Sunday, January 15th @ St Barnabas
Let me start this morning by reading you an article from the Scroll, an independent newspaper:
Move over Johnnie there is a new kid on the block. Jesus the healer draws huge crowds. Following the recent media furore over John the Baptist there is another new contender – Jesus of Nazareth.
The preacher and teacher is causing a stir throughout the region, with large crowds flock-ing to hear him from Jerusalem, Judea and even Syria.
“He’s certainly a hot ticket” said a well-known tout. “He can heal, he can preach, he can cast out demons, he can make the blind see and he even turns water into wine. This lad can do it all.”
Every day, tales of his miraculous powers are heard. Lame people are walking; blind men are given their sight.
Jesus (30) has even started recruiting a team to organize things for him. In a surprising move, his recruits include four fishermen and a tax-collector.
“I think this shows how immature he is,” said a leading Pharisee. “No one with any shred of decency would have anything to do with a tax-collector. And as for the rest of his rabble, well the best you can say of them is that they smell of fish.”
“Rest assured this is a nine days wonder. He will never amount to anything.”
How wrong can you be?
Now let me read from a commentary by Walter W Wessel.
“It was a strange group of men the Lord chose to be His disciples. Four of them were fishermen, one a hated tax-collector, another a member of a radical violent political party. Of six of them we know practically nothing. All were laymen. There was not a preacher or an expert in the scriptures in the lot. Yet it was with these men that Jesus established His church and disseminated His Good News to the end of the earth.”
Well there we are, interestingly both of those comments on Jesus’ selection of disciple’s makes the point that they were ordinary men, with no recognised gifts for leading the movement Jesus had planned.
The fact that we know very little about any of them, does that mean their pasts have no relevance to their futures? I don’t think so, their and our pasts and experiences will shape how things are seen, how they are understood and how we learn. What their and our pasts are is not important, what is important is that we see and recognise the im-portance of the truth of who Jesus is and are willing to follow Him.
That is what a disciple is – a follower and learner of a teacher and in our and their case that teacher is Jesus.
“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)
Does that mean God made a mistake with Judas Iscariot? No, I do not believe so. Judas like the other disciples spent time in Jesus’ presence observing and learning but decided that his own personal ambitions were of more importance than what Jesus had to offer and that is true today – many people hear of Jesus but turn their backs on Him because of their own desires and plans.
Let me bring us back to Jesus’ selection of His initial disciples. After Jesus death , when Peter and John were called before the Jewish leaders for healing a man, this was the observation of those leaders: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
They were ordinary and unschooled but were doing extra ordinary things. So where does that leave us? I suspect that none of us are unschooled, that is we will have at-tended some form of education, and have had the opportunity to learn right through the whole education system, so as to reach our full potential.
So does that disqualify us from being disciples? In no way. In Jesus’ day education was for the very few unlike today. But like those first disciples we have recognised some-thing in Jesus that has attracted us to Him, and has drawn us into making a commit-ment to follow Him or to find out more about Him.
Those first disciples spent many hours alone with Jesus listening to Him and learning from Him. They spent time with Him watching how He dealt with the crowds, how He dealt with the authorities and how He blessed the people who came to Him by feeding, healing and encouraging them.
Therefore, surely, if we are to become the disciples Jesus wants us to be we to need to spend time with Him and learn from Him. We need to spend time in prayer. Read Mark 9 after the transfiguration, when Jesus came down the mountain and healed the boy that the disciples could not. On further questioning Jesus told them that only prayer could achieve that healing, but at the time He did not pray. Could it be that He had prayer on deposit so to speak that He could draw on when needs be?
Scripture and the wealth of Christian books gives us the opportunity to learn more about the one who has called us. But all this will be to no avail if we do not act like those first disciples.
Jesus in the great commission said, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … (Matthew 28:19). He did not say make Christians of all nations but disciples, followers, learners, apprentices if you like. People who learn from their teacher and go and do likewise.
One of my favourite characters in the bible is Gideon – you know the story I’m sure, of how he laid out two fleeces to test the word he believed might be coming from God. But when God responded and confirmed Gideon’s belief, Gideon responded and went and did as God told him.
That is the challenge for us, God has called us to be disciples to go as those first disci-ples did and tell others of the good news of eternal life that God offers to all of humanity.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16)
Does that sound scary? Yes? Good – that means if you are willing to go as Jesus asks you will be reliant on Him and the Holy Spirit not your own capabilities. That is not to say what you are is of no value but there are many scriptures that tell us God knows us better than we know ourselves: “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30). “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). He knows us and He knows the full potential that lies within us.
We started by looking at the lack of information about the disciples pasts and apart from a few incidences we know very little of what they did after their commission by Jesus. One of those incidences is recorded in Acts 5:32-39 – Peter and the other disciples are once more before the Jewish leaders.
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
We know this was a God given plan – those first disciples spread the word about Jesus and the offer of eternal life. Others have carried the message on down through the centuries and across all the continents of the world. If they had not, we would not be here now with the belief we have or the opportunity to learn of Jesus.
So to my mind that gives us little option, we must take up the challenge to tell others and to continue to give all peoples the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus. To continue to learn from the master so that we might grow in knowledge and under-standing that we might be better witnesses, to the truth about Christ our saviour.
Why? Quite simply because Jesus has asked us to and He has given us much.
Church Army Captain