The readings this morning jump around a bit as I attempt to collect Luke’s writing about Jesus calling His disciples. Luke chose to weave the story of how Jesus called Peter (Simon) with the Zebedee brothers, James and John, and Matthew (Levi) in chapter 5, then provides a pivotal moment in chapter 6 when Jesus picks His team. It’s interesting to see how He chooses His disciples, especially when we consider our charge is to go and do likewise.
Trying to understand Luke’s perspective, I get the idea that Jesus invested time with people, challenged them to reveal their true character, then choose them individually. Of course this included Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, but we’ll leave that discussion for another time!
Jesus Calls His First Disciples: Luke 5:1-11
Luke begins with a story:
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, Luke 5:1
Jesus was teaching the people who were working their trade. I suspect He was looking for those who were paying attention, the few that showed some interest beyond a casual glance.
He got into one of the boats, Luke 5:3
Honestly, I don’t think Jesus just randomly picked a boat. I’m not sure how it worked in ancient times, but today, you don’t just walk down to the marina and jump in someone’s boat and suggest we go fishing. Not at all. Jesus is teaching those who were listening with interest, so he tests them a bit and Peter’s response is important for us to wrestle with:
But because you say so, I will Luke 5:5
Ah yes, because you say so, I will. It’s pretty clear when Jesus speaks we should obey. In this story, Peter explains they’ve finished fishing in the area, but doesn’t hesitate to do what Jesus said. I love this! Years ago, I wrote a song for Vacation Bible School based on this verse. I’ve probably told you the story behind the song before, but it’s fun to recall the process. My initial attempts at writing the song was a rock-n-roll, driving beat, BECAUSE YOU SAY SO I WILL!!! kinda song. All of that failed to connect. Instead, if you listen, you’ll hear a very different kinda song that’s led by a mother of six with a gentle voice and a flute part played by a high school senior. Totally different than I intended, but I wish I could explain how beautiful it was to hear 300+ children (no exaggeration) sing this at VBS.
I still believe this was what Jesus wanted, His words, my attempt to obey.
Simon Peter’s response was to fall at the knees of Jesus, unworthy, humbled — called by Jesus Himself. How about you?
Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners: Luke 5:27-32
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:27-28
The way Luke writes this, the event sounds totally random, but once again, in my opinion, this was not arbitrary. I believe Jesus is teaching us to look beyond outward appearances when we see people. I know that discernment is a gift of the Spirit that is stronger in some than others, but I believe we all have the ability to see with the eyes of the Spirit if we pray and slow down long enough to listen for the answer. Those whose top-3 gifts include discernment don’t have to try very hard…others might have to be a bit more assertive.
My point is this: look beyond the trappings of the world and pray for discernment.
Matthew’s response is to throw a party! Jesus must think this is a great idea–to have a house full of people that know nothing about God’s plan of reconciliation. What an opportunity for sharing the Gospel!! The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had some discouraging thoughts (why were they there??), but Jesus shuts them down quickly:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32
Terse words for those who’ve fallen into the trap of a legalistic religion. Makes me think about the Pharisaic Survey again, the one we haven’t written, that reveals just how much of a Pharisee I am!
The Twelve Apostles
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them… Luke 6:12-16
The implication of this text suggests that Jesus called many to follow Him, like Peter, James, John, Matthew, etc., but here we see a select few are named as His disciples. The distinction is important. These will be the few He will pour into collectively and individually.
Jesus took time to choose these guys. It didn’t happen while walking in the marketplace or marina. As we are reminded of Jesus’ habit, He went to a quiet place to pray. If Jesus needed to quiet His human mind and pray, I’m convinced this is something we need to do quite often. Whether we meditate during Yoga, running, walking, or sitting quietly, we need to stop and pray.
After a night of praying, Jesus picked the twelve.
Lord, help us to learn from Your example, Your way of making disciples. Teach us to not be biased, to get distracted by outward appearance. Show us how to build relationships that advance Your kingdom here on earth.