Truth be told, the moment Jesus starts his public ministry, he makes the most profound statement to a community molded by societal norms. Instead of heading to Rome to get the Emperor to follow him; instead of heading to the Temple to get the Chief Priest to follow him; instead of heading to the business owners of Jerusalem with their immensity of wealth to follow him; he simple heads out to the country and invites a motley crew of ordinary people—fishermen, tax collectors and the like.
We have the whole story now, but I imagine that generation snickered with Jesus’ selection. He chased after those who really didn’t bring much to the table—no power, little wealth and certainly a people lacking in any real prestige. Not only that, there is certainly a doubt about Jesus to begin with!
In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is out calling disciples. He calls a man named Philip who then goes to tell his buddy Nathanael about this guy who has invited him to follow which, he believes, fulfills the scriptures. Nathanael’s response is classic—“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
To that, Philip simply says, “Come and see.” There is something about that line—Come and see. It is full of action and invitation. It is the story of all the faithful: that we seldom come believing first, we come seeking. We come to Jesus wanting to know more, to taste for ourselves the Bread of Life, to experience the healing hand of Jesus on our shoulder.
I have a deeply held suspicion about the crowd Jesus first invites. The reason this is the crowd invited was that this community had a hunger and a willingness to live into a new way of being. Those who have ascended seldom seek, nor desire, change or transformation; for their lives are good just as they are. And that is the danger of anyone who is ‘comfortable’ in life—we miss the thrilling adventure of walking with faith, behind one who invites us to die to self (and comfort), to rise with the Spirit’s power.