Lenten Devotional (Day 2) - The Calling of a Rabbi Like no Other
Updated: Feb 24
Thursday, February 18 - Scripture: Mark 1:14-34
As I reflect, the years 2003-2005 were very transformative in my life. During these two years, I travelled halfway around the world to live and teach ESL in South Korea. It was during these two years that I began to experience and, after wrestling with, respond to what I can describe as ‘God calling’. As I travelled to a strange new land, disconnecting from the familiarity of home, I was able to hear more clearly and respond to the persistent, yet gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit to a deeper and more substantive life of following Jesus.
In the next story in Mark’s Gospel, immediately following Jesus’ baptism, we read of Jesus’ recruiting the first of his disciples. What strikes me as strange, yet beautiful, in both my own story of Jesus calling, and the story we read about here (Mark 1:16-19) is that the candidates at first glance don’t seem to be the most qualified.
In the first century, it would have been unheard of for Jewish teachers (rabbis) like Jesus to go out and recruit potential disciples. Rather, rabbis held in high esteem would have their own schools that the best and brightest young people would apply to.
Here we read Jesus breaking with this tradition in not only seeking out disciples, but handpicking and inviting fisherman, who would have been uneducated and on the fringes of society. We read that these first recruits (Simon, Andrew, James and John) left their nets to follow Jesus. I often wonder if there desire to follow Jesus was in part because of the radical way in which Jesus broke with tradition in his recruiting methods. Certainly, I doubt any of them would’ve anticipated a rabbi like Jesus to be recruiting, let alone doing it on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
And yet, God ways are indeed not our ways, and what primarily qualifies a person to be a disciple of Jesus is not status, education or other cultural markers, but a hearts and lives that are willing to learn, serve and imitate Jesus.
Like these early disciples, I too was somewhat surprised and—like Moses, Jonah and others in Scripture—somewhat resistant to the call of God in those days in Korea. If I’m honest, I still find myself in moments of self doubt as it relates to God’s call. And yet, I continue to be reminded that the continued call of Jesus is to simply follow with an open heart and open hands, ready to leave behind what can impede the journey of discipleship.
Of course, this passage should remind us that the calling of Jesus is not merely to vocational pastoral ministry as in my case. Rather, each of us has been marked and called of God to follow and imitate Jesus in our homes, neighbourhood and places of work.
The beauty of Jesus kingdom is that everyone gets to participate. Discipleship is not an additional option for those who follow Jesus, but is the very essence of what it means to be a Christ follower. Like Simon, Andrew, James and John, each of us is continually called to follow Jesus as his apprentices, growing in our capacity to love God and neighbour as we journey with Jesus and others.
What is Jesus calling you to in this season of your life? What might he be calling you to leave behind in the journey towards wholeness as a disciple of Jesus?