by David Sisler

It started with a strange preacher named John.

John called on people to change their way of thinking about God. He demanded that they demonstrate the change in their hearts through a ceremony called water baptism. He dipped so many people under the waters of the Jordan River he was nicknamed, The Baptist.

If John had been a musical composer, his works would have been very boring. He would have used only one note. His compositions would not have been called variations on a theme, but variations on a note. His only note, his only message was, "Repent - change your hearts, change your mind about God and the way you are living - because the Kingdom of God is close at hand."

In spite of his rough appearance - he lived in the desert, wore only rough leather clothes, and ate simple fare - many people were attracted to him. One of those who came to hear John was his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. John took one look at Jesus and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world!" Then John told his followers, "Jesus must increase. I must decrease."

Gradually the people gravitated to Jesus. He performed miracles and spoke about God like no one ever had before Him. Soon the crowds swelled to thousands. From among those thousands Jesus chose twelve men whom He trained and commissioned to carry His work farther than their Teacher could.

The events which led up to the Cross came to a climax during one awesome week. Before that week arrived, Jesus spent three and one-half years molding those men to His design.

Those were exciting, heady, days.

Diseases which baffled doctors yielded to Jesus' touch or to His words.

Death was conquered by His new life.

Demons fled from His presence.

And He instilled the power to do those works into the Twelve. One day they came back from a preaching mission and exclaimed, "Wow, Jesus! Even the devils submit to us when we proclaim your name!"

Those twelve men were so different from each other, about the only thing they had in common was Jesus. They were as different as twelve men could be. Look at two: Matthew, the tax collector, and Simon, the Zealot.

To become a tax collector, a Jew had to turn against his own people. Anything collected above Rome's portion belonged to the collector. Graft and greed were part of the system. Because of that, Matthew was an outcast, a traitor to his country.

Simon, on the other hand, was a violent nationalist, dedicated to overthrowing Rome and returning Israel to its former greatness.

The man who was lost to patriotism and the fanatical patriot came together to follow Jesus. Jesus insisted that the most diverse people could live together and He gave them the power to mold their infinite diversity into infinite combinations.

The first disciples felt the magnetic attraction of Jesus. There was something about Him that made them wish to take Him as their Master. And they had the courage to show that they were on His side.

Make no mistake, that did require courage.

Jesus was calmly crashing through the rules and regulations of Orthodox Judaism, heading for an inevitable collision with the religious leaders. He was already labeled a sinner and a heretic and would be tried as a blasphemer. No band of men ever staked more on such a distant hope as these Galileans, and no band of men ever did it with more open eyes. They had all kinds of faults, one would eventually loose the vision and betray the Master, but whatever else could be said about them, they loved Jesus and they were not afraid to tell the world that they loved Him.

These men gave up their jobs, their social positions, their families, and eventually their lives to follow Jesus. If you want to learn what discipleship is, you would do well to think again of those first disciples.

Do you want to be a disciple, a Christian? Before you answer, look one more time at Calvary, because that's where it starts and the Christ of Calvary demands that you, too, pick up your cross and follow Him.


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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