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Monday, June 19, 2023

Jesus Calls His Disciples

This blog series considers the Bible stories we will study with the kids at Vacation Bible School this month--VBS is June 26-29.  Today we will look at the lesson for Day 3 – Jesus Calls His Disciples.   Our theme will be JESUS IS WITH ME.

Matthew 4:18-22
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

Slides – Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. 
“Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Who are You?
Who are you? Have you ever thought about it?  How would you define who you are?  WHat is your identity?  A lot of people may describe who they are by what they do for a living.  What did your dad do for a living?

My dad was an entrepreneur.  He did work for the FBI for a short time (fingerprint division), but that's not really who he was.  That was just a job for him.  What he really wanted to do was own his own business.  He and a partner started a restaurant in Maryland called the Georgetown Pizzeria.  When that wasn't successful, he moved to Macon, GA and owned a concessions business at Lake Tobesofkee for a while.  Then he tried to be successful running a KFC franchise in Florida.  Finally, he successfully owned and operated the Fish House in Macon, GA and sold fresh seafood for over 25 years.  

A lot of people define their identity by what they do for a living.  I guess that makes sense, because the average person spends 90,000 hours (or 1/3) of their life at work.  In the Bible, people were often identified by their work.  Jesus was identified as a carpenter.  Jesus called 12 men to follow him and we learn the occupations of five of them from the two passages I read.  Simon, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen.  Matthew was a tax collector.

With the fishermen, Jesus does something interesting. He recognizes their identity—fishermen, but then He alters it.  He says, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  So He changes their identity.  They’re going to do something so much more important than fishing for seafood.  However, their past identity will still influence their new work.  They will fish for people to be part of God's Kingdom.

Matthew was a tax collector.  No one likes tax collector—then or now.  However, in Jesus’ day, tax collectors worked for the enemy--the occupying Roman official who forced the Jewish people to pay tributes to Rome against their will.  Tax collectors were seen as traitors by their people.  Even their own families often disowned them. Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple.

Simon the Zealot, another man Jesus called to be His disciple, belonged to a radical political/religious sect called he Zealots.  Zealots were dedicated to assassinating people like Matthew, who cooperated with the Romans.  Jesus call Simon the Zealot to be a disciple alongside Matthew the tax collector.  Can you imagine how awkward it might have been for Matthew the tax collector to sit down next to Simon the Zealot (who in his previous occupation would have assassinated Matthew)?

Jesus called all these men and gave them new identities, their true identities—Disciples.  A disciple is a personal follower dedicated to Jesus.  Discipleship is not the same as being a student in the modern sense.  A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of their master. It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.

It was a great honor and a true responsibility to be a disciple.  Usually, Jewish rabbis only called the best of the best of the best to be their disciples.  Yet Jesus chose men whose professional identities were quite ordinary or even despicable—fishermen, tax collectors, an assassin.

Simon the fishermen felt unworthy to follow Jesus.  In Luke 5:8, Simon said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”  Jesus called him anyway and said I will make you a fisher of men.  Later, Jesus changed Simon’s identity again by by giving him a new name—Peter.  Jesus said, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18).  You see, Jesus is the one who gives us our true identity.

How would you feel if Jesus called you?
How would you feel if Jesus called you like He called the 12 Disciples?  You may be reluctant to follow Jesus or feel like you are not good enough to be among His followers.  You may even feel all alone--like everyone else belongs, but you don't.

However, the call to follow Jesus does not depend on how good you are.  Rather, Jesus invites all people to follow Him.  All people can be transformed into God’s children because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As we follow His call, Jesus promises to be with us no matter what and He transforms us into the people He wants us to be.

Jesus calls people to surrender their lives and follow Him.  He leads us into the Kingdom of God.  As people become disciples and follow Jesus, we are never alone.  Jesus guides us every day and we find fellowship with others He has calls along the way.  

Being a disciple of Jesus is the greatest honor in life.  Jesus calls all to be His disciples, but not all answer the call.  Will you answer the call?

If you do answer the call to follow Jesus as a true disciple, you will learn to actively imitated both His life and His teachings. You will become a living copy of Christ.  What He did, you will do—and this includes, at times, taking up a cross of suffering.  It is great responsibility to be a disciple, but it is also the highest honor in life.  And the reward is eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  No amount of suffering in this life--no matter how terrible--can ever compare to the glory we will know in eternal life where there will be no more sin, no more suffering, and no more death.

Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14 – “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

Which path would you choose to follow today?  Jesus is here today and He says to you, “Come, follow me, and be my Disciple.”  Will you answer His call?

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