You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
What could compel ordinary men to unhesitatingly drop everything in their lives to follow a man they had only just met?
It’s not that these men were looking for an escape. It’s not that they were impetuous, bored with their lives, or easily distracted. Men like Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Levi (Matthew) responded to Jesus’ call because they recognized something in him that demanded immediate attention and action.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. (Matthew 4:18–20)
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. (Luke 5:27–28)
Many Bible studies have been built on the premise that Jesus could recognize something in his disciples that no one else saw. He was able to see past their rough exteriors and into their hearts. He didn’t recruit them based on who they were; he recruited them based on who they could become. Where others saw insignificance, Jesus saw potential.
Perhaps, though, to a lesser extent, the reverse was true as well. Perhaps those Jesus chose were disciple material because they could see something in him that others couldn’t. Perhaps his words triggered an inexplicable—and irresistible—reaction in them.
Consider the question two followers of Jesus asked in Luke 24:32 after realizing the man they had been conversing with was the risen (yet unrecognizable) Jesus. Acknowledging they should have known it was him, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us?”
Perhaps the twelve apostles experienced a similar burning-heart sensation when Jesus said, “Follow me.”
Like the apostles, we also have the opportunity to discover who Jesus is and respond to his invitation to follow him. How will you respond to Jesus?
Like every great journey, the spiritual life begins with a response: the willingness to accept God’s invitation to leave what we know in hopes of finding something far better.
This post has been adapted from The Twelve Apostles, a special-edition magazine that is now available in stores.