After Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and the time he spent in the desert, Jesus returned to Galilee to begin his traveling ministry. Mark’s gospel recalls the selection of four common fishermen to be his disciples. Think of these every day commoners and ask yourselves, “Why did Jesus choose these ordinary men for his important work?”
Have you ever thought about the smartest people in the world and how they might make the world a better place? Ken Jennings won 74 consecutive matches on Jeopardy taking home more than $2.5 million. Garry Kasparov, 22years old, a Russian chess player, was the youngest undisputed chess player, later beaten at chess by an IBM computer. The World Genius Directory, developed by Dr. Jason Betts claims the smartest person in the world is Dr. Evangilos Katsioulis, a Greek psychologist with an IQ of 198, twice that of the average person. Access to some of these “brainiacs” might have major perks when trying to solve some of our church’s financial issues.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is in the recruitment mode, actively drafting members of his team. They are people that he knows will be given the task of igniting a spiritual movement that will eventually spread around the globe and endure for thousands of years. If you were Jesus, what criteria would you use to pick the members of this elite team? Would you hit up the World Genius Directory to find the biggest brain in Palestine and ask him/her to be in charge of logistics? Don’t forget to find someone
with an outstanding sense of humor to cheer the team on when the going gets tough. How about a strong-arm to defend the band when they meet with relentless opposition?
Oddly from our perspective, who does Jesus choose but the unqualified. Your Sunday school lessons taught you that Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were respected fishermen in their day–but they were young men in a world where life expectancy was low and James and John, old enough to be established in a trade and to have a business of their own, were still working with their father, Zebedee, in the boat with them. The ideal career for most young Hebrews was not to be taking over the family business, but to be under the tutelage of a local rabbi. On the ancient site of Peter’s house, you can see the synagogue up the hill–the gathering place for Jews to learn and pray. The brightest boys who had shined in Hebrew school and stood out in their memorization of the Torah, would spend the next few years tagging along as disciples of the rabbi–if they made the cut! To be a man embedded in the family trade, most likely you were not the cream of the crop in Hebrew school and did not have what it takes to run with the rabbis. Those kids were the leftovers, the ones who did not get picked to play touch football or kickball or soccer.
If you have not seen “Spare Parts,” you might want to consider it. Al Heinz, longtime member and Elder here was a former principal at Carl Hayden High School. He taught shop and created the program to teach students necessary skills to work in the construction field. He built our Education Building with the help of church volunteers. “Spare Parts,” depicts kids who are considered discards, or cast offs–many illegal citizens and from poor families, determined not to have much potential in the future. A substitute teacher was hired to head up a Robotics Club that worked with four young men in whom nobody recognized their potential. Amazingly, with creativity and determination they built an underwater robot out of parts from the local hardware store and beat out the prestigious MIT team to win first place–and put Carl Hayden High School on the map.
God created each of us in his image and determined us to be perfect, equipped to do the work that he has set before us. Jesus did not pick the brightest kids from other rabbis and build a dream team. He went on a mission to draft the leftovers. Why? Jesus chose simple and unaccomplished disciples to follow him so that the love of God and the work of the kingdom would be undeniably evident in an unbelieving world. The simple, unschooled tradesmen would become living, breathing object lessons on the depths of God’s grace and the scope of God’s power. No one would be able to say that they were privileged to walk with Jesus because of their resume’s. No one could say that the growth of the kingdom would be credited to their IQ. It was all God’s doing. If you look ahead to Acts 4 and consider the post-resurrection activities of the disciples, the former fishermen are boldly championing the expansion of God’s kingdom. The Jewish authorities are blown away by the messengers and the contents of their messages. Luke wrote, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, they perceived that they were uneducated, common men (Acts 4:13), and they were astonished.” The gospel being delivered through such unexpected messengers, elicited an even greater awe of God and even clearer evidence of Jesus’ power.
The big question for this morning is why do you think God chose you? Ultimately, it is because God loves you. Did God call you to Christ through his Word and draw you to the waters of baptism, marking you as his own and placing every promise of the cross upon your life because God saw something awesome in you? NO. God called you for the same reason he called the first twelve:
you are an example of the depths of God’s grace and the scope of God’s power;
you have a rebellious heart;
you have secret struggles;
you have a lack of faith and a long list of faults;
you know you are unworthy to tie God’s shoes, let alone be called a child of God;
God chose you so that the world might look at you and see that God is indescribably merciful and incredibly powerful.
What did the first twelve do when Jesus called them? They dropped everything and followed. So, tomorrow when my annoying neighbor’s tree continues to drop pool filter clogging pods, leaves and flowers into my pool, I should see it as a gift of grace and a chance for God’s power to shine through my weakness. When Jesus calls us to follow him into illness or to endure a burden, it is a gift of grace and an opportunity for God’s power to shine in our moments of weakness. It simply is not easy! Every day there is an opportunity to be a disciple for the world to watch in astonishment as ordinary, unscholarly, undeserving people live as examples of God’s mercy and proof of God’s power.
God did not have to choose us but God has chosen us, to use us. The end result is not just a blessing for us and those God calls us to serve. The end result is glory for God’s name.
A colleague of mine has a phone message that ends, “God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the called.” Go out and be a blessing to others to the glory of God.