Today I want to talk about the choice that each person has to make when Jesus calls us them. We read about the disciples and apostles that followed Jesus and assume that this was set in stone, meant to be, that they automatically followed Him, but they were each given a choice. Some people chose not to. Jesus called some fishermen in Matthew chapter 4:18:
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Matthew 4:18–22 NASB
Peter and Andrew were brothers. James and John were brothers. They were partners in fishing and working near the village of Capernaum. When Jesus called them, they all left their nets and boats behind and they followed Him. They all became very involved in the ministry of Jesus and after extensive training, were named as apostles. Several of the twelve apostles lived near Capernaum. Later, Jesus called others to follow Him, Luke 9:59:
And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59–60 NASB).
Jesus told this man to follow Him, but he wanted to stay home until his father passed away, then follow Him. If the man’s father had been dead, then he would have been at home making arrangements for the burial, and not there listening to Jesus. He told him basically: “Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.” Continuing on:
Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61–62 NASB).
This one wanted to return home and say good-byes, which was a perfectly legitimate request. Elisha had asked the same. Jesus basically told him the call must come first. That no one looking back at the comforts that he was leaving behind would do well following Him. There would be times of persecution, tribulations, fasting, and many other discomforts ahead.
Levi the tax collector, who was later called Matthew and wrote the gospel according to Matthew, was sitting at a tax collector booth in Capernaum when Jesus called him. Tax collecting was a nasty business. The Romans had invaded Israel and were forcing the Jews to pay them taxes. Some taxes were incredibly inflated. There was a cart tax that charged an amount for each wheel, a poll tax that everyone paid just because you were alive, taxes for using the roads, and for docking in the harbors.
Taxes were collected using a method called tax farming where the Romans assessed a tax value to a province, and then auctioned the right to collect it to the highest bidder. The tax collector then had the right to stop anyone on the road in that province, go through their goods, and demand payment for whatever they felt like collecting from them. If the people could not pay the tax, then they would offer to loan them the money at an exorbitant interest rate. It was a dirty business and because it was often Jews collecting the taxes for the Romans, they were considered traitors to the nation and the most hated people in Israel. That is why you see references like: “this man eats with tax collectors and sinners!”
Yet Jesus saw something in Matthew sitting behind that tax collector booth beyond the surface. He saw who he could become if given the chance. He saw the apostle Matthew inside of him. So He called him to follow in Luke 5:27:
After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. (Luke 5:27–28 NASB).
Tax collecting was a lucrative business and Matthew was probably the wealthiest apostle. He left everything behind, made no excuses, just stood up and followed Jesus. Then he gave his own going-away party, and probably introduced all his friends to Jesus. He was offered a new life, a fresh start, and he took it. He broke from the past, and unlike Peter and the others who could return to their fishing, Matthew would not be able to return to his position very easily if following Jesus didn’t work out. He chose Jesus, went on to become an apostle, and later he wrote the gospel of Matthew. How many others would have, could have, should have, but were too busy?
There was a rich man that came to Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do spiritually in Luke 18:22:
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! (Luke 18:22–24 NASB).
Once again the price was too great for the one that heard “Follow Me.” This man could not part with his wealth. It was not having the wealth that was a problem, it was his inability to part with it. Basically if the Lord tells you to give, then you must. The call must come first, not your possessions. Trust the Lord, put Him first, and He will take care of you.
God has a plan for each of us, but some are too busy today doing something that they think is more important. Jesus called people from all walks of life to follow Him. Some did, others chose not to. Each had their own reason. Each made their choice.
Matthew the tax collector came from the lowest of the low, an outcast who was banned from even entering a Jewish synagogue, and Jesus made him into a great apostle because he chose yes. Each of us have the same choice to make.
You can pray this with me if you like:
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I choose to follow You and I want to experience all that You have for me. Please give me a fresh start, a clear vision, and guide me from this day forth. Jesus come and be a part of my life today, be my Lord and Savior, in Your name I pray. Amen.Read more at: www.refreshinghope.org