Have you ever interviewed for a job that you knew was a long-shot? Maybe you were unsure about your qualifications or knew that it would require more than what you had on your resume or within your experience. Maybe on a lark, or even with very high hopes, you decided to try it anyway. Maybe the interviewer would give you a chance. Maybe you could convince them with your personal appeal or by showing your willingness to work harder because of those deficiencies. Maybe you decided to try it just to see what you would learn from the experience of an interview.
When Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberius as it’s called today, he had been baptized by John a short time before, had faced the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, and was now looking for disciples. Almost as soon as Jesus began the work of putting a team of people together, John, his cousin who had baptized him, was arrested by Herod Antipas. John had spoken out against the palace intrigue that involved two of Herod the Great’s sons, Herod Antipas and Philip the Tetrarch.
Strange rules persist in palaces, where often times those who grew up with great privilege know very little about personal limitations. They may indulge themselves in actions that others of us would never consider because of the shame or judgment that may come. Herod Antipas took an interest in his brother Philip’s wife, who was named Herodias. Herod also wanted the title his father had had, so that he would be known as King Herod, or Herod the Great. We don’t know whether it was because of his inflated sense of self-importance or because Herodias wanted to be associated with such greatness that he was successful in taking her as his wife. John the Baptist called them out on this behavior, speaking against the excesses of power and the lack of morality in the palace. John’s arrest and execution may serve as some foreshadowing for what happens to Jesus after his arrest.
With Jesus’ ministry beginning, and seeing the need for people to help him in his service to God and to others, you might think he would have very carefully chosen people to come follow him as disciples. He might have looked at their work ethic, had conversations with them about their biblical knowledge or their sense of religious righteousness, or at least assessed their mental acuity. He didn’t do any of those things. John saw him walking by and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and two of John’s disciples decided to leave John and follow him. With the briefest of conversations he asked some guys mending their nets if they wanted to fish for people. And they dropped what they were doing and followed. Jesus summoned them with such irresistible authority that they responded with radical obedience.
Jesus doesn’t offer a hint about how they will fend for themselves or be provided for. He doesn’t make any promises about upward mobility or a soft berth. He doesn’t look into their past, ask about their piety, or wait for them to apply to study with him as many young adults would have done in order to learn from a respected Rabbi. Instead, Jesus reaches out to them. He seeks them out as followers, learners, apprentices who do not have to qualify for such a relationship, except for the willingness to lay down everything else, says commentator Troy Miller.
They drop nets, leave lucrative work, and walk away from family commitments into an uncertain future in order to learn what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God some of them have heard him talk about. There are no qualifications required, but to come and follow.
The Kingdom of God that Jesus talked about, pointed toward, and yearned for was a place or a time when the people who had been cast out or told they weren’t good enough would be welcomed. Relationships that had been broken by religious rules were about to be mended. The cruelties of the political arena were going to come to an end. People would be fed. There would be joy at the table again when people had enough to eat and were not worried about their children or their elderly parents. Relationships that were torn apart by race or tribe, by economic or educational class would be knit back together. The sick would be healed. The hungry would be fed. The thirsty would have enough to drink. There would be a time when we would all know each other as a family reunited – into the kin-dom or kinship of God.
The disciples were swept off their feet or out of their places of work by such a vision of how thing could really be. Jesus still says, “Hey, come and follow.” No qualifications required. You can be a part of making the world right. You can be a part of healing the world. Feeding hungry people. Protecting the sacredness of creation. You can be a part of ending hate and enmity. You can be a part of crossing the divide as we take steps closer to the kinship of God, seeing and treating each other as long lost family longing to be reunited. The only requirement is the willingness to lay down what we’re busy with or whatever is in the way. Come and follow, Jesus says, come and follow.
Lander Bethel is the minister of Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church in Sherman and First Presbyterian Church in Denison. He earned a doctoral degree in ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Genna, live in Sherman. They have three sons. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.