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Jesus' Co-Workers



Most of us, if we have held employment will have had co-workers. Some places of employment may have hundreds of co-workers. Others, maybe just a few. And, unless you are the head of the company, you probably didn’t have the privilege of choosing those co-workers. I have been in a position having the responsibility to select co-workers. I found that selecting the best person, the one who will be most productive for the company is not an easy task, nor a sure one.

As we look at the passages in the Gospel of Mark we see Jesus selecting His co-workers. And unlike the uncertainty of my co-worker selections, Jesus’ selections were assuredly the best men for the work.

Mark 1:16-20 tells us “As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me and I will make your fishers of men. “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.’

“Going on a little farther, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending their nets. Immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.”

Then, in Chapter 2, verses 13-14 we find Jesus again going out to the seashore, where all the people were coming to Him, and he was teaching them. “As He passed by, He said Levi, the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he got up and followed Him.”

Why did Jesus go out seeking these particular men to follow with Him in His walk on earth? There are two reasons. First, He knew He could not accomplish His mission on earth without the help of some co-workers. Secondly, He knew He could mold these fishermen and a tax collector into effective workers in His missions. He needs friends He can trust. He needs disciples He can teach, and share His task. So, He selects these untrained men to follow and learn from Him as He carries out His purpose.

We know they were not trained in Jesus-work. But remember what Jesus said to them: “Come after Me and I will make you fishers of men.” These men who answered His call were asked to be trustworthy, teachable, and task-oriented.

As Jesus called them to follow Him He was exercising a test of trust – testing their trustworthiness. He would train them in loyalty, confidence, and openness. If at any time, those lines of communication became broken, the relationship would deteriorate. In teaching that to these men, He teaches us that respect for co-workers in the Lord is demanded. This is also required in the Church of Jesus Christ. Without trust, Jesus’ co-workers cannot survive the work of the Church.

Jesus needs trust in those He chooses to work with Him. Peter was, of course, among those first called to follow Jesus, and he was the first to violate that trust and loyalty. At Peter’s denial of Christ on the night of His arrest, Jesus looked at Peter as if to say,”Peter, I trusted you.” Trust and Loyalty are the first qualifications for discipleship.

Jesus also chose Teachable men. He needed men who would be willing to learn all that He had to teach them. He promises them a lifelong learning and growth process. He chose unschooled and unsophisticated men. To us, his choices would be seen as a miserable start toward evangelizing the world. But, as we know, Jesus knows – always – what He is doing.

Jesus wants men without preconceived ideas and opinions or cultural mindsets. He wants to mold them and develop them, making them capable of carrying out the evangelization of the world. In the same way, He wants to mold us and make up capable of winning the world to Him.

David McKenna tells this story about himself: “I am a self-make tennis player, modestly successful in a game built upon bad habits. A tennis lesson destroys me because I begin trading confidence in bad strokes for hesitation with good strokes. Of all the students of tennis, I am the worst kind because I must unlearn bad habits before I can stamp in the good ones. My 12-year-old son is just the opposite. With nothing to unlearn, he stroke the ball better after 3 lessons than I do after 30 years. Without a doubt, he will be the first of my sons to beat me.”

The principle we learn from his story is this: “It is easier to learn than it is to unlearn. “The men chosen by Jesus had very little to unlearn. They did have much to learn, but because they had nothing to unlearn, there was nothing to hinder the learning process.

In a word, these men were teachable. Teachability is only second to trust as a qualification for discipleship. Their minds were open. They were like sponges, ready to soak up every morsel of wisdom Jesus might give them.

Jesus also wants task-oriented men. We are told that Simon, James, and John were fishermen. Now, an amateur fisherman (like me or you) may enjoy a day of fishing. If we catch one or two we might call that a good time. But we are not professional fishermen. Fishing is not our livelihood. However, these men’s living depended upon whether they had a haul of fish that day, or if the hull of the boat was empty.

Jesus called these men because they recognized when there was work to be done; they were compelled to complete the task. And they expected positive results.

Catching men and catching fish are similar in technique. They both require skill and the use of their natural gifts. Jesus wants men who have learned to live with the consequences of their work. He wants those who live by the “bottom line.” And that bottom line is this: If they work, they eat; if they don’t work, they starve.

A leader never calls followers to a one-way commitment. The leader/follower relationship is a covenant. He says, “Come, follow me.” He does not presume that He is the Master with the expectation of work all on the side of the disciples. With equal force, He is saying, “If I can trust you to follow, you can trust me to lead.” He makes a commitment to be their model to follow.

Jesus also agrees to be the wise advisor of teachable followers. He is willing to bear the pain of being the teacher, gain the pleasure of watching these men who are sometimes sharp and sometimes dull; sometimes growing quickly and sometimes taking backward steps; sometimes succeeding, but more often failing in order to try again.

Jesus becomes the manager of his followers. Like the conductor of an orchestra, He knows their limits and the potential of those He leads. Somewhere between being pushed past our limitations and not being stretched to our potential, is the balance where the leader makes the difference.

Jesus commits Himself to bring His followers along at a pace equal to their skills until they qualify as “fishers of men.” It is through deliberate and continuing effort that growth and development are produced.

What is the quality which sets these chosen men apart from all others who hear the voice of Jesus? It is the ability to make a clean and firm decision. Recall how the Scripture says it: “At once”, they left their nets and the tax booth. “Without delay” they dropped their nets and left behind the task of collecting taxes. Those are words that describe the decisions these men made to follow Jesus.

Jesus still calls for trustworthy, teachable, and task-oriented persons to be His disciples today. In turn, He promises to be our model, our example, our pattern, our wise advisor, our life manager. The covenant relationship with Him is still the secret for winning the world.

Gary K Fair Wednesday Word Princeton Christian Church

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