Nobody is a lost cause

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in this life alone? Like you know that God is there, but He seems content to watch you struggle through frustration after frustration just so that you’ll learn something? I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been there before. Deep in my heart I know that it’s not true and God will always take care of me, but in the dark moments when I’ve had enough, I’ve definitely felt abandoned. Or even targeted.

But is that really who God–and by extension Jesus–is? Is He really the distant, unfeeling deity in the clouds who would subject His followers to challenges and obstacles and stand back and watch them stumble and fall without interceding? Wouldn’t it be nice if He’d just offer some means of figuring out why you have to go through all this crap? Wouldn’t it be awesome if He’d just show you what you need to learn?

Guess what? He has.

Hanging-off-a-cliff-edgeToday’s verses are Matthew 4:18-20.

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.

When I was little, I thought it was really odd that these grown men would just leave their jobs and follow after this random guy who called out to them. It didn’t seem very practical to me. After all, if they didn’t know the guy, they couldn’t know if he were leading them into some kind of trap … you know, like where they’d be knocked out and have their kidneys stolen or something.

But Jesus wasn’t just some guy. And Peter and Andrew had already heard of Him (honestly I think there were few in the area who hadn’t heard of Him). But Andrew, Peter’s brother, had already met Jesus and decided that He was indeed the Messiah. So they knew who Jesus was and what He was up to when He called them out.

This passage tells us a lot about Peter and Andrew, but it also tells us a lot about Jesus. Jesus called the disciples by telling them He had something to teach them–something different than the trade they already knew. How to fish for people–how to lead others to know God.

It’s not that they were joining a super secret club where only the elite have access. You realize what these men did for a living right? They were blue collar workers, to put it mildly. The Bible actually calls them “unlearned, ignorant men.” Jesus wasn’t calling the brilliant. He was calling the everyday people, and He still is, because we still have a lot to learn. And fortunately He has a lot to teach. And everyone is invited.

He wanted to teach these men how to live life with Him, how to see God in the everyday moments, how to trust God in the tough times, and how to seek God first with everything in their hearts. And we have an example of how to live and what to believe through what these men learned in following Jesus. We have the Bible, God’s own Word handed down to us through the generations.

The truth is that we aren’t alone, and God isn’t just lounging around in heaven watching our struggles like Earth is one giant reality TV show. Neither is Jesus. And neither is the Holy Spirit. All three of Them are active and alive, vivid participants in our world and our universe.

The thing about Jesus is that He never changes, and if He wasn’t exclusive back then, He’s not exclusive now. He doesn’t play favorites, and He won’t ever turn anyone away who comes to Him. Jesus was open to those who were seeking, to those who wanted answers, to those willing to hear the truth. He doesn’t see status, wealth or education. He just sees a willing heart.

That means no matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done, Jesus wants to hear from you. No matter how you’ve screwed up or how many people you’ve heart or how many times you’ve let people down, you can’t commit a sin too deep that Jesus blood can’t wash away.

That means nobody is a lost cause.

Cornelia Marie. Time Bandit. Northwestern. Discovery Channel geeks already know what I’m blogging about today.

Does anybody watch Deadliest Catch? I’ve seen it a few times, and though I’m not into reality television, I think that show is incredibly well done. Imagine doing that sort of job for a living. Going out on a boat in absurd conditions in the middle of the ocean where anything can happen. Relying on your crew and your wits to save you from danger when something goes wrong.

Who knew fishing was such dangerous work?

Strangely enough, I thought about that show when I read the verse of the day today (actually, after I read most of the chapter because the single verse by itself didn’t make a lot of sense).

Most of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. That’s what they did for a living. Granted, they didn’t fish in ice storms, but I’m sure their brand of the profession had its dangers too. And I haven’t seen Deadliest Catch enough to know about the education level of the captains and the crew, but how much schooling have they had? Not that I’m speaking against a lack of education. Not at all; some of the smartest people I know only have high school diplomas. It would just be interesting to know because Jesus’ disciples had very little educational background. The Bible even calls them “unlearned and ignorant men.” And where the Gospels put the disciples after Christ’s death on the cross is anything but flattering.

The disciples ran away. They left Him to be arrested and killed. A few were there (recorded) when He died, but for the most part, they had given up. And even when they heard that He’d risen from the dead, some of them didn’t believe it (even though He had told them He would).

My point is that the disciples were pretty cowardly. The disciples were a lot like us, in all honesty.

So . . . .if the disciples were cowardly, petty, uneducated people, who the heck are the men in Acts 4:1-22? (sorry for the long passage, but trust me; it’s worth it)

 1 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. 4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.[a]

 5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? 10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,[b] the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

   ‘The stone that you builders rejected
      has now become the cornerstone.’[c]

 12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

 13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. 15 So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber[d] and conferred among themselves.

 16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

 19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

 21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.

Peter and John got in trouble because they had healed a lame man in the name of Jesus and they were telling people about Jesus in the streets. Okay, first off, since when could any of the disciples do miracles? And since when were they gutsy enough to preach in the streets to people who didn’t believe what they believed, let alone stand up to the religious establishment of the day?

Something changed Peter and John.

Peter — the loud-mouthed, brazen, impetuous fisherman who spoke before he thought about it and acted before he considered consequences. The disciple who loved Jesus but denied Him when push came to shove.

John — the youngest of the disciples who stayed in the background until he had an opportunity to argue about who was more important, who had the gall to ask Jesus if he could have a position of authority in heaven.

Something changed both of these men, like something changed the rest of the disciples. Being with Jesus, living with Him, walking with Him, talking to Him, made them into different people. And after the Day of Pentecost (you’ll have to read the beginning of Acts for that), the 11 remaining disciples became a force for Christ so unstoppable that the world is still recovering from their influence. Did you realize that of the 11 disciples (Judas is not in this count), only one of them died of natural causes? John. An old man. Exiled on the Isle of Patmos after he’d been burned alive in oil. He died naturally anyway after he wrote the Book of the Revelation. The rest of the disciples were killed in horrible ways for their faith.

Aren’t we talking about unlearned, ignorant, cowardly men?

We absolutely are. But we’re talking about unlearned, ignorant, cowardly men who knew Jesus. And that makes all the difference in the world.

And if God can take an unlearned, ignorant, cowardly fisherman and use him to turn the world on its head, what can He do with me? What can He do with you? We just have to figure out what the disciples eventually did: Jesus is all we need and any suffering we face in this world can’t possibly compare to the life He has planned for us when we leave.