News Features Mentor's Corner Anyone Is Welcome

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By Pastor Calvary Callender

Have you ever seen those car dealership commercials or signs on the side of the road that say, "Anyone can buy a car here!" When you look at the fine print, though, you see that "Anyone" really means the people who pass their credit check. Or what about those cell phone advertisements that tell about this new deal and how great it is for anyone who will sign up. When you go talk to the cell phone place you find out that the deal only applies to new customers or a certain group of existing customers. I saw an ad for a package to get all the NFL games on your TV for free if you signed up with this particular satellite provider before the season started. The ad claimed that it would be free for anyone who would sign up. When I called, though, I found out it was only for first time people signing up for this satellite company. The offer was not really for anyone. If you were like me and were already a subscriber to this cable company, you didn't qualify.

It sure seems like when people say, anyone is welcome, or anyone can cash in on this deal, they don't really mean anyone. In Luke 9.23, Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." When inviting potential followers, Jesus invites anyone. Over the years, we've gotten to the point that even when we hear Jesus say anyone we think, Yeah right...what's the catch? That's the brilliance of Jesus' invitation. There's no catch, no small print, no hidden fees. It's all laid out in that verse, and it's open to "Anyone." And when Jesus said "anyone," the crowds would have looked at his disciples and known what he meant.

During Jesus' ministry, people considered him a rabbi. He was homeless and unconventional, but a rabbi nonetheless. A rabbi was a teacher of God's word, which was then the Old Testament. Rabbis had extensive knowledge of the Torah and all of the writings of the prophets. Rabbis were also special because they had a group of talmid. The word talmid translates to "disciple" or "student." Essentially, every rabbi had a class of students. This was an incredibly exclusive group of students. Most people didn't end up as students of rabbis. In fact, those who didn't make the cut most often ended up learning some sort of trade, typically one that was passed down in their family. They'd work as stonemasons, fishermen, tradesmen, etc.

For those students wanting to become the talmid of a particular rabbi, you had to go through an application process. First, there were hefty prerequisites before even being considered to become a talmid. These were the equivalent of the GPA and transcript prerequisites for getting into an elite college or academy. The Talmid's also had to have an impressive knowledge of Scripture. Rabbis would quiz a prospective talmid, asking them to recite an entire book, or tell him the number of times the name of the Lord was used in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus. In other words, it wasn't easy to become a talmid of any rabbi.

So, when word gets out about a new rabbi in town who is picking out followers at random, people start to wonder what's up. People come to hear from this incredible teacher named Jesus, but when they look at his disciples, they must have been confused. They must have shook their heads and thought, "These are his students? They're nobodies! Those two used to be fishermen and that guy's a local tax collector!"

At the end of the day, that's what Jesus offers. The greatest teacher who ever lived offers you the chance to become one of his students. When he says anyone, he means everyone, with no qualifications. We don't have any excuses. He makes his invitation to anyone. Are you ready? Are you willing to follow the rabbi Jesus?

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