Infomercial Jesus

April 26th, 2008 • Category: Gospel of Luke
by David Squire

Today’s scripture: Luke 5:1-11 (ESV-text and audio) (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me in this passage? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (David Squire):

The point I’ve usually seen drawn out of today’s reading is the fact that the first disciples left their familiar life behind to follow Jesus. And it’s a good point — discipleship does take a radical shift in my understanding of life, the universe and everything. I may be called to give up what is familiar to me to heed the call of Jesus.

But I’ve seen this turn into a “hard sell” for Jesus. In the church I was a part of several years ago, every Sunday worship service ended with an “altar call” that had the subtlety of a late-night infomercial. The music minister led the congregation in singing:

While we pray and while we plead,
While you see your soul’s deep need,
While our Father calls you home,
Will you not, my brother, come?

Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?

And the pastor would use phrases like “There’s a heaven to gain and a hell to shun,” and “If we’re ashamed of Him, He’s ashamed of us.” It was almost like, “Come to Jesus NOW NOW NOW!” Not so different from “You must act now to receive this once-in-a-lifetime offer. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!”

But if that’s how we draw folks to Jesus, I think we’ve missed a few points from today’s reading. Here’s what I see:

  • Peter, James, and John were not strangers to Jesus. He had borrowed their boat. They had already interacted with Him, and had at least some idea of His character. They had some idea of what they were getting into.
  • While Jesus used their boat, I’m sure they were listening in. They weren’t unfamiliar with His ideas. They had some time to think about what He was teaching before answering the call to follow.
  • Jesus was not scaring them away from something (”a hell to shun!”), but rather He was calling them to something wonderful — a life of deep purpose. In Jesus’ simple offer — “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people” — I don’t see any of the threats and fear that some often use. In His promise, “I will make you fishers of people,” He states what He’s offering — a chance for Peter, James, and John (and me, too) to have a life of meaning.

I think that Jesus is much gentler than we Christians often make Him out to be. In the King James Version, Jesus even begins his call with, “Fear not,” while we too often attempt to “scare the hell out of” potential followers of Christ.

How did we ever get from “Follow Me” to “Turn or Burn!”?

Thought for the day: Have you been turned off from Jesus by His pushy salespeople? Jesus Himself simply said, “Follow Me.” How do you respond to that request?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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