Part III: JESUS CONTINUES TO TEACH BY EXAMPLE (i.e. FIRST PHASE OF DISCIPLING) Note: References from the Gospel of Mark, unless otherwise indicated.
Three out of the first four “disciples” summoned by Jesus would end up being His inner circle among the eventual twelve that composed His apostolic team. This first group had the longest time with Jesus for their training as a mobile learning community. Groups like this were often seen accompanying rabbis – although they may have generally been younger interns fresh out of synagogue school, instead of manual laborers making a mid-life career change..
It could have been that as young men, the four fishermen had hoped they would be invited to follow a rabbi after studying hard in their synagogue classes. Disappointment may have lurked in their hearts as they fished, recalling their desire to teach others the treasures in the Scriptures that were read and explained to them by their rabbi. As they now went along with Jesus, they were probably waiting to wake up from a dream. Their appetites for learning were certainly insatiable in the presence of this amazing and mysterious Jesus, whose invitation for them to leave all and follow Him seemed like an invitation to forsake rags to gain riches.
Their sense of awe was beginning to build as they saw His quiet and courteous miracle at the wedding, performed out of deference to His earthly mother. Then they listened to Him out-teach the scribes, in spite of their advanced degrees and vacillating interpretations. What really made the news was the unclean spirit that Jesus sent packing in the synagogue. Jesus follows that with the private healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. The meal she served them may have been eaten just in time to receive “the whole city gathered at the door”, bringing to Jesus “all who were ill and…demon-possessed.” He “healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” A very full evening, for sure!
But instead of sleeping in the next morning, Jesus got up “in the early morning, while it was still dark,…and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.” (See Mark 1:21-35.)
“Simon and his companions” tried to involve themselves in the management of Jesus’ ministry the next morning when people started coming to the house - and Jesus was missing. They “hunted for Him; and they found Him, and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’” But instead of returning for this eager crowd, Jesus started in another direction with a statement about His calling and their mission, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for.” (1:38)
“And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.” (1:39) Going head to head with Satan seems to be a focus here, as Jesus “preaches” the truth to dispel the darkness that prevailed over the land – and then plundered the domain of the evil one by evicting demons from their human dwellings. No healings are mentioned at this point – until a new challenge appears - “a leper came to him…” It is probable that the crowd around Jesus hastily backed up to make room for the leper, to avoid any possibility of direct contact with him.
They stared as Jesus warmly received this social outcast, who “fell on his knees before Him…saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Jesus certainly could have healed the man without touching him – an example the disciples would certainly have preferred for their own ministry style. But instead, Jesus was “moved with compassion…and stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” (1:40-41) One can only imagine the gasps and celebration that followed this exchange so closely observed by all present. The disciples were certainly learning through their front-row observations of the Word become flesh!
This event really blew the roof off of whatever still lacked in public awareness of Jesus’ ministry. Because of the healed leper’s testimony “Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.” (1:45)
It would seem that this crew of leader novices would have had trouble sleeping at night, trying to process all that they were seeing. When in all of Israel’s history had such things taken place in these proportions - and with this frequency? And the venues for their occurrences were out of the way places among common people, performed by a man with no earthly credentials. Their hearts must have been close to bursting, trying to take it all in.
NEXT ISSUE: JESUS RECRUITS THE REST OF HIS APOSTLES-TO-BE