As was custom in those days itinerant teachers traveled from village to village and town to town speaking and teaching in synagogues and public places. Jesus was, in many ways, no different than these beloved figures when He began His ministry along the Sea of Galilee and John uses the terms teacher (didaskalos) and rabbi interchangeably to identify Jesus’ ministry (Jn. 1:38, 49; 3:2; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8; 20:16). Rabbis typically invited a number of people to become their full-time disciples (mathetes meaning learner or student). They lived, studied and devoted all their time to the master and he in turn provided support for his students and imparted everything he knew into their lives. The goal of discipleship was two-fold. The student would master all that his teacher knew and in doing so he would become like him in piety (Lk. 6:40). What amazed most of the populace that encountered Jesus’ teaching was that He had not studied previously with another Rabbi (Jn. 7:15). It is apparent from the wording in several of the Gospels that the aforementioned disciples were familiar with Jesus before He spoke the invitation to “Follow Me” (Mt. 4:19; 9:9; Mk. 1:17; Jn. 1:39, 43). It may seem incredulous to us that these men would respond so quickly. Philip was so excited about his teacher he went and invited his skeptical friend Nathaneal who responds to Jesus’ accurate assessment of his personality with faith. Yes, there was something about Jesus that drew an immediate response from these weathered fishermen and their friends. Although they may not have known what it really meant to be “The Messiah”, they knew their lives would never be the same once they met Him.
Six of these disciples left their family fishing businesses and one left a lucrative but despised career as a tax collector to begin a journey with Jesus. They walked with Him, ate with Him, watched Him in a variety of situations, and listened intently to His words. You can read about them here: Mt. 4:18-22; Mk. 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Lk.5:1-11; 6:12-19; Jn 1:35-51. I have often wondered what aspect of their first encounter with Jesus caused them to leave the pleasant shores of the lake, the security of their family businesses, accumulated wealth or whatever walk of life they occupied (such as Simon who is identified as a Zealot in Lk. 6:15). Whatever it was they knew it was what they wanted and they went. However, the pages of the Gospels reveal that most of the time they did not understand Him. It’s easy to point fingers and wonder how that could be, but the truth be told, we’re not much different than they were when we begin our walk with Him. We hear His call and follow Him but it’s only after some time that we really begin to understand Him. The disciples’ story with all its ups and downs is also our story.
Where are you on the journey? Have you just begun? Have you been walking with Him for a while now? Have you invited someone to come with you? Can you bear witness to the things Jesus has done in your life (Jn. 21: 24-25)? Wherever you are on the journey, you are in good company! As the disciples journeyed toward Jerusalem with Jesus, He was preparing them to know Him better and to understand the Truth about The Messiah’s role and purpose more deeply. Jesus will do the same for you as well. He's inviting you to travel with Him today (Jn. 8:12; 10:27-28; 12:26).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre