John 1: 35-36
“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”
What would compel two men, based on a simple word from the one that they followed, to stop everything in a mere moment and join this enigmatic man on his unknown journey?
I’ve always wondered about the stories of how Jesus “recruited” his first disciples. It’s really mind-blowing if you consider all the circumstances, and how quick they were to make their decisions. I mean, how often do we make decisions without some measure of hesitation, or at least taking some time to weigh the pros and cons of the choice? But when we read the gospels, it certainly paints the picture that these men in no more than a few seconds eagerly and joyfully followed Jesus. All it took for some was the claim from that crazy John the Baptist that he was the Lamb of God. All it took for others was Jesus calling their name. All it took for Nathaniel was the fact that Jesus saw him under a fig tree.
It makes you wonder what it was that led up to these moments in each of these men’s hearts and lives. To me, it appears obvious that they were prepared for the call—primed and ready to respond with open hearts and large faith. Yet I think their preparation might look different than what we would often expect for people who are called into ministry. Not that I claim to know all of their histories—just a conjecture based on what I’ve been learning about Jesus and myself and what my personal journey has looked like.
I think the readiness of the disciples’ hearts had more to do with a growing hunger than with being fully mature. If I’ve discovered anything about God’s callings on people’s lives it would be that he doesn’t call the qualified. But he does call those with desire and those willing to dream and think outside of boxes and ways of thinking that have become accepted as the norm. He calls those who may still have a lot of fear but whose passion to see things change far outweighs fear’s power in their minds. He calls those who may not know this yet. But he calls those whom he knows will lay aside the limitations that have stamped them into a certain mold in society, even if it takes some time for them to heal and accept their true identity.
The first disciples were ordinary people, at least in the eyes of men. But I believe that each of them felt something in their spirit that told them they were made for more. They felt a greatness inside that didn’t necessarily relate to their current contribution to the culture but that did speak to an identity woven inside them before their creation. I believe these men had an unsettled sense in their spirits with the way things were—both within the church and outside of it. Jesus was unexpected—not the Messiah the Jews were looking for, but he was different than anyone else, and I think the would-be disciples saw that in him and were prepared because of this restlessness inside to follow him.
From the words that we read, it seems all it took was for Jesus to pass by or call their names. And they jumped up and ran after him immediately so as not to miss their opportunity. Some people might think they were crazy. I think Jesus looked in their eyes and saw this “crazy” as ideal soil to plant his truth. Jesus saw hunger, passion, and openness in these men that would eventually turn into radical faith and a compulsion to spread the good news.
They may not have even seen it in themselves, but when Jesus passed by, this elusive “knowledge” that things wouldn’t be right until someone was crazy enough to push the boundaries ballooned in their spirits so they could do nothing but respond.
For Nathaniel, all he needed was that tiny miracle of being seen in order to jump on board with both feet. This is profound. We all need someone who sees us for who we really are, who sees what no one else may see and calls it out of us. It’s amazing how people respond when someone touches on their true identity.
I think this is what happened with each of the disciples.
Hunger plus a true spirit calling to the true self inside of them equaled leaving everything behind in a moment to follow this man of a different Kingdom.
Isn’t it astonishing how a moment can so dramatically alter eternal destiny?