(This is the first of a short, four-part series.)

Peter, Andrew, James, and John leave their boats and their nets and they follow Jesus. He calls, they jump. Matthew left his tax booth, left everything, Luke says, to follow Jesus. Philip and Nathaniel. All twelve of them drop everything, they radically reverse their lives, and begin to follow Jesus.

And these twelve apostles are true talmidim. Disciples. Real disciples. They don’t just want to know what their teacher knew. They¬†aren’t in it to please their parents or fulfill the expectations of their society. No, this is for real. They have a passionate desire to be exactly like their rabbi. They are driven to do and think and speak and act exactly like their teacher. That’s the Twelve. In all their immaturity and stubborness, selfishness and pride, self-deceit and sin, they want nothing more than to be exactly like Jesus. What he says, they do; where he goes, they go.

It didn’t work that way with everybody.

The Son of God tells the young man in Matthew 19, “Come, follow me.” But the man refused. Instead, he went away sad. In Matthew 8, “Follow me!” and another refusal. Luke 9: “Follow me. Follow me. Follow me.” Three times. Three different people. Three more refusals. Several of Jesus’ disciples bail in John 6.

Jesus preached to the multitudes. He fed the large crowds. He taught in the synagogues. He was a well-known and well-respected rabbi. He was called “rabbi” by Pharisees and Saducees, Romans and Phoenecians. Why didn’t everybody become a¬†disciple? Why did some keep asking for signs even after witnessing miraculous healings and spectacular feedings? If Philip and Nathaniel can take the Law and the Prophets, put two and two together, and recognize Jesus for who he is, why couldn’t the educated Scribes and dedicated teachers? All these potential students, all these potential disciples. What is it about the Twelve that made them different? These twelve young men, whose names we know, the fathers of our faith, the foundation stones of God’s Church, the ones our children sing about — what is it about them that sets them apart from all the rest?

What is it about you? What makes you such a faithful disciple of Jesus? What sets you apart from those who aren’t following our rabbi? What about the most faithful disciples of Jesus you know? What makes them different from everybody else? Whatever it is, it seems you’d want to cultivate that, right?