Called to Follow

         These figs are good, thought Nate. A tree like this, not yet picked over, loaded with fat juicy figs, was hard to find. Nathan loved figs. This tree had grown right next to a large white rock. The almost-flat top of the rock was slightly cupped in the middle. It fit the contour of his butt almost perfectly. Sitting there, he could lean against the trunk of the fig tree, which leaned slightly in the opposite direction, and prop his feet up on a smaller rock that lay next to the large one. As Nathan reclined against the fig tree in the cool shade, he feasted on figs and sipped wine from his wineskin. It was a good day.

He was almost asleep when he saw a man running toward him. It was his best friend, Phil.

         “Nate,” said Phil, almost out of breath, “I found him.”

         “Found who?” asked Nate, as he took another sip of wine and bit into another juicy fig.

         “The next king,” said Phil.

         “Yeah, right,” said Nate. “Somebody who is strong enough to kick these damn Romans out?”

         “Yep.” Said Phil.

         “Yeah, right.”

         “No, I’m serious,” said Phillip. “I’m tellin’ ya, man, it’s him. He’s the one that Moses and the other dudes wrote about. This man’s name is Jesus. He’s from Nazareth.”

         “You’re full of shit, Phil. Nothing good’s ever come out of Nazareth.”

         “Fine. Come and meet him. Make up your own mind. What you got to lose?”

         “I’m gonna finish off these figs first. Then I’m gonna take a nap. Then I’ll go meet your new friend.”

         Nate had only been asleep for about 30 minutes when Phil woke him up. “We can’t sit around any longer. We gotta go.”

         “Okay, “said Nate, resigned to the insistence of his friend. “let’s go see this son of a bitch from Nazareth.”

         Several hours, and miles, later, Nate found himself running to keep up with Phil.  “Slow down, dammit!” yelled Nate.

         “Can’t slow down,” said Phil. “Scared we might not find him again. I know where I left him, and I don’t want to lose him.”

         As the two topped the last hill near the sea, Nate saw a group of  men gathered on the beach.

         “That’s got to be them,” said Phil.

         “Thank God,” said Nate, as he stopped and put his hands on his knees to catch his breath. “Can we now walk like dignified humans?”

         As the two men approached the group, Nate instantly recognized two of them: Simon and his little brother, Andy. They were fishermen; in fact, they were from Nate’s hometown, Bethsaida. They and two other guys Nate didn’t know were listening intently to a man whose face they couldn’t see. As Nate and Phil approached the group, the man turned around and looked Nate right in the eye.

         “Here stands a true believer, a man who doesn’t even know how to lie,” said Jesus.

         “How do you think you know me?” said Natel.

         “Let me tell you how well I know you. I saw you right before Phil found you. You were sitting beneath a fig tree, on that white rock, leaning against the trunk, sipping a little wine and eating one of those figs you love so much, when your friend, Phil ran up to tell you about me.”

         Chills immediately ran up Nate’s spine. “Teacher, you’re him, aren’t you. You’re gonna be the next king.”

         “Ha!” said Jesus. “You believe me simply because I told you I saw you sitting under a tree, eating figs,” Jesus replied with a smile. “I can assure you, you’re gonna see much greater things than that.” Jesus’s mood changed. He suddenly became very serious. “I tell you the truth. You’ll see the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

         Later, while they were getting something to eat, Nate had a chance to talk to the other guys. “Andy, I haven’t seen you and Simon in a coon’s age. How long y’all been hanging around with this guy?”

         “I actually met him only two days ago,” said Andy. “Me and my friend John here were following another guy. We call him the ‘Baptist.’ He kept telling us that the time was right for the next King of Israel to make himself known. So, two days ago, while we’re talking to the Baptist, this guy Jesus walks up. The Baptist looks at him and says, “Look, the Lamb of God.”

         “What did he mean by that?” asked Nate.

         “I don’t know, but it was clear that this was the guy he’d been talking about. So we followed him.”

         “What did the Baptist say when y’all left him and started following this guy?”

         “The Baptist actually insisted on it. We really didn’t want to leave him. But the Baptist told us that his entire purpose was to point this guy out to other people. I could tell that it made the Baptist happy for us to leave him and follow Jesus.  It was like his whole life had been lived just to point out that this was the man. So me and John, after getting permission and even a blessing from the Baptist, ran after Jesus.”

         “Yeah,” said John. “When Jesus saw us following him, He turned around and said, ‘Boys, what do y’all want?’ It was the way he said it. It was not, like, ‘Why are y’all following me?’, or that we were bothering him, or that he was even pissed off. It was more like, ‘What is your purpose?’”

         “I think it was even deeper than that,” said Andy. “It was like, ‘What do you want out of life?’ We spent the rest of that day with him. After spending only one afternoon with him, I knew he was the one,” said Andy. That’s when I found my brother Simon and told him he had to come and meet him.”

         “Yeah, little brother,” said Simon. “The excitement in your voice when you told me that you had found him made it obvious that something was happening. I really didn’t want to go at first, but Andy insisted. And when I got there, just like you, Nate, somehow he already knew who I was. He knew my name. He even knew my daddy’s name. Then he did something very strange. He changed my name, from Simon to Peter.”

         “Why’d he do that?” asked Nate.

         “Beats me. He said it meant ‘the Rock.’”

         “Well, you are built like a rock,” John said.

         “If you ask me, I think Jesus was referring to the thickness of his skull,” said Andy.

         “Careful, little brother,” said Pete with a grin.

         Nate turned back to Phil. “What about you? How’d you meet him?”

         “Well, he just walked up to me and flat out said, ‘Follow me.’”

         “And you did?”

         Philip shrugged and answered with a mischievous smile, “Hell, I guess I didn’t have nothin’ better to do.”

         Jim, John’s big brother, looked over at Jesus, who was walking by himself toward a grove of olive trees. “Y’all really think this is the guy? You think he is the one who’s gonna be our next king and get rid of these damn Roman bastards?”

         “I don’t know,” said Pete, “but I think it’s safe to say he’s going to stir up some shit. There’s only about fifteen of us right now, counting him. If we’re gonna have any chance of getting a revolution started, we’ll need a lot more people than that.”

         “That’s for sure,” said Nate. “And what was all of that mumbo jumbo about the heavens opening and angels going up and down?”

         John looked back at Jesus, still walking by himself in the grove. With a shrug of his shoulders, he remarked, “I think he was just being dramatic.”

This fictional account is taken from John 1: 35–51.

How has Jesus called you to follow him?