Background Text: Mark 1:16-20
Devotional Text: John 17:23
As we enter the season of Lent, it is the time we especially study the ministry of Jesus, how it all began, and what it has become worldwide.
It all began with Jesus calling four fishermen. First Jesus called to Simon Peter and his brother Andrew (Mark 1:16-20) to “come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The Scripture tells us they left their nets and went to follow Jesus.
Further on, Jesus saw two more brothers, James and John. When he called to them, they left their father Zebedee in the boat and followed Jesus.
As we continue through the Gospel stories, we find Jesus reaching out to all kinds of people: regular citizens waiting for the Messiah, as well as those who were thought to be unclean, demon-possessed, rich or poor, young or old, all races and cultures. For Jesus, there was (and still are!) no borders. All are welcome to follow him.
We’ve seen in a recent column how Jesus went to the home of Jairus, a religious leader (Mark 5:21-45) whose daughter had just died. A member of the very people who criticized Jesus had come to him for help, and Jesus responded with love, raising the child from the dead.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 6:43-48). His words reminded us that it’s easy to love someone who loves us in return, but to love someone who is against us is what God calls us to do — just as Jesus himself emphasized in his own meetings with various people.
Even when Jesus was on his way to see Jairus’ daughter, a woman in the crowd who had been bleeding for 12 years came and touched his robe, hoping to be healed. This woman would have been thought unclean due to her ailment. Yet Jesus, in his compassion, sought out the woman who touched him and said to her, “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Then there was the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-30), whom Jesus began a conversation with. Jesus had sent his disciples into town, so he was alone when he spoke to the woman. She would have been seen as unclean because of her lifestyle (a divorced woman who had had five husbands and was currently living with a man who was not her husband).
Yet Jesus spoke to her as a friend, and told her the good news that he was bringing into the world. When the disciples returned to the well and saw Jesus talking to the woman, they tried to rebuke Jesus, who then rebuked them in return!
Meanwhile, the woman went into town, telling everyone that she had met a men who could be the Messiah, causing many to come out to meet him.
At another time, in Mark 10:13-16, parents brought their little children to see Jesus. As the children neared him, his disciples tried to keep them away.
Again, Jesus rebuked his disciples, telling them that “it is such as these that are welcome in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus “took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”
In Mark 1:40-43, a man with leprosy came to Jesus for healing. No one would have dared go near such a diseased person, let alone touch him. But Jesus reached out his hand and touched him, and the man was immediately healed.
We find Jesus meeting the tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Not only does Jesus see this short man watching him from the limbs of a tree, but Jesus calls him down, has conversation with him, saves his household and makes plans to eat with him.
Tax collectors were hated by the people because many of them collected more than they were supposed to, thus accumulating money for themselves.
Loving Followers From All Walks of Life
The Gospels are full of stories concerning how Jesus broke through the present climate toward people — those who were thought unclean, those hated for what they represented to the people, and even the little children who were not given any importance.
In John 17:23, Jesus says this about his relationship with the Father God, and our relationship with him: “I in them, and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
After the resurrection, the apostles of Jesus continued his ministry of love and acceptance, and drawing all peoples to God.
In Colossians 3:11, Paul writes to us, “in this new life it doesn’t matter if you are Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, uncivilized, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in us all.”
The Gospels show us the work of Jesus as reconciler, the one who shows us God’s plan for us, as we choose to follow him.
In Galatians 5:7-21, Paul writes to us about how to live together and admonishes us to put away the sinful nature.
On the other hand, as we follow Jesus, he says, we have the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), who lives in all believers. Against these fruits there is no law because these are the ways that bring about a good life for the people of God.
Peter explains it this way: “Have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
More than any figure in history, Jesus is the one who has brought the most people together, and he’s still at it! By his love and acceptance of humanity, Jesus set the world on fire. That fire, represented by the Holy Spirit, has never gone out. It continues moving through believers and those who will become believers.