Who influences us?

One day soon after [healing a man] Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. —Luke 6:12-13 (NLT)

Right from the start, Jesus attracted a lot of attention. He said provocative things. He challenged the teachings of the religious leaders—here, in Luke’s account by healing a man’s damaged hand on the Sabbath. He performed miracles of a sort never before seen in Israel, making paralyzed people walk, giving sight to the blind, healing diseases with a touch or a word.

New York anti-fracking rally

He attracted attention and a following. People came from far away to listen and question and learn. Which is interesting, don’t you think? Who are the people who draw crowds today? Musicians and singers? Actors and performers of various stripes? In the online world, the “influencers” are those touting their success at becoming wealthy and having the resources to visit exotic places and enjoy the most lavish lifestyles.

Crowds were drawn to Jesus because he offered relief from the many physical maladies that threatened their lives, but also, because they wanted to learn about God. Now, human nature then was no different from human nature now, so I’m quite sure there were many who came for healing and received it, only to quickly forget where that healing had really come from.

But Israel was a community centered around the worship of a mysterious God who had directed and shaped their society for centuries. They were a pious and God-focused people. They’d made many mistakes. They’d turned their backs on God and suffered for it. As Jesus began his ministry, Israel was under military occupation with barely enough freedom to carry on with their religious traditions, yet saddled with onerous financial and legal obligations to their masters.

Their circumstances had piqued a new interest in hearing from God. In parallel with Jesus, John the Baptist was leading a holiness revival that had drawn many to a recommitment of their hearts to the God who had led them since the days of Abraham.

Luke says that Jesus had many disciples, a large following of men and women who wanted to hear what he had to say. And from those, he chose twelve to be his fulltime students. Luke calls them “apostles”, from a Greek word meaning delegates or messengers. In other words, these twelve would not only be students learning from their wise Rabbi, but they would be Jesus’ co-workers in the years ahead—in fact, continuing his work long after he was dead.

He weighed the choices he would make in prayer with his heavenly Father, praying the entire night away. That tells me that he spent a great deal of time listening. My own prayers resemble more of a recitation of a grocery list rather than a conversation. In the morning, he made his selection of the twelve, including Judas Iscariot, the one who would later betray him.

As I look at myself in the light of this passage, I want to learn to pray differently, and I want to be the sort of Christ-follower who is really following closely and listening intently to what he has to say, to the exclusion of so many other voices that wish to have an influence over me—voices all around me, but also voices whispering inside of my own heart.

Photo credit: Simon St Laurent

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