I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. John 11:10Some stories in the Bible are hard to comprehend. The story of why Jesus came to die on a cross for you and me is one of them. Why did Jesus have to die?
The Call | Part 1
Jesus had to die to fulfill the promise of John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life!
The fulfillment of John 3:16 required someone to tell the story of Jesus and why he laid down his life for yours and mine (John 10:18). The story would be the greatest story ever told and then told again and again until it became known worldwide. (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus called the disciples and they followed. For three years on dusty, stone laden paths between towns and hamlets they walked. Mile upon mile they met people of every walk of life. They ate what was available, drank from streams, and slept under the night stars. They were with Jesus day and night. They got to know him. They loved him. Often they asked Jesus about many things.
They didn’t always understand when he answered. They were often mystified by words never before spoken and thoughts never before imagined. Jesus spoke in parables, telling stories about the wonder of the Father’s kingdom, of its glory, and love and joy never-ending. Jesus called the disciples from among men to journey with God for God (John 10:30). They were disciples and would learn to walk in his way, learn his truth and live his life (John 14:6).
One well-written article on the calling of the disciples was authored by John W. Schoenheit for The Sower Magazine. Schoenheit details how Jesus nurtured a relationship with his future apostles before calling them into full-time ministry, which would have been a short time after John the Baptist’s execution by King Herod. Schoenheit’s work brings forward the idea that the disciples knew Jesus, and he them, socially, before calling them to ministry.
While Schoenheit’s work is scriptural and persuasively well done, Jesus assuredly knew the minds of men and would need no social interaction to decide from among whom to call (John 2:23–25; 6:37; Hebrews 4:12). But when did the calling of the disciples become a fulfilled prophecy for Israel?
The Prophet Isaiah wrote about “the calling in the wilderness” seven centuries earlier. Think about that. It was a prophecy proclaiming God would call Israel through the voice of one crying in the wilderness. The call would prepare a way of the Lord, making level in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3).
Why was it necessary to make a desert highway for God? Since God is holy and would walk among men as the King of kings, it was necessary for Israel to “purge itself” from iniquity. Israel was being called to a lifestyle of holiness to make a way for Christ to reach the world. God was calling men to be clean witnesses for the King of kings and Lord of lords.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy began when John the Baptist, a recluse adorned in camel hair, eating locusts and honey in the wilderness (Matthew 3:4), stepped into the Jordan and called the nation of Israel to repent and change their ways.
True, biblical repentance is a change of mind, leading to a change of heart, resulting in a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 14:6; Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20; Revelation 2:5). While many see repentance as the need to stop sinning, it is more in line with abandoning self-effort to trust God’s work of having set us free from the power of sin (Romans 5:15; 6:7; Philippians 2:13).
A child of God grows, learning how to walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:6). They learn the importance of walking worthy of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:1). Whatever the definition of repentance, holiness is the desired outcome for everyone called of God. About the call, Alexander Maclaren writes,
That great voice which is in Jesus Christ, so tender, so searching, so heart-melting, so vibrating with the invitation of love and the yearning of a longing heart, summons or calls us… ‘God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness,’ or, as this letter has it, in another part, ‘unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.’
But also ‘He hath called us to His everlasting kingdom and glory.’
God, speaking through John the Baptist, called Israel from the heavy burden of law keeping to trusting in the Messiah would keep (fulfilled) the law on their behalf (Matthew 5:17–20).
In response, the apostles and many others gathered by the river to hear John proclaim: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). In every way imaginable, John the Baptist was sent to clean house, making ready the way of their Lord God.
About “making ready” the way of the Lord, Dr. D. W. Ekstrand writes,
Most of the twelve disciples Jesus selected were followers of John the Baptist…Compared to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes; they were “clean slates” for the Lord Jesus to write upon. They were “empty wineskins” for the Lord to pour His new wine into. John the Baptist stripped them of the old, and Jesus filled them with the new.
In closing, the call to holiness was the disciples first step on their journey to glory. They heard the word of God and became like clean slates, open to the power of the gospel to change them forever.
The call is for anyone who wants to become a holy ambassador of a far kingdom and guardian of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20). Today, the call continues and is heard by those who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10:27).
Part 2 – The Walk __________________________________________________________________________
Follow Me – Overview
Image Credit: Shutterstock 19409788 | The Good Shepherd
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Specific source is The NKJV Study Bible, eBook: Second Edition (Signature) Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.