Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Now we come to Jesus' 3rd call: Come and Be with me!
Jesus’ call to “be with Him” occurs at the mid-point of His earthly ministry. This is 14-16 months since He began His ministry, and is 16 months before His crucifixion. It occurs at one point in time, not repeatedly. Here are the key facts we are told about this event:
And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons. And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder"); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when the day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. … Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. … When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. Luke 9:1-2, 6, 10
Jesus’ call to “be with Him” is the call to CLOSENESS AND COMMUNITY. It differs from the second call in two key ways.
First, as we saw, one can follow at a distance. But to be “with” someone, one must continually be close. I picture shoulder-to-shoulder. “With Him” suggests more of a partnership. And indeed that is what occurs during this stage; Jesus sends the twelve out to do what He has been doing, namely, preaching the gospel (i.e., proclaiming the kingdom of God – life from God’s perspective) and healing. The twelve are sharing in Jesus’ ministry. And He gives them coaching, both before they go and after they return and report.
Second, the earlier call to “Follow” is made to individual men. Jesus calls each person into a one-to-one relationship with Him. So we might think of it as Jesus and Peter, Jesus and John, Jesus and Matthew, etc. Jesus has a personal connection with each of His Followers, but the connection among the Followers, with one another, may well have been casual and shallow. It may only have been like a crowd of fans around a celebrity.
In contrast to this, Jesus now prayerfully singles out twelve specific men and calls them into community, not just with Himself but with each other as well. This takes the twelve to a whole new level of seeing and living life from God’s perspective.
Previously, they could keep their “masks” on and look good to each other. Now they can’t hide so easily. Before, they could easily get along. Now they begin to compete; they start to argue about who is going to be greatest in this Kingdom Jesus talks about. In short, their real characters begin to show.
Jesus wants them to see a deeper level of their sinfulness and depravity – and of their need for a Savior, for Him. He wants them to learn that they cannot be His disciples without confronting who they are on the inside. It is not enough to just look good on the outside. This only happens in close community, as in a family. After all, they are to become brothers.
I think of Jesus’ calling the twelve as the start of the Church. We tend to think of that as happening at Pentecost. But I think Jesus was gathering and preparing the core for it (and maybe the corps for it, too!) during these 16 months. We might say that the Church was born at Pentecost, but it was conceived with the calling of the 12.
Although the 12 aren’t yet all they will become His disciples, they are on the way. On the SM/T Graph, they are at the second of our three thresholds, between Follower and Mature Disciple. They are getting real with Jesus and each other; they are learning to work together in unity; they are involved in Jesus’ ministry. They are “manning up” spiritually.
Next month, we will talk about the 4th and final call of Jesus: Abide in me!