Jesus’ Calling of the 12 Disciples
Anyone passing by Simon Peter, James, and John that day would have passed them by without a second thought because they were only regular workers. It would be comparable to how modern people stroll right by construction workers in public locations without ever recognizing them.
However, Jesus did not perceive Peter and the other fishermen in this light. The Lord was unconcerned about what these guys did for a living. He only recognized their grandeur in a different area of “work” than what they were doing now.
He had a new plan for them:
to labour for the Kingdom of God.
Today’s narrative concludes by reminding us that Peter, James, and John hauled their boats to land before abandoning everything to follow Jesus. Their routine was flipped upside down, and they stopped what they were doing and followed their hearts to see where Jesus would take them.
How Jesus Called the Disciples
The Rugged Way
Being a disciple of Jesus was not easy. He summoned persons prepared to deny themselves to follow the Saviour.
He once said that
“the birds had their nests and the foxes had caves to dwell in, but He had nothing to call His own — nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew:8:20).
On another occasion, He warned His disciples that they would be
“hated of all mankind for my name’s sake,”
but He also vowed,
“Not a hair of your head shall perish” (Luke:21:17,18).
A genuine Christian doesn’t mind if the rest of the world despises him. He lives to please his heavenly Father and expects to be rewarded in Heaven.
When Jesus was looking for disciples, He did not go among the scribes and Pharisees, the men who had studied the Old Testament Scriptures and were at the head of the Jewish church. Those men were filled with their ideas and would not listen to Christ’s teachings.
Neither did He go among the rich because they thought they had all they needed and were not looking for the heavenly Kingdom. But Jesus went down among the humble folk and sought out men who needed help and loved the truth. Among them, He found men whom He could trust to carry on His great work after He had gone back to Heaven.
Peter and Andrew were the first men Jesus summoned. They made life through fishing. Jesus was strolling around the Sea of Galilee one day when he noticed them cleaning their nets. When Jesus requested Peter to take his boat out and cast his net for fish, Peter replied that they had toiled all night and had caught nothing. He didn’t think he’d catch anything right now, but he obeyed ‘Jesus’ order.
The Way of Sacrifice
After the ships landed, Jesus promised Peter and Andrew that He would make them fishers of men if they followed Him.
What an honour!
They didn’t look at that pile of fish and decide they had to sell them first. They left them in the care of others and followed Jesus. It was a lot to them to give up their means of making a livelihood, but they had heard Jesus’ call and had trust that He would take care of them.
Today, his children require more of that trust. What we have in this world is insignificant. Souls are dying, and God is looking for labourers in His vineyard who will put aside their joys and conveniences to spread the message of salvation.
Christ and His first two disciples proceeded further, where they encountered several more fishermen. John and James were repairing their nets after fishing with their Father, Zebedee. They were likewise eager to respond to the invitation and quit their jobs to follow Jesus. We don’t know if any of these fishermen ever returned to their profession.
According to the Bible, James and John abandoned their Father. Sometimes these days, Jesus requires His children to leave their parents and homes to work for Him.
Still, He has promised,
“Everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew:19:29).
Come and See
Philip was the second disciple that Jesus summoned. He instantly believed that Jesus was the Son of God and proceeded to inform Nathanael that the Messiah foretold by Moses had arrived. He was Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph’s son. Nazareth was a tiny town with a lower class of Jews, and it was unlikely that a great man would come from there.
Nathanael said to Philip,
“Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
Philip didn’t try to persuade him; he just said,
“Come and see.”
“Behold an Israelite truly, in whom is no guile!
Jesus said to Nathanael. He could see into Nathanael’s heart and know that he was not dishonest like the scribes and Pharisees who pretended to be pious. The Jews were all Israelites who regarded Abraham as the forefather of their faith.
But, because their acts were wicked, Jesus reminded them that the devil, not Abraham, was their Father. He said that Abraham would never have done what they were doing. When Jesus realized that Nathanael was not a hypocrite, He referred to him as an “Israelite truly.”
Before Philip summoned Nathanael, Jesus had seen him. Today, Jesus is seeking disciples, and if He finds an honest heart, even though it is a long distance away, He will attract him by allowing the conviction to settle on him. Sometimes Jesus needs to talk to a sinner for a long time before he repents, but if He recognizes in a man a desire to serve Him, He is patient with him.
One of the Despised
Levi was chosen to be a disciple from a group of men who the Jews despised. They were tax collectors engaged by the Roman government to collect Jewish tribute money. They were frequently dishonest, taking more money from individuals than they were meant to and keeping a portion of it for themselves.
They were also known as publicans, and we see in the Bible that Christ loved them and made them His companions. You may be wondering how Jesus could love such people, yet they confessed they were sinners, and many of them came to Jesus and repented.
We remember the story of the Pharisee and the publican going to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are . . . even as this publican.”
But the publican felt so sorry for his sins he would not even look up but smote his breast and prayed,
“God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Jesus said the publican went to his house justified rather than the Pharisee because the publican repented. Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
When Levi heard Jesus’ call, he left everything to follow Him. He had a glimpse of the celestial Kingdom, and the money he got for his labour no longer piqued his interest. He threw a large party and invited all of his friends because he was delighted that Jesus had called him to be a disciple. He most likely wanted them to hear the narrative of Jesus as well. Jesus was delighted to preach to them because He saw their need for a Saviour and tried to assist them.
Greater works than these
After the disciples and other followers were called, Jesus travelled across Galilee, teaching in synagogues and doing numerous miracles. People came from all over the world to be treated for their ailments, and Jesus healed them all. We don’t find any evidence that He ever turned anyone away who came to Him for help.
While He was performing this magnificent job, He taught His followers what they should be doing, and He informed them they would do much more than He since He would soon return to His Father in Heaven.
These followers were referred to as disciples. One day in Galilee, He went
“up into a mountain, and called whom he wanted, and they came unto him.”
“And he appointed twelve, that they should be with him, and that he may send them forth to preach, and to have authority to cure illnesses and to drive out demons” (Mark 3:13–15).
The Apostles were a group of twelve disciples who had been summoned and ordained.
“Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew, the publican; James the son of Alphæus, and Lebbæus, whose surname was Thaddæus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.” (Matt. 10:2–4.)
Resources The Calling of the Disciples