If you want to know Jesus, you need to know He is calling you.
In chapter five, we see three principal elements of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He calls people, he heals people, he forgives sins. These three are intimately connected.
When the paralytic seeks to be healed by Jesus, his friends take the dramatic step of removing the roof and lowering him down to be in Jesus’ presence. Jesus sees him and recognizes how desperate he is for healing. But Jesus does not immediately heal his physical affliction. He sees him and says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus is making a crucial point. All of us are in need of spiritual healing. We have all committed sins against God and against His children (our brothers and sisters), and we need to be forgiven by God. The Father gave His Son the authority to forgive sins, and Jesus demonstrates His power when He physically heals the paralytic. But first Jesus forgives him, because forgiveness of sins is our primary need.
When we receive the mercy of Jesus, it is meant to be a life-changing experience. Jesus calls us to conversion – to set aside our sinful ways and become His disciples. Jesus personally invites us to follow Him. That invitation can look a little different for each person. Jesus calls Levi when he is working. Jesus calls Simon after He heals Simon’s mother-in-law; after He teaches in Simon’s presence; and after He performs a miracle (the wondrous catch of fish) before Simon. Luke doesn’t tell us why Levi immediately left everything behind and followed Jesus. He doesn’t say why multiple events were needed for Simon to heed Jesus’ call. Every disciple has their own story of how and when Jesus called them. Luke doesn’t tell us how and when Jesus called each of the disciples. But the stories he shares tell us that, far from being aloof or distant, Jesus personally invites us to follow Him and to have a personal relationship with Him.
At first glance, it might sound absurd to say we can have a personal relationship with God. And it would be absurd, except for the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, became a person like us. That’s how we can have a personal relationship with Jesus. That’s how we know God is not a cold, distant figure, but cares about us deeply and individually. He showed that beyond a doubt through the Incarnation of His Son Jesus. And Jesus demonstrates over and over again in all four of the gospels how much He loves people as individuals. The lengths He will go to forgive their sins. To give them His healing and peace. Look at everything He does for Simon Peter. And look at Simon’s reaction – “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Simon is beginning to understand who Jesus is, and that makes him recognize his own weaknesses and failings. He is afraid to be in Jesus’ presence. He is afraid of how his life will change. But Jesus doesn’t condemn Simon. He calls him to a whole new life. “Do not be afraid,” He says, “from now on you will be catching men.” Jesus gives Simon a new mission. Jesus, who could do everything for Himself, chooses Simon, and chooses Him to play an essential role in His mission of saving people. Simon, by the grace of God, accepts. Jesus likewise personally calls each one of us, to a particular mission He has given us. How will we answer His call?
“It follows, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. As if He should say, So far am I from hating sinners, that for their sakes only I came, not that they should remain sinners, but be converted and become righteous.” -Saint John Chrysostom
Image: The Miraculous Draught of Fish by Raphael (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).