Jesus’ original disciples were not what an objective observer would call the brightest and the best. The top students-those who at the age of 13 had rung up the highest marks on their SAT (if there had been a Synagogue Aptitude Test) and who were therefore seemed destined to become future leaders of Israel-would typically present themselves to the most famous rabbis. Essentially they would ask, “May I have the privilege of following you?” If the rabbi consented, the wannabe disciple would gather up his things and fall in line with the rabbi’s band of learners.
The astonishing report that emerges from the four gospels is that these common everyday Jewish young men-who were never going to rock the world of theological scholarship or proficiency-became Jesus’ fishing pool. Jesus does something no self- respecting rabbi would ever have done. He actually goes out and recruits them. “Come follow me. Put down your fishing nets, walk from your tax-collector’s booth, leave behind the life you thought you were going to live and join my band of learners.”
Movie depictions of the life of Christ have not helped us picture this particularly well, especially with regard to the one reality: the fact that the disciples were almost certainly quite young. Think of a 30 year old Jesus working with the equivalent of a dozen high school or college kids.
The Twelve, in other words, are not bored mid-life adults who gradually become open to a challenging second career in global missions. They were young men standing at the threshold of the rest of their lives.
We know something else about them. They were seriously broken individuals. They made lots of mistakes. They said dumb things. They are biased and blind and fearful and selfish. They live with Jesus but they “don’t get” Jesus. They fail to grasp his teaching, struggle to know his example, and get regularly chewed out.
But aren’t these the people whose names adorn countless churches? How can they be blockheads?
It turns out Jesus is in the reclamation business. He called a dozen students into a lifelong living relationship with him, forming a new community or society where he is showing them that a life worth living comes down to being committed to two crucial activities: loving God and loving each other.
We all need help in this regard. We don’t need more seminars to remind us of the gap between what we profess and how we actually live. What we need is transformation and the assurance we serve a Savior who won’t give up on us just because we have so far to go.
This world in which we live right now is a challenge to us all. Our calling as disciples of Jesus is a lifelong journey of faithfulness and spiritual growth. Learning never ends. The drama of discipleship in the end is twofold: First is the miracle. Jesus wants US! And he wants Us just as we are. We’re all invited
to join the band of lifelong learners; then comes the responsibility. Jesus has no intention of letting us remain just as we are. We must grasp that our true call is to join Jesus in the work of redeeming human
hearts wherever brokenness is found. Beginning with the brokenness we find inside ourselves.
There is hope that such a thing can really happen.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain