The people who followed Jesus, experienced more and more of God as time went on. Think about the journey of the apostles. They started as average Jews – most of them tradespeople so not high schooled in the ways of their religion. But then they heard John the Baptist’s call to repentance and they became followers of John. They were part of the revival that took place around John’s baptism. Then they were introduced to Jesus and they started having time with Him, experiencing a number of events. But then they were invited into a personal relationship – the relationship of disciples with a rabbi (a teacher).
Jesus invited the fishermen to come, follow Him. As the story unfolds, they will experience an even closer relationship with Jesus; they will see even more extraordinary things; they will hear profound teaching and be tested by challenging questions. Ultimately, they will witness the crucifixion and then the reality of the resurrection; then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and their mission as God’s ambassadors taking the message of the gospel to the world. And, of course, in that role, they would experience even more amazing things of God. From fishermen to fishers of men (and women).
How much of God are we experiencing? Where on that journey are we?
“Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” That was the transition from simply watching, to commitment. Jesus had said, “Come and see”. But now He was saying “Follow me.”
His invitation contains three parts that reveal three aspects of discipleship:
- Follow me – Christian disciples follow Jesus
- And I will make you – Christian disciples are being transformed by Jesus
- Fishers of people – Christian disciples engage in the mission of Jesus
I want to spend a little time looking at those three things. Two weeks ago, we said that followers commit, pay close attention, imitate and obey. Today let’s explore the transformation part. “I will make you.”
Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, James and John, “Come with me and I will change you. I will make you into something you are not now.” They responded to that. They immediately left their business in order to start this transformation process. There was something appealing about being transformed by this man, Jesus. Are you excited about the possibility that Jesus will change you? Or are you threatened by that?
Churches are sometimes the most conservative, change-resistant organisations on the face of the earth. How many Christian does it take to change a light bulb? Change? What’s that? There are all sorts of stories about how hard it is to get churches to change and yet the gospel is all about change. It is about repentance – turning our lives around. It is about growth to maturity; sanctification: becoming more holy; becoming more like Jesus. It is all about change.
We can find change threatening, but Peter, Andrew, James and John must have had a sense that, firstly, the change Jesus was talking about was going to be good, and, secondly, that they could trust this Jesus. He wasn’t going to hurt them. He wasn’t going to ruin their lives. He had shown Himself to be loving and to want the best for them. Are we equally convinced that we can put ourselves into the hands of God, trusting Him and knowing that He loves us and wants only the best for us?
That is a faith question: Do we have faith in God? That was the question those fishermen answered that day with a resounding “yes” and that began the next phase of their experience of God – the transformation phase; the growth phase; the change phase.
One thing to keep in mind here is that the objective for disciples of a rabbi was to become like the rabbi.
Luke 6:40 Students are not above their teachers, but all who are fully trained will be like their teacher.
Disciples of rabbis assiduously studied their rabbi, listening to his every word and watching his every action, in order to become like him. That would have been very much in the minds of the fishermen. By following Jesus, they would become like Him. So how did their training start?
The next things that happened are recorded in Mark 1:21-34.
In Capernaum, on the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue – and they would have followed Him. That’s what followers do. Followers follow. Jesus taught. They would have watched. In their minds would have been the thought, “If I am going to become like my rabbi, one day I am going to teach like Him.”
But His teaching was extraordinary. The people were amazed. They recognised something that made it different from the teaching of the teachers of the law. Authority. He made statements without having to quote others. His authority didn’t come from the fact that He could show that others agreed with Him. He simply said, “I say to you” and, for the people, His teaching rang true and caught their attention.
The disciples would have sat there thinking, “One day I will teach like that. This man is going to teach me how to do that” or maybe asking themselves, “Will I ever be able to teach like that?” They might have even felt inadequate: “There’s no way I will ever do that! I’m a fisherman. Why did He call me?”
We know the answer. Later they also taught with stunning authority. Think of Peter’s preaching on Pentecost – his very first public sermon – and the people were cut to the heart. They were convicted. Three thousand were converted.
All of the New Testament was written by early followers of Jesus and we believe this is the word of God. The church has submitted to their authoritative teaching for all these centuries. Of course, the authority came from God, not from them, but, yes, they would stand up in the synagogues and in the temple courts and in the market places and they would teach with authority.
So, back to Capernaum. A demon possessed man in the synagogue then cried out: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”
Imagine it! Suddenly there is a disturbance in the synagogue caused by these evil spirits. Confusion! Was Jesus going to destroy evil spirits? Was Jesus going to cause trouble? Then the man declares that Jesus was the Holy One of God, which was true of course but again, might have caused all sorts of confusion.
Jesus took control straight away. He sternly commanded that they be quiet. And then He commanded that they come out of the man. The demons shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
Again, the people were amazed. Again they recognised an authority that they had never seen before. “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him.”
Again, the disciples would have been sitting there thinking, “Will we do this one day? This seems so far out of my comfort zone. How will I ever have this sort of authority?” But, of course, they did. Their ministry looked just like Jesus’. Demon-possessed people were set free. At this stage it might have seemed impossible but that is what transformation is all about. Jesus had said, “I will make you…”
Can you imagine having that sort of authority? Maybe you are not even sure that you want it. But are you willing to let God change you?
Then there was the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and then the gathering of large crowds with Jesus healing many, many people and casting out many demons. Would the apostles one day do those same sorts of things? Yes they would. When Jesus had said, “Come, follow me and I will transform you” it was absolutely true. They would become like Him.
It wasn’t only the ministry skills. The apostles also saw the character of Jesus: compassion for the demon-possessed man, Peter’s mother-in-law, the crowds; His gentleness, His sacrificial love. In this passage we see the head, the heart and the hands: the head in the teaching, the heart in the compassion and the hands in the skills. And the apostles would grow to be like Jesus in all of those ways.
In some ways these events look exactly the same as the events we looked at prior to this call to follow – although this is the first recorded exorcism. They hadn’t seen that before. And in some ways they would still be asking, “Who is this man?” But now, as committed students of Jesus, they would also have in mind their transformation to become like Him.
I am not sure that when we hear the call to be Christians – the call to follow Jesus – that we hear this call to transformation but Jesus calls us to come and be changed
Transformation is clear in many passages:
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all…are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Some people, when they think about experiencing God, mean that they want their prayers answered and they want to see miracles but do they want to experience God changing them? Are they excited about what they might become? Are we excited about what we might become if we put ourselves into God’s hands and say, “Father, I am Yours. Do what you want to in my life. Change me to be the person You want me to be.” That change will always be good.
The first apostles knew that they were embarking on a journey of change. If they hadn’t realised it already, Jesus made it plain: “Follow me and I will make you…”
They said, ‘We want that.” They left everything to follow Jesus.
How did the transformation happen? It happened as they did those things that followers do – out of their commitment to Him, their paying close attention to Him, watching and imitating and their obedience of Him. It happened as they opened their lives to Jesus and let Him work in their lives.
I guess they had little idea they would one day do the very things He had done.
What is the potential for your life? What could you become as you let God transform you? We know that God wants to make us more like Jesus. What aspects of Jesus would you love to see in your own life?
Is God capable of doing that? Are you willing to let God do that?
Are you willing to work with God so that that might happen?
- To commit to Jesus and to open yourself up to let Him change you
- To pay close attention to Him; to study Him and listen to Him
- To imitate Him; to live like Jesus
- To obey Him. We take big steps forward in our growth when we take little steps of obedience.