What Happened to Following Jesus?
Most of Jesus’ apostles were in their late teens and early twenties. They were products of orthodox Jewish homes and local synagogues where they had learned the Scriptures. They were conversant with the great messianic passages from the prophets. From this starting point, Jesus taught them about the kingdom and showed them what it looked like in this world. Because of this, they understood him as king, the promised messiah. They didn’t need to work through centuries of Christian tradition to figure out what he wanted.
In fact, the Gospel of Mark includes the call to follow Jesus in Jesus’ earliest preaching in Galilee: “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:14-15). Then, they took the most logical action possible. They followed him and became his disciples:
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
The disciples’ response to Jesus’ call was directly connected to Jesus’ preaching about the kingdom. They heard his message, followed him, and became his disciples.
Connecting Faith to Action
It’s impossible to separate belief from action. They are one and the same. When the disciples followed Jesus, they fully made themselves his disciples. They entered into a new realm, and that’s when eternal life began for them. They were doing God’s will in their lives on earth as it already was in heaven (as The Lord’s Prayer says). Jesus began to teach them the importance of seeking first his kingdom:
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Don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
For Jesus (and his disciples as they grew in their faith), the kingdom of God was central to eternal life. That’s why it was part of the Good News he preached.
Through his many parables, Jesus worked out the implications of the kingdom into every facet of life, yet the full reality of the kingdom was still somewhat of a mystery, even after Jesus’ resurrection. Luke’s words in Acts 1:6-7 reveal to us: “[The apostles] kept asking him, ‘Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?’ He replied, ‘The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.’”
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1. It should be noted that Jesus had spent over three years teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God as something near them, within them, and not primarily of this world. He taught that it would, however, gradually come to the world and eventually come in full regalia after his return and the judgment.