A casual observing of the Four Gospels contained in the Christian Scriptures can see that an invitation to follow the Rabbi Jesus was an invitation to join a community.
When Jesus called a person to follow him in the pages of the Gospel, and that person answered the call, he/she was not only committed to intimate contact with the Rabbi but also had to live in community with all the others who were following Him as well. There was no separation of the two realities. If I wanted to talk to, hear from, and behold the Nazarine Rabbi then I had to do it in the company of the other men and women were doing the same thing. An amazing thing was taking place in this little community. Not only were they learning God in their interaction with the Firstborn Son, but they were also learning God in their fellowship and interaction with one another. They soon discovered that the Spirit that was so evidenlty alive and present in man Jesus was also present in their growing relationship with one another.
If Jesus called you or me in those initial days and we decided that we wanted Jesus, but not community, guess what? We would have neither! This is paramount to the revelation of God and the revelation of normal humanity given through Jesus. I think it’s important to realize as Christians and as a human being, that Jesus did not just reveal God. He also revealed humanity as it was meant to be. He is the full expression of God, but He is also the full expression of humanity. And Christ showed us that God, in his essence, and man in his normality, is meant to have community. Anyone who confesses in the Triunity of God confesses that God is community in his very essence. And anyone who believes that man was made in the image of the Triune God must confess that man, in his very essence, needs community.
Jesus called men and women that were already part of a patriotic and religious state. The Jews already had a “sense” of community, and a national identity. But Jesus brought a community wider, and deeper; one that cleaves to the bedrock of what it means to be human. Christ created a community of men and women. The Jewish culture had a long history of patriarchy. Men dominated the home life, the economic life, and the religious life. Jesus changed that. He brought into this earth a community where men and women were fellow-heirs of God and grace. It was women that stayed with him at the cross when all the men fled in fear. It was a woman who offered the deepest expression of love and devotion by pouring her oil upon the Master. It was a woman who was the first to see Christ resurrected. And it was a woman who brought the first message to the disciples that, “The Lord is risen indeed!”.
THe community of Jesus also transcended religion. Jesus’ ministry was not limited to Jews but was opened to syro-phoenician women, roman centurions, and the ever-hated samaritans. Christ’s community was not about swearing to a common religion, but experiencing a common God through community with Him and one another. THis is a major challenge to christianity today which can simply become another “judaism” excluding all others who do not agree with our favorite creed, or brand of christianity.
And in line with the previous thought, Christ’s community transcended nation/state. Lord, will you restore again the kingdom to Israel at this time? Many are still sitting around asking that question. Jesus came to bring the kingdom into all the earth- a kingdom that incorporates all nations, languages, and people. The Kingdom of God invites all men and women to repent of their broken, individualistic, sinful lives, and to come into direct communion with God and community with their fellow man. THis is the revelation of God through Jesus the Messiah.
In america we can learn quite a bit from this. Being a christian and being an american does not exempt me from the the invitation of Jesus. Jesus calls me to follow Him (to follow his relationship with the Father in heaven) and to do so in a community of men and women. To be called into this community is, in a sense, to be called out of the one I’m in. Not to the neglect of the community I’ve come from, but ultimately to redeem it. To put within the many and varied communities of this world, the community that God desires- the one that expresses his infinite goodness and purpose for man. So that one day all the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Messiah. Lord, hasten the day.