A Disciple’s First Calling

He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.  Mark 3:14

The order in which Mark, the author of this gospel, describes Jesus calling of His disciples is critically significant.  Jesus’ intention was that first they were to “be with” Him, to spend time in His presence, hang out together with Him and get to know Him and His ways.  Then and only then, when they had become immersed in His presence and shaped to faithfully represent His name and nature, would He sent them out to preach.  Although the task of going forth as His ambassadors was His ultimate purpose Jesus first calling to His disciples was that they might simply be with Him.

 It reflects the priority Jesus placed throughout His earthly ministry on being preceding doing and the necessity of doing then flowing out of being.  The spiritual journey of every disciple who is seeking to follow Jesus must always follow this pattern. 

We are by nature, particularly in Western Culture, more preoccupied with doing than with being.  Accomplishment, image and the outer life all too often take precedence over nurturing authentic relationships and the inner life.  Sadly we gravitate toward defining our identity more by our outer life and what we do than by our inner life and who we really are (our true self) in relationship with God.  Nowhere does this become more evident than when circumstances limit or restrict us from accomplishing the things we are accustomed to doing.  It is then that we can experience what the world terms an “identity” crisis.

In kingdom of God parlance, an identity crisis is when God calls us to let go of everything in our lives (the false self) in which we are seeking an identity and choosing to find our identity in relationship to God.

What then does it mean as a disciple of Jesus Christ, to answer this call to make being with Him the one great priority of our lives?  Because Jesus is no longer upon the earth in bodily form, our relationship with Him has to be a spiritual one.  For some that may seem a bit confusing if not problematic in knowing how to proceed.  But the principles and nuances of building a relationship with Jesus in the Spirit are essentially the same as when the early disciples were hanging out with Him when He was upon the earth in the flesh.

I don’t know of any other way to describe it than to say that “being with“ someone is spending time with them. 

Jesus, himself modeled this spiritual “being with” as He nurtured His relationship with His Father.  It was His custom to spend time with the Father as often as He could and it took the form of prayer.  Whether it was in the night or early morning hours in a solitary place, or simply lifting His eyes, His heart, and His voice toward heaven in the midst of daily ministry demands, Jesus always found time to be with the Father.  Sometimes it was expressed poignantly by nothing more than a wordless sigh.  But no matter what form it took, or in what place it happened, alone or with others, His heart and mind were directed toward heaven and He was acknowledging His dependence upon the Father and the love they shared.

We must be very careful here not to gravitate toward a preconceived, limited or stilted view of prayer.  Paul in writing to the Ephesians emphasized the multifaceted nature of our communication with God through prayer by saying “I pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”  (Ephesians 6:18)

Just as lovers develop their own love language, so the disciple with his or her Lord will find unique and meaningful ways to communicate.  The most important thing is “being with” one another and spending time together.  That is the first calling and priority of every disciple of Jesus Christ.

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