There were some men… fisherman by trade. Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew were casting their nets when Jesus called out to them. He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately, the brothers left their nets and followed. There were two more men in a boat with their father. When Jesus called, James and John immediately followed. There was a man named Matthew sitting in a tax office. Jesus said to Him, “Follow Me,” and he arose and did so. One day, Jesus went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. He appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out…
There were some men and their names were Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter, James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thadaeus, Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot. These were Christ’s apostles… and where He went, they went. These men saw the wonders of Jesus. A sea was stilled, demons were cast out, the sick healed, and sight, speech and life restored. As Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching and preaching, these men went, too. They sat under His teaching, hearing firsthand the Beatitudes and parables that we study so closely today. And when Jesus was moved with compassion for the multitudes, He sent the men out to serve. And when they returned to Him, He cared for them, and said, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
There were some men, the disciples who were with Jesus, and they witnessed everything. They saw when His own family rejected Him, and when the religious leaders of the day questioned His every word and action. One of the men, Simon called Peter, knew just how special Jesus really was. Because God the Father revealed to him that Jesus was in fact the Christ, the Son of the living God. It was three of the disciples who witnessed the glory of Christ on top of a high mountain… His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light. All twelve of the disciples were told beforehand that Jesus would suffer, and be crucified. But did they understand what He meant when He said He would rise on the third day? They traveled to Jerusalem with Jesus. They witnessed a triumphant entry into the city as there was a great multitude crying out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!” Afterward, they witnessed His righteous anger as He overturned the tables of those who bought and sold inside the temple. See, God’s house is a house of prayer, but the people conducted unfair business trade instead. Not long after, conflict arose. The religious leaders didn’t agree with what Jesus was doing and with what He was saying, and they wanted to stop Him. They became jealous, and so they devised a plot. It was one of His own followers that agreed to betray Jesus for a price.
There were some men, His closest companions, and they celebrated an intimate meal with Him. It was their last supper, but did they know it? Could they fully understand what would happen just hours later? Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And He said, “Drink… for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus told them of what was to come. He told these men that they would all stumble because of Him. Peter boldly proclaimed, “I will never be made to stumble… Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. They came to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus told some to sit, but He took Peter and John and James with Him. He said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful… stay here and watch with Me.” Jesus went a little farther and fell on His face asking for God the Father to let this cup pass from Him, but nevertheless, not His will, but as God willed. That’s when He found His followers asleep. He singled out Peter, “Could you not watch with Me one hour?” Two times more Jesus went a little further to pray, telling them to “Watch and pray.” But they could not. They slept until the last moment when Jesus’ betrayer was at hand.
There were some men who witnessed the arrest of Jesus. They saw a multitude arrive with clubs and swords, and one of their own kissed Jesus on His cheek to give Him away. Peter pulled out his sword to fight, but Jesus said not to. And so, they laid hands on Jesus, and all the apostles forsook Him. They fled. Although Peter ran away, he did continue to follow Jesus for a while. But at a distance. And when people accused him of being a one of Jesus’ followers, he vehemently denied it… three times. Just as Jesus predicted. When he remembered what Jesus said, he went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus had six trials within a matter of hours. While it was dark, He went from the father-in-law of the high priest, to the high priest, and then as soon as it was day, to the Sanhedrin. He was mocked and beaten before He even made it to Pilate. The Jews accused Jesus falsely, but Pilate found no fault in Him. Pilate sent Him to Herod, but Jesus answered Herod nothing, and was sent back to Pilate. Pilate again said that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death. It was Passover, and Pilate’s custom was to release one prisoner. He left it up to the people… he could release Jesus, or he could release a murderer named Barabbas. And so Barabbas was freed, and as for Jesus, they cried out, “Crucify Him!” And that’s just what happened.
There were some men, followers of Jesus, who fled when He was arrested. But we know that two followed for at least a little while. Peter and another disciple followed Jesus to the first trial. But eventually Peter denied Christ, and then went out and wept. I don’t know when the other disciple left, or if he left at all. I wondered about where all followers were during the crucifixion. Did they rally to Jesus’ side, or did they stay away behind closed doors for fear of being next? I find references to women watching from a distance, and His “acquaintances.” Could these acquaintances be His followers? I wouldn’t think so, because the disciples knew Him. Why after being referred to as disciples and apostles would they later be called merely acquaintances? But who am I to know for certain. We do know that John, one of the first called followers, was there when Jesus died… along with certain women. But what about those certain men?
You may be wondering why I’m going on about this right now. Well, it’s because tonight I was cut to the heart in thinking about these men. At a special service at our church, I was broken over my condemnation of them. I judged them for not being present at the empty tomb, and for being behind closed doors in hiding. And these are the very men that Jesus called to Him that He Himself wanted. I have been judging His people… harshly. Tonight when I thought about these men, the original followers of Christ, I got an idea of what they must have gone through. See… oh, how they loved their Jesus. They left everything behind to follow Him when He said to. They walked with Him, and talked with Him, and ate with Him, and prayed with Him, and sang with Him. Jesus even washed their feet. He was their best friend, and they had to witness His arrest and His death. These men were mourning the loss of a loved one. They were heartbroken. I’m sure they didn’t know what to do with themselves, because although Jesus said He would rise after three days, I don’t think they understood.
Yes, there were some men. And after Jesus’ death, they stumbled and fell away. They hid out for a little while, and were disbelieving when Jesus did rise from the tomb. But you know, Jesus knew it would happen. Before He died, Jesus told Peter, “But when you return to Me, strengthen your brethren.” And oh, how He cared for Peter. When the women found that empty tomb, they were instructed, “But go and tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” And Peter. Don’t you know Peter was reassured when he heard that. Because he messed up royally. Not only did he run, but he denied even knowing Jesus. But Peter was called by Jesus. And the mistakes he made did not render him useless. On the contrary, he was stronger for them. After Jesus arose from the grave, He appeared to Peter and asked three times, “Do you love Me?” Three times Peter said yes. And then Jesus said, “Follow Me.” And that’s what Peter did.
There were some men… and it wasn’t that they were really seeking Jesus. No, they were in the middle of their busy lives. But Jesus came to them. And something about Jesus drew them. And so, when He called out, “Follow Me,” they did so without hesitation. Jesus still calls out to us today… will we do the same?
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die. John 12:32, 33