I have been reading the One Year Chronological Bible (the New Living Translation’s version) and although I just finished Genesis, I have also been using it as a quick parallel gospel reference. The chronological Bibles put the stories in roughly chronological order (as determined by historical and scholarly research). In the Gospels, the various stories of Jesus are ordered by a combination of the gospel writer’s original order and estimated historical context. I have been using this time frame to locate each Sunday’s lectionary text “in time,” so to speak, with the other gospels.
The picture I have gotten over during Epiphany so far has been thought-provoking. We started two weeks ago with Jesus’ baptism by John. Last week, John again announced Jesus was the Son of God and two of John’s disciples left to follow Jesus. Next Sunday, Jesus begins his ministry after hearing John has been arrested and he calls Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave fishing nets to follow him. The sequence of these early events in Jesus’ ministry according to my chronological Bible (gospel writers are in parentheses) goes as follows:
1. Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist (Mark, Matthew, and Luke)
2. Jesus goes to the wilderness and is tempted (Mark, Matthew and Luke)
3. Jesus returns from the wilderness and goes to the area where John the Baptist is preaching. John tells everyone that Jesus is the Lamb of God. The next day, John tells two of his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God and those two disciples leave to follow Jesus. Jesus tells them to “Come and see.” Andrew, Peter, Phillip and Nathaniel (probably John, son of Zebedee also) accept his invitation (John).
4. Jesus and his friends go to the wedding at Cana, then travel around together. John the Baptist is still preaching at this time, but is arrested (John).
5. After John is arrested, Jesus begins his ministry in earnest (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John).
6. He calls Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him, telling them they will be fishers of people. (Mark and Matthew).
7. Jesus goes around the area healing, preaching and teaching. Peter’s mother-in-law is one of the people healed (Mark, Matthew, and Luke).
8. Jesus teaches by the Sea of Galilee. Peter and Andrew have a miraculous catch of fish, and Jesus calls them to be fishers of people (Luke).
9. Jesus does some more healing, preaching and teaching (Mark, Matthew and Luke).
10. Jesus calls Matthew to leave his tax booth and follow him (Mark, Matthew and Luke).
11. There is more healing, teaching and preaching (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John).
12. Jesus chooses the Twelve Apostles (Mark and Luke). Jesus would later send them out to preach and heal and cast out demons.
The various accounts of Jesus calling his disciples intrigued me. It would seem that there were several levels to Jesus’ call. Maybe it went something like this:
COME AND SEE. First, Jesus invited Andrew and John, and then Phillip to ‘come and see’ - an invitation to get to know Jesus better, to spend some time with him and find out what this kingdom of heaven business was all about. From their experience with Jesus Andrew went on to invite Peter, and Phillip invited Nathaniel (and John probably invited James, but that’s not specifically mentioned).
COME AND FOLLOW. After spending some time with his followers, Jesus upped the ante. He called them to follow him – to become his disciples, going where he went, doing what he did and learning from him. Because they came and they saw, Peter, Andrew, James and John were ready to take the next step to become disciples. Jesus also issues this call to Matthew, who suddenly appears in the text. We don’t know if Matthew’s decision to leave everything to follow Jesus was based on prior knowledge or a sudden insight.
COME AND SERVE. Jesus goes around teaching and healing and preaching. Crowds gather to hear him, but amidst the crowds were those who were regularly following Jesus. Out of this group, Jesus selects those who will become part of his inner circle, whom he will send out to preach and teach and heal.
It makes me think of stages on our own faith journeys. We all start out -whether in children’s Sunday school, or as an adult seeker or brand new Christian - getting to know Jesus, learning about God and what the kingdom of heaven is all about. We move from that first flush of faith to a deeper commitment, from learning to doing, becoming more serious about walking in the Master’s footsteps and learning from his example. Finally, we begin to reach out, to take what we have learned and use it to serve our families and friends, our communities and the world around us.[i]
Jesus calls us all.
Come and see.
Come and follow.
Come and serve.
[i] As I put this together, I realized that my stages have a similar structure to Rick Warren’s stages in his Purpose Driven Church, although I think he had 4 stages. While not intentionally using his framework, I think it only fair to give him a nod.