This week, we've been looking at some of the ways that persons came to Jesus in the Gospels. It would be foolish here not to say a few words about those who came because they were called.
Of course, we're talking about the disciples when we talk about those who were called by Jesus. Simon and Andrew were out fishing when Jesus called them. They dropped their nets and followed Him. James and John were fishing, as well. They dropped their nets, left their father, and followed him. Matthew was sitting in his tax collecting booth, probably actively swindling some poor Jew out of more than he truly owed, when Jesus called him. He left mid-scam, dropped his profits, and followed the Prophet.
These stories are very familiar to us. But in addition to the twelve disciples that Jesus called, He called at least two others in the Gospels, and their stories are important for our understanding, as well.
He called the rich young ruler after the man tried to boast about his own faithfulness. The young man, who had kept all of the commandments since he was little, needed just one more thing: to come where Jesus was calling him to come. And he couldn't do it. Well, he wouldn't do it. The cost, in his opinion, was too high, and it was not a price he was willing to pay.
Jesus calls another man in the heart of the Gospel of Luke, but this man says he cannot come. He's got other things he needs to do first. Jesus tells him that's not good enough, but it turns out that's not good enough for the man. He doesn't come. Interestingly, however, two others in this scene say that they'll come. They, too, have things they need to do first, and Jesus tells them, as well, that those things are not that important, so it's not clear whether or not these men actually came, but they were willing, even though it was the other guy who was actually called.
It's kind of a mess, but these stories tell us some pretty clear things about what it means to be called by Jesus. First, Jesus calls sinners, even when they are actively in the middle of sinning. Second, Jesus calls those who are pretty sure they don't need Jesus to call them. Third, Jesus calls those who are just busy doing their thing, living quiet, normal lives of whatever it is that they do. These are important ideas because we so often look around at those who want to come to Jesus, and we try to figure out if they are worthy or not. We look at the sinner, the arrogant, the unremarkable, and it's easy for us to say that Jesus is not really for them. That they have no business coming to Him.
But Jesus reminds us that they have every business coming to Him. They come because they have been called.
Another important point in these stories is that sometimes, those who have not been called come because someone else has been called. Jesus called one man in the story in Luke, and three responded. The man called did not come, but two others showed up and said they would go (even though we don't know whether they did or not). This means that when your pastor says that you need to invite someone to come to church with you, you should probably invite someone to come to church with you. Some are going to come to Jesus just because they know someone who has been called.
So we've seen a lot of different ways that persons came to Jesus in the Gospels this week, and there are more. But these are enough to get us started rethinking what it means to us when someone comes to Jesus. We have certain expectations, but really, we shouldn't. There are all kinds of things happening here.
Some walk right up and, humbling themselves, are accepted and healed. Some walk right up and, boasting of themselves, are rejected and dismissed. Some are brought to Jesus by caring friends and family who know what He can offer them, and they are rewarded for their loved ones' faith. Some are found by Jesus in the course of just living their regular lives and are transformed. And some are called, even by name, and either come or do not come.
And not one, we might add, not one story in all the Gospels tells us of a grievous sinner who comes crawling on his knees, clothes torn, tears streaming down his face, head bowed, crying out "unclean! unclean!" the way we so often want the horrible, evil, wicked sinners in our churches to come. Not. one.