March 7, 2016

Jesus chose the Twelve. This simple statement draws a sharp line between Jesus' closest followers and those who chose to follow other rabbis of his day.

The men who were Jesus' closest associates showed not the slightest interest in following him until they were chosen and called.

In Matthew's account of calling Andrew and Peter, Jesus sees them casting a net into the Sea of Galilee and says, "'Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him" (4.19-20).

The same with James and John. They were mending their nets with their father. When Jesus called, immediately they followed (4.21-22).

Matthew was a tax collector. Jesus walked by, saw him and said, "Follow me." Immediately, Matthew left everything and went with Jesus (9.9).

Luke's Gospel makes it clear that Jesus' calling of the disciples was "a prayer event." Jesus spent the night in prayer on a mountain. When day broke, he called his disciples and chose 12 apostles (6.12-16).

Those who did try to choose to become Jesus' disciples got a rough ride. Mark tells the story of the rich man who sought eternal life, but was told by Jesus, "You lack one thing: go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then, come, follow me" (10.21). The man was not up to the challenge and left grieving.

Another wanted to follow Jesus . . . later. First, he had to bury his father. Jesus' answer: "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Mt 8.22).

Most evocative is the call of the disciples in John's Gospel.

Jesus called his apostles and they responded without hesitation.

Jesus called his apostles and they responded without hesitation.

The calls begin with John the Baptist testifying that Jesus is the Son of God. "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him" (1.32).

The next day, the Baptist "was standing" with two of his disciples as Jesus walked by. "Look! Here is the Lamb of God," he exclaimed. The two disciples - Andrew and one who was not named - immediately followed Jesus.

Jesus, however, turned to them and asked, "What are you looking for?" It would seem Jesus wanted to know what the two wanted out of life. Their response didn't fit the question: "Rabbi, where are you staying?" To which, Jesus simply said, "Come and see."

So the pair went with Jesus that day, staying with him until the tenth hour, "the hour of fulfillment," according to Scripture scholar Rudolf Bultmann.

It was only then that Andrew went to tell his brother Simon, "We have found the messiah."

Although Simon does not rebel against the call, he is completely passive in his response. He says nothing and does nothing. Andrew finds him and brings him to Jesus who looks at him and gives him a new name, Peter.


John's Gospel gives no idea of why Peter, out of everyone, should be singled out for special attention. Only in his case did someone have to go and find him; only he gets a new name.

Jesus' purposes are unfathomable to human understanding. But what is clear is that when he calls, the response must be immediate and unconditional. Simon brings nothing of his old self, not even his name. Matthew the tax collector leaves his toll both. Now.

They have no idea of what they are to do. They don't know the job description of an apostle. That comes later. Jesus calls them; they respond without question.


The apostles are like the slaves who are always ready for the master to return. They have followed Jesus' advice, "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit" (Lk 12.35).

Their response to the call hearkens back to an earlier article in this series, one which pointed to Jesus' emphasis that Scripture is fulfilled "today" (WCR, Dec. 21, 2015).

With Jesus' coming, God's kingdom is no longer at some undetermined date in the future; it is in our midst. The follower of the messiah does not look back to God's great deeds for Israel's people; neither does he or she look off to the future.


The key to those who followed Jesus is that they did so immediately when he called and they didn't ask questions. The Holy Spirit went before Jesus and let the disciples know the kingdom had arrived. Today is the day of God's coming. The disciples' response cannot be delayed.

What the disciples will do once they follow Jesus is another matter. They will preach, heal the sick and cast out demons. However, all the evangelists separate the job description from the initial call. Being called is enough for one day.