If I had been a Jewish believer 2013 years ago, I reckon I would have been pretty unimpressed with Jesus. I mean, given all the mess that the world is in, the corruption, the abuse, the immorality, the politics, surely God could have done a bit better than this?
A baby, born in the sleepy backwater of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, who grew up to become a carpenter?! Was this the best plan God could come up with? Surely he’d have been better off sending a crack troop of elite soldiers to kick out the Romans, stamp out corruption, destroy some pagans and whip these immoral politicians into shape? Perhaps even some smiting would have been in order!
But no - a carpenter’s son it was to be!
Surely God could at least have made sure this carpenter got the “Who’s Who in Israel” memo - that might have kept him from hanging out with tax collectors, fishermen, all kinds of sinners..... even women! And then maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have made the mistake of inviting them to “Come, Follow Me.”
There are certainly days - today - when I feel a bit like this too! What is God thinking? Can we, unlikely people, hidden away in a small town, on a small island off the bottom of Australia, really make an impact in the world today? Can we still be God’s missionary people? Are we really, today, blessed to be a blessing?
But then I pause, and I remember, that this rag tag group of fisherman, tax collectors, men and women, together with Jesus the carpenter’s son, changed the course of human history forever.
They spent the next three years of their lives following Jesus.
They shared their lives together.
They ate and they drank together, in crowds of thousands and away in quiet by themselves.
They healed the sick. They fed the hungry.
They debated with religious leaders. They spoke hope and forgiveness to the poor and marginalised.
They watched first hand as Jesus died on the cross. They ate together with him after he had risen again.
These first disciples gathered around Jesus one last time as he commissioned them to “Go and make disciples”, reminding them, “surely I am with you always”.
And that is what they did. In Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Rome, India, Africa - and to the ends of the earth - these disciples of Jesus did with others what Jesus had done with them. Small communities of Jesus followers spread and multiplied throughout the known world, so that by about 300 AD, half the population of the Roman empire were Christians - known by their love for one another.
Reminded again of God’s love for the world, and his proven plan to change the world through small communities of seemingly unlikely people in seemingly out-of-the-way places, sharing their lives together as they follow Jesus, I am encouraged to continue living as a follower of Jesus, and helping others to follow him too.
I’m encouraged as I see young men being transformed by Jesus’ love for them, as they choose to forgive and as they step up into leadership. I’m encouraged as I see young women discovering that they have vision for their lives, that God has given them abilities and passions for a reason, and that he will work in them and with them and through them, to fulfil his plans and purposes in this world.
I’m encouraged as I see professional people, retired people, single people and married people realising that God is with them always, and that when he calls people to follow him, and be his missionary people, he means them! I’m encouraged as these people create and develop communities of disciples who will love refugees, international students, local high school kids and men who live in our neighbourhood.
I’m encouraged, because God still says to his people today, “Come, follow me. Go and make disciples. I am with you always.”
I think that, just maybe, God knows what he is doing.