I find it interesting that Jesus calls each person to follow him but that each call is particular.
Following Jesus can take a multitude of forms, but each life that follows Jesus involves a true encounter with Jesus, a mutual knowing of the truth of who we are before him, and an ability to hear and respond to what he asks or invites of us from there.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, for instance. (See Luke 19:1-10.) He was the chief tax collector in his town, in fact, which meant he was very rich at the expense of everyone else. The tax collectors were notoriously crooked, demanding greater taxes than the state required so as to line their own pockets with the difference.
He was not very popular, to say the least.
But when Jesus called Zacchaeus, it made a difference in the specific way he lived. He determined to give half his riches to the poor and pay back those he had wronged financially four-fold.
Then there’s Peter.
Peter was a fisherman all his life. Fishing is what he knew best and how he made a living. And when Jesus called Peter to follow him, it affected Peter’s life: “From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women” (Luke 5:10). And then later on, Jesus shifted Peter’s work again, telling him he would now become a shepherd: “Feed my lambs … Shepherd my sheep … Feed my sheep,” he told Peter (John 21:15-18).
What did Peter know about sheep-tending? He had been a fisherman all his life.
But since that initial call to follow Jesus, he had learned more about what that following meant. He’d followed Jesus around for three years. He’d listened to Jesus teach, watched Jesus heal, witnessed so many miracles, and encountered the resurrected Christ. He’d been humbled and forgiven. And now it was time for Peter’s specific way of following Christ to become more particular to the person he’d become since that first call, so he was now being called to be a shepherd.
The gospels are filled with stories like this. Each person, each encounter, each question, each search … every story is the encounter of a particular person coming in contact with Jesus and receiving an invitation to a particular call.
For someone who encountered Jesus in the midst of a particular sin, the call was to go and sin no more. For someone who’d been paralyzed their whole life, the call was to take up their mat and walk. For someone who was a social outcast because of their lifestyle and avoided contact with others at all costs, the call was to go into the town square and proclaim what had happened to everyone there. And, like Peter, the more we follow Christ, the more our particular call shifts as we continue becoming the people Jesus is continually making us to be.
Jesus invites us to follow him, and he tailors the call of that invitation to the place we currently are.
What does it look like for you to follow Jesus in this very moment? What is the particular call from him, right where you are?