Jesus As Path And Prize
By Kyle Sinclair
“Hello sir, can I sign you up for our one-time home data contract offer? You’ll can pay up to 80% less than what you’re curr …” I end the call.
In these situations, I hang up 100% of the time. You may have more grace for the poor telemarketer on the other end of the line, and bless you for that, but I’m sure you’ll still agree that nothing screams “ulterior motives” quite like a total stranger leading a conversation with an invitation.
So it seems bizarre when I read of two men, who, walking away from the very assets that provide for their livelihoods, decide it would be a good idea to take up the offer of a total stranger who makes an invitation that makes very little sense at all. Peculiar as the situation seems to be, I think Peter and Andrew would agree that they would accept Jesus’ invitation again if they went back in time and re-lived the moment. Then again, it’s not difficult to make a case for this particular invitation being the most significant invitation ever extended. This invitation is documented in Matthew 4:19 (ESV)
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
The good news is that this invitation is extended to you and me. So, let’s explore Jesus’ invitation and figure out where Jesus is inviting us to follow him, how he proposes we get there and why this invitation is so significant in the first place.
To start with we must acknowledge that some of the language and paradigm expressed in this invitation is somewhat alien to us in the 21st century. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi and lived in a time where apprenticeship was the accepted model for knowledge transfer and skills. Therefore, an invitation to follow Jesus would translate as an opportunity to become his apprentice. This was a common practice for Rabbis at the time. Apprenticeship would involve spending time with the Rabbi, so by direct observation you could learn what he did. In time, this would allow you to become like the Rabbi and eventually leave their oversight. Jesus’ invitation was one to spend time with him, to grow in his likeness and to one day do as he did. This therefore answers the “how” behind his invitation – following Jesus happens by spending time with him.
Now let’s explore the “where”. Logically, any invitation to follow someone implies a destination worth venturing to. Early on, the first disciples may have thought that this destination was the moment they would become a Rabbi themselves. With the later revelation of Jesus as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the destination in the minds of the disciples may have been updated to re-instating the Jewish people as victorious over their enemies and oppressors- the destination being victory in combat. In our modern context, we may think of this invitation in a transactional light, where perhaps the implied destination is “heaven” after we die.
I propose that the answer to the “where” lies in the second half of John 14:6: No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is wonderful news! Finally, the chasm of sin that divides created humans from our creator God has been bridged by Jesus. The destination Jesus desires to lead us to is God the Father Himself. Except if we view this in partiality, we miss the full depth of the profound truth in this passage. In exploring this, we will not only fully understand exactly where Jesus is leading us with His invitation, but also why this is the greatest invitation in history.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me”. John 14:1-11
The revelation from Jesus’ words in this passage profoundly altered the trajectory of the disciple’s lives (and as such, the early church) to such an extent that they went on to label themselves as followers of The Way or people of The Way, long before they were ever known as Christians. Jesus invites us to re-orientate our whole lives around the truth in this scripture: his invitation is to follow Him back to the Father, but in that- He is both the guide, the journey, and the destination. He is The Way, the truth, and the life. As we draw near to Him, we draw near to the Father.
So, to circle back to our initial questions about Jesus’s invitation, we could say that the Way desires to show us the way to the Way. If this seems confusing, consider simply that all truths here lead to Jesus, and that will always be abundance and blessings beyond our wildest dreams. How we respond to the invitation and the resulting journey that ensues thereafter promises to be the adventure of a lifetime and is unique to every individual, but following our acceptance of His invitation, The Way is always both path and prize.