During the 1930s horse racing was at its apex in America. Tom Smith had the ability to see what no one else could see when he discovered an injured, unruly small horse named Seabiscuit. He quietly transformed the horse into a champion. When asked why he devoted himself to this injured animal, Smith says, “You don’t throw a whole life away just ‘cuz it’s banged up a little.”
That’s an apt description of the way Jesus gathered His original band of disciples. In Jesus’ day, the brightest and best students would typically present themselves as candidates for discipleship to famous Jewish rabbis. These boys would approach a rabbi and ask, “May I have the privilege of following you?” If the rabbi consented, they would gather up their things and fall in line with that teacher’s band of learners.
Then there were the other students – boys who would go back home and continue their apprenticeship with their fathers – learning a trade they would practice for the rest of their lives. The surprise that emerges from the 4 Gospels is these common, everyday young men – who were never going to rock the world of theological scholarship or proficiency – became Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus did something no self-respecting rabbi would ever do. He went out and recruited them. “Put down your fishing nets. Walk away from your tax collector’s booth. Leave behind the life you thought you were going to live. Come and join my band of learners.”
Jesus was working with the equivalent of a dozen college age kids. The 12 were not bored, midlife adults who gradually became open to a challenging second career in global mission work. Instead, they stood at the doorway of the rest of their lives.
We know something else about them: they were seriously flawed individuals. They made lots of mistakes. They said stupid things. They were biased, blind, fearful and selfish. However, Jesus is in the reclamation business and He has a way with banged-up, rejected people.
He called a dozen students into a living relationship with Him and showed them a life of loving God and others. The good news is Jesus offers us a standing invitation to join Him too. He never throws a whole life away just because it’s banged up. Welcome to Discipleship!
-Rev Dr William Lewis