The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 8

Choosing His Disciples

   Jesus had no doubt spent many months in Capernaum during each year over a span of at least 18 years. He knew many of the people; and He actually knew the families from which He would eventually choose His disciples.
   Millions assume that Jesus recognized His disciples through some mysterious, mystical perception and convinced them to follow Him through an equally mysterious, hypnotic power. The popular image is that Jesus was dreamily strolling along the seashore one day and beckoned to a man named Peter, and said, "Come, and follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men." Peter, it is supposed, took one look at this beautiful man in white, with long brown locks, pointed beard, a multicolored halo around His head, and was so mesmerized he instantly dropped the net he was mending and, zombie-like, trudged off after Jesus.
   Ridiculously false.
   Joseph had known Jona closely. Jona's two sons, Peter and Andrew, had grown up in their father's trade, fishing, just as Jesus and His brothers' education had included stonework and building. Jona believed the Scriptures — believed a Messiah would soon come. That belief was equally strong in his two young sons as they developed. Peter married (it is not clear whether Andrew was married by the time of Christ's ministry), and had taken over the family fishing business by the time John the Baptist's ministry had grown so large.
   Bethsaida, Peter's home town, was a distance to the south from Capernaum, along the western side of the Sea of Galilee. There is no doubt Peter and Andrew had heard of Jesus and His brothers. Who knows, maybe "Joseph and Sons, Contractors" had built Peter's home in Bethsaida? Perhaps Jesus' family had likewise purchased fish from Peter's family?
   It was Andrew who was following John the Baptist, as one of his disciples. When John saw Jesus, he made it clear to his disciples, including Andrew, that this was the Messiah.
   The following day after the baptism of Jesus, John and two of his disciples were standing together and saw Jesus pass near.
   One of them was Andrew, Peter's brother. After this brief discussion, they followed Jesus, arriving where He was staying about two hours before dark (John 1:37-40), and stayed for the remainder of the day.
   John (Jesus' closely loved disciple, not the Baptist) says in his account that, "... they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day... " (John 1:39).
   The next day Jesus went to Galilee and ran across Philip who was also from Bethsaida, Peter and Andrew's home town. He told Philip to follow him, and Philip immediately found Nathanael (who could have been a well-known prophet), and told him they had found that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, was in fact the prophet of whom Moses and the prophets did write. Nathanael wondered aloud whether anything good could come out of Nazareth, and so Philip invited him to come and see for himself.
   When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to see if he could identify Him, Jesus said, "Look, there is an Israelite for a fact, who is without guile!"
   Nathanael wondered aloud, "Where could you have known me from?" Jesus answered, "Before Philip called you and you were sitting under that fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael said, "Master (Teacher), you must be the Son of God; You must be the One who is King of Israel!" He was a student of the Scriptures, and knew the time was near. That he should meet a person with such superhuman powers of observation convinced him. Jesus used Nathanael's quick judgment as an opportunity for an invitation to wait for more fruits; to see the works he would perform in the future, and referred to the ultimate setting up of God's kingdom on earth.
   No doubt, they asked Him many questions and were tremendously impressed by His knowledge, His wisdom, and the calm intensity with which He spoke. Andrew and the other man (not identified) asked, "Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou?"
   "He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour." Remember, Jewish days began with sunset, so these men spent at least the next two hours with Jesus, and, possibly, remained the night and part of the next morning.
   Andrew then went to get his brother Peter. He wanted to tell him that Jesus was definitely the Messiah; and when Andrew introduced him to Jesus, during the ensuing conversation, Jesus said: "Thou art Simon, the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone" (John 1:41-42).
   The Greek word for "stone" is petros. Jesus had a definite purpose in mind for calling Simon "Peter" — made clear by reading Matthew 16:18 and Ephesians 2:20, where Peter is plainly a part of the foundation (as a "stone") of the New Testament Church. Jesus Himself is the Rock (petra) of Matthew 16:18 (see also Deut. 32; I Cor. 10:4), and the chief cornerstone of the Church, while Peter, together with the other 11 (except for Judas, replaced by Matthias later) made up the foundation. (The number 12 always signifies "organized beginnings" in the Bible and is found in connection with perfect government structures — ancient Israel, the Church, and the Kingdom of God.)
   Now that you know about the first formal encounter between Jesus and Peter, you can read the account in Matthew 4:18-19, and it makes much more sense.
   Jesus was now beginning His ministry. He had finished His careful selection of a big group, numbering 120 in all, who were to be His disciples (students). "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
   "And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter [it was Jesus who had so named him "Peter" on an earlier meeting!], and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
   "And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him" (Matt. 4:17-20).
   Jesus showed He knew who Peter was: knew his father and family background, prior to this event. Remember, Jesus prayed for hours about these appointments. There was no "magic" to it, no strange "pied piper" calling, no siren song. Jesus knew the character of these men and selected them quite deliberately.
   The same is true with the calling of Philip. Philip lived in the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida. Jesus knew these people — He had lived and worked in these towns for those 18 years from about 12 to age 30, the beginning of His formal ministry.

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Publication Date: 1977
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