reminds me that this is the way things have worked since the days of Adam.
Recently I was reading the book of Daniel. It states clearly that at the end of days, Greece and Iran will be at war against each other. God gave a vision to Daniel:
In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me at first. In the vision I was looking and saw myself in Susa the capital, in the province of Elam, and I was by the river Ulai. I looked up and saw a ram standing beside the river. It had two horns. Both horns were long, but one was longer than the other, and the longer one came up second. I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. All beasts were powerless to withstand it, and no one could rescue from its power; it did as it pleased and became strong.
As I was watching, a male goat appeared from the west, coming across the face of the whole earth without touching the ground. The goat had a horn between its eyes. It came toward the ram with the two horns that I had seen standing beside t…