John the Baptist attracted no minor attention in his public ministry. Crowds followed his call for a change of heart and they all got baptized in the Jordan River. Expectations were rising and people debated whether or not John was the long awaited Messiah. When this kind of rumor came to his ears he clearly denied it. In his gospel records the apostle John wrote about John the Baptist (John 1:20):
“He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’”
Well, who was John the Baptist? Everybody wondered about that. After a thorough investigation instigated by the Jewish leadership, John quoted Isaiah to them to answer the question at hand. He said (Isaiah 40:3):
I am “a voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
John the Baptist not only set the records straight about who he was and who he was not, but he also started testifying about his cousin Jesus. As John saw Jesus walking by one day he turned around and told two of his disciples that Jesus is the Messiah. (John 1:36-37):
“When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.”
As it turned out, the first disciples to follow Jesus were originally followers of John the Baptist.
The way Jesus selected His disciples can be misread as being random because it happened so casually. And yet, I believe ‘casually’ is how God operates. God’s Spirit is all over the place, all over the world actually, which means that God meets people wherever they are. The late Mother Theresa would testify to the fact that she found Jesus to be walking the streets of Calcutta. The late David Wilkerson would agree that he found Jesus to be walking the streets of Brooklyn, in the middle of gang fights and drug abuse.
Jesus is where the rubber meets the road. He used to mingle with the folks in Galilee, specifically the folks making a living from fishing the Sea of Galilee. A fisher needs a boat and a carpenter knows how to build a boat. It is safe to assume that Jesus was involved in the latter, which is how He was found to be walking the streets of Bethsaida, Capernaum, or any old fisher town adjacent to the Sea of Galilee. He became a known figure to the locals. I imagine that Jesus talked about the kingdom of God as He was building boats just as much as Paul was making tents while commenting on Jesus the Messiah.
It is in casual circumstances that people are more prone to listen. Nobody enjoys to be preached at. Working side by side and rubbing shoulders with Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the boat builder, is how connections began to form by the Sea of Galilee. And when the time arrived that Jesus’s ministry went public, His disciples were not selected out of the blue. Jesus picked up where they had previously left off. Simon, Andrew, James and John were already in relationship with the boat builder. They just never connected the dots recognizing Him as the Messiah. With a little help of Jesus’s cousin John their eyes were opened.
Perhaps, Jesus was too common to be immediately recognized by His future disciples. I am afraid, that is the point. Jesus is right here among us, in the mundane – and so are His disciples – commoners pursuing their trade while living out the kingdom of God. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us – indicating God is not far removed from us, He is right here in our midst – a message which still rocks our world.