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:
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Ideally one would do both.
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