The Great Invitation
How would you respond if someone were to ask, “How committed are you to following Jesus?” Some of us might get offended. “What? I’m totally committed. I’d die for him.” Others might not be as confident, but with head hung low, confess, “Sadly, my actions deny the commitment of my words.”
What does commitment look like? Various definitions include statements like “devoted,” “pledged,” and “resolved.” One dictionary says that commitment is “an obligation that restricts freedom of action.”
When I commit, my options become limited. I’m locked into a definite course of action. My path narrows and freedom of decision is restricted.
When Jesus called his first disciples to “follow me,” he was inviting them to walk the road of submission, where they would willingly forgo their own wisdom to entrust themselves fully to the ways and will of the Christ.
We see this in Mark 1:16-20, in quite dramatic fashion.
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
If you are unfamiliar with how rabbinical training took place in ancient Israel, a teacher would invite students into a unique relationship of life and training, where the disciples’ aim was not only to learn the content of the rabbi’s message but imitate the discipler’s life. It was instruction by immersion that demanded total dedication to the process. For such resolve, one had to believe the outcome would be worth the investment.
James and John were in the family fishing business. They were not rich but made a living. The same was true for Simon and Andrew.
What would cause them to give up their livelihood and walk away from security and family loyalty? Most likely, this wasn’t the first time these men had encountered Jesus. When they receive “the call,” they get up and follow him “at once,” or as the ESV translates their urgency, “immediately.”
They were not hypnotized or under a spell. The men are willing to follow this peasant preacher because they had some expectation that he was special. Maybe they couldn’t put their finger on it. But they had a sense. Giving it all up for Jesus will be worth it.
They were committed.
But can we be honest? These strong, able-bodied workers of the sea are not the heroes of Mark’s gospel. Not even close. We know that their commitment would give out. By the end of the account of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he is left alone—to die.
The original disciples who had shown such commitment were revealed as cowards. They had one job. Be faithful to the teacher. Yet they failed.
But then something happened to these and the other followers of Jesus. No longer did they cower and hide, denying Jesus. They stood up and proclaimed him as the crucified, risen, and reigning King. For most of them, a commitment to Jesus led to their own deaths as martyrs.
What changed? Being filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a major influence. Along with that internal renewal of courage, I think that something else stood out as the dynamite the Spirit used to empower their newfound devotion.
They witnessed the commitment of Jesus. In his incarnation, he had one job—to save sinners. His options were limited. Willingly, he locked himself into a definite, unalterable course of action with a narrow path and restricted freedom. He would show his resolve by walking the ultimate road of submission, entrusting himself without hesitation to the will of the Father.
In his unfailing, unreserved commitment to save them from their sins, Jesus was crucified, being judged in their place and setting them free from the condemnation they deserved. The disciples’ loyalty to the Savior was fueled by the Savior’s exponentially greater commitment to them. This is the power of grace.
It is the same grace that you and I need to receive if we are to be committed to the Jesus who is committed to us. Like the original disciples, we will fall and fail. Maybe you won’t. If so, well done. But for the rest of us, it will serve us well to keep our eyes fixed on the author and perfected of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross as the ultimate act of devotion those whom he came to save.