For the next week or so I would like to write about various Christ encounters individuals had in the Bible. The lives of these people I who encountered Jesus were deeply impacted, were life changing and hugely impacted all who came face to face with Jesus. It is so apparent throughout the Bible that whenever someone comes face to face with Jesus or even has a spiritual encounter with him today he/she always comes away from the encounter a changed individual.
Today I am starting with the disciples of Jesus. These men were chosen individuals who walked with Jesus for a little over three years. They experienced and witnessed things that forever changed and impacted who they were. Each disciple had an encounter with Jesus (whether He was calling them or sometime later in life) and all were deeply impacted. I realize I could do a whole series just on the twelve disciples (and that may happen some day down the road) but I just want to point out some more prominent ways that the some of the disciples were impacted and what this can mean for us today.
Matthew – The Tax Collector (Matthew 9:9)… Tax collectors were not well liked individuals, in fact they were despised by Jewish society. They were essentially scum of the earth. They extorted money for personal gain AND they worked for the Roman government. This was a double whammy. They used bullying tactics to collect money and they were basically thugs. One day Jesus passes Matthew the tax collector and calls him to follow him. Jesus was criticized for this because he associated with tax collectors and sinners. Not only did Jesus associate with Matthew but he called him to be a disciple. Matthew’s life was never the same from this day forward. Matthew rose and followed him leaving his life behind to follow the savior.
James & John – (Matthew 4:21 – 22) These two were called the Sons of Thunder. They were fishermen by trade. When Jesus calls them they immediately leave their father (and their livelihood) in the boat to follow him.
Peter & Andrew – (John 1:35 - 42) These brothers were also fishermen who left everything to follow Jesus. We know a lot about Peter as being an overzealous follower of Jesus. Little is known about Andrew. Interestingly the first thing Andrew does when he meets Jesus is go out and find his brother Simon A.K.A. Peter and informs him that he has found the Messiah. Andrew was an evangelist. Immediately Andrew gives an example of true Christian evangelism… Notice Andrew doesn’t say, “Jesus, will you come with me and talk to my brother about maybe becoming your disciple?” No, the first act Andrew does is shares his experience with his brother. Andrew brings Peter to Jesus and introduces him to the Lamb of God.
Peter is brought to Jesus and He looks at him and says, “You will no longer be called Simon, you are now Cephas (Peter – Rock). This is significant because from the moment Jesus meets Peter he has a plan for his life. Later down the road, before Jesus is crucified, Jesus tells Peter that he will become the foundation of the Church and the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against this foundation (Matthew 16:18)
Philip – (John 1:43 – 45) He was a disciple of John the Baptist. John the Baptist instructed him to go to and find Jesus. Jesus finds him and tells him to follow him. Philip eventaully introduces Nathanael to Jesus (continuing the principle of Christian evangelism).
Nathanael (Bartholomew) – (John 1:46 – 51) Nathanael was the skeptic who couldn’t believe the Savior of the universe would come from Nazareth of all places. He says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth; let alone the savior of the universe?” What kind of come back can you offer to Nathaneal’s remarks other than what Philip says, “Come and see for yourself”? Philip didn’t spend time trying to talk Jesus up or prove that he was right; his response is exactly the same as ours should be when someone responds to Jesus in a negative way… "Come and see for yourself." This is not only an invitation to meet Jesus but a challenge to put aside his prejudices and see beyond his origin of birth and to see God’s bigger plan.
The fascinating thing about the disciples is how Jesus called these ordinary and sinful men for his master plan of ushering in the Kingdom of God. I am also encouraged as I see how these ordinary people were forever impacted and changed so God could use them for his Kingdom and his glory. Their lives are truly evidence that when Jesus becomes the Lord and Savior of your life things will never ever be the same again. John MacArthur writes in his book, Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness and What He Wants To Do With You, “The twelve were personally selected and called by Christ… He knew all their faults long before he chose them.”[i]
As you read the accounts of each one of the disciples mentioned in this message you will see one common denominator… Jesus calls them to follow and they drop everything and follow him. The tax collector gives up his life of luxury and leaves his career behind to follow the savior. The blue collar fishermen literally drop everything to walk with the savior to be part of this grand plan to save the world. The skeptic encounters Jesus and is challenged to “come and see for himself” the savior who does not fit the conventional description of what everyone thought the Messiah should be like. We see men who are so impacted by the Savior they have to go out and introduce their friends to the Lamb of God who is going to take away the sins of the world.
We have seen in this very short account how the lives of these men were deeply impacted when they had their Christ Encounter. So what does this mean for you and me today? What can we learn from these men?
[i] MacArthur, John (2002). Twelve Ordinary Men, p.XIII. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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