I always remember hearing a story about how Jesus dealt with His disciples just before His ascension. Called the Great Commission because of Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, Matthew 28 says that He met them on the mountain and they worshipped Him but that some doubted. 

It doesn’t need a close look at this passage to notice that Jesus doesn’t address these disciples’ doubts at all; He just goes right on and tells them to go out and change the world. He doesn’t scold them for doubting, and He doesn’t tell them to get their beliefs sorted out first and then come back. 

So why does Matthew mention that some doubted? I wonder if it’s to show that Jesus wants us to go out and follow Him when we haven’t got it all together. 

Following grain field

PICTURE: Alekon pictures/Unsplash

We don’t have to wait until we’re qualified or feel ready. In Mark’s Gospel in particular, there is a sense of urgency about Jesus’ mission. Jesus calls His disciples to follow, not counting the cost, and regardless of anything else that has been important in their lives. There is something to the old-fashioned notion of obedience, of just going and following Jesus, however inadequate we feel. We are all called to follow. It reminds me of that old saying, that God doesn’t call the equipped but equips the called. It’s ultimately about trust, trust in this Jesus to lead the way while we follow in His footsteps.

Martin Luther King, Jr, talked about this when he said that, “anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” That’s all it takes. It’s both the simplest and yet most difficult thing in the world to do. Simple because anybody can do it, and difficult because our egos often get in the way, demanding that our will, not God’s, be done.

"There is something to the old-fashioned notion of obedience, of just going and following Jesus, however inadequate we feel. We are all called to follow. It reminds me of that old saying, that God doesn’t call the equipped but equips the called. It’s ultimately about trust, trust in this Jesus to lead the way while we follow in His footsteps."

So how do we know what we’re specifically called to? How do we know in which way we are supposed to serve? It’s really about what makes you come alive. The American theologian, Frederick Buechner, has said that where the world’s needs and your passions intersect, there lies your calling. I used to struggle with that concept, and in a sense I still do. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do what makes them come alive. But there is also a sense that God will give us what we need to serve. In the end, it’s about the joy of serving. 

The Christian singer, Don Francisco, says it like this: “Galatians says that the works of the flesh are selfish ambition, control, jealousy, envy, addictions, lust, anger, idolatry, hate, and the like. When somebody lives according to these things, it hurts them and everyone around them. These are the things we are supposed to walk away from. It is an entirely different thing to bury the good things, the talents, gifts, dreams, and heart desires which God has given to us, thinking that to do so will be pleasing to Him. Many people walk away from the very things which would bring joy and enrich themselves and everyone around them.”

Marianne Williamson said something similar in a quote often attributed to Nelson Mandela. She said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”

Francisco continues in the same vein: “When people get confused and bury the good things in their lives, in their lack of fulfillment, they begin to manifest the very things that Galatians says we should not walk in. The more we buy the false idea that it is spiritual to bury our gifts, talents, and good desires, the more the 'Christian' life will become empty, false, and frustrating, and the more the Christian community will become judgmental, tense, and unpleasant. It is vital to turn away from the things that weigh us down and to pursue with God's leading, the things which make us vibrant, unique, and alive. So, allow God to fulfill all the good dreams and desires He has given to you.”

St Peter was like this. When Jesus caused the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:1-11, Peter said “go away from me Lord, I’m a sinful man”. He couldn’t accept the incredible and undeserved love that had just been shown him. Jesus was equipping Peter for the task he was called to. Showing Peter this incredible love, and how much he was loved, Jesus was preparing Peter for a task that he wasn’t ready for. But Jesus believed in him. This is shown even more powerfully after Jesus’ resurrection when, addressing Peter’s threefold denial of him, Jesus seeks Peter’s affirmation of love and gives him a job to do.

All throughout Jesus’ ministry, Peter, ever the outspoken one, ever the one to speak up first, often got it wrong. At the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), we are told that Peter didn’t know what he was saying when he suggested erecting tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. At the hour of Jesus’ greatest need on the night before He died, Peter let him down in the worst way possible (Luke 22:54-62). And before the Jerusalem Council, Peter had to be shown that the people of God are not just the Jewish people but everyone, when he was shown a vision of all sorts of food and was told to eat (Acts 10:9-16).

We are never fully ready to follow Jesus. Yet He calls us daily, with all our faults, all our sincere but misguided theology, all our limitations, and all our failures. He indeed equips the called rather than calling the equipped. 

There is a reason that Jesus said no less than 87 times in the Gospels to follow Him. We can follow Him despite our weaknesses because He can be trusted, because it is He who leads and we who follow, not the other way around.