At last Tuesday’s Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark, we were looking at the call of the first disciples (1: 16—20). As so often happens when we read this story, we were struck by how unhesitatingly Simon and Andrew and James and John responded. Jesus says “Follow me,” and not only do they leave everything behind (in the case of James and John even their father), but they do so “immediately.”
Their response catches our attention because we are aware that we don’t always respond so quickly, let alone in such a life-changing way. As a result, we are often feeling that our discipleship is terribly inadequate in comparison to the first bunch.
But consider this: Although these first disciples did indeed respond quickly, as we follow their story "immediately" and "decisively" won’t always be the way we would describe their behavior. In fact, Peter (formerly Simon) will reveal his ineptitude on more than one occasion, including denying that he even knows Jesus at all just prior to his crucifixion. These disciples apparently have both the capacity to get on board with what God is doing, but they are also prone to “jumping ship” when the going gets rough.
Don’t we have more in common with these disciples than we first thought?
Most of us have indeed responded to God’s call immediately. We responded quickly to a neighbor in need. We signed up immediately for a mission trip. We were the first to lend a hand. But when our efforts to make this world a better place with God’s help don’t happen as quickly as we hope, or when we meet overt resistance, we bail out much too quickly.
Thankfully Mark’s Gospel reminds that Jesus never stops inviting us to follow. He calls us in the beginning (1:16—20); he call us again in the middle of the story (8:34); and he calls to begin the whole journey again at the end of the Gospel (16:6). Disciples respond and disciples fail, but the invitation keeps coming. Thanks be to God!