Follow Me

Today’s readings are Mark 1:16-20Open Link in New Window & Mark 2:13-17Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Ian.

Imagine this scenario. I need help in this church. I know someone who is very busy in their work, has an extremely successful career, they have a lovely house, and a family to look after. I approach this person and tell him to leave their good job, and come and follow me and minister for the Lord in Kingsdown. I will not pay them.

What do you think they might tell me to do? …??

But with Jesus, what happens when he says, ‘Follow me!’…?

This is the second sermon in our series on Mark’s Gospel, as we look at the first half of the gospel, where Jesus reveals who he is. Gaby spoke about the beginning of the Gospel and there’s no beating about the bush. Mark goes straight in to announce this is all about the Good News of Jesus Christ, and then comes the call by John, to a baptism of repentance, and the announcement that the one who is to come, will baptise with the Holy Spirit of God himself.

Still in chapter 1, the focus now moves away from John, and directly onto Jesus. The prophet John is in prison, and the public ministry of Jesus begins. We meet Jesus in his own right and for the next year and a half, which Marks narrates in the following six chapters, Jesus says, ‘God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe in the message.’

Mark has told us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. John the Baptist has told the people that Jesus will come soon. God has told us at Jesus’ baptism that Jesus is his Son. Now Jesus begins to show who he is. This is where we come to today’s passage, and the calling of the first disciples / followers of Jesus.

Jesus and the Kingdom of God is Mark’s main theme. But discipleship—what we come to directly now, follows closely on as a dominant theme of Mark.

So, let’s go back to my example at the beginning. I ask someone to give up a successful job, when they have a family and other responsibilities, and come and work for St Matt’s for nothing. The probability is that the answer will be ‘No’.

There may be reasons that we understand in the decision. But there’s also another dimension to this. We don’t like ‘being told’! We want to choose how we live, ‘thank you very much’! But with Jesus, it appears that its different.

Have any of you been to the Sea of Galilee? As Jesus walks by the north-western shore of this beautiful freshwater lake, he meets two pairs of brothers, Simon and Andrew and James and John. They are partners together in a fishing business.

The full context of this meeting can sometimes be misunderstood. This wasn’t their first meeting, and his call to them come and follow him were based on earlier meetings.

John 1:35-40Open Link in New Window tells us that Andrew and Simon were followers of John the Baptist in southern Perea at the time of Jesus’ baptism. They were among those devout Jews who had returned to God having heard John’s preaching, and as Jesus becomes fully committed to proclaiming the Kingdom of God, they join him in this mission.

The difference here, is that it is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is doing the telling. They didn’t argue. They didn’t go home to their families to discuss it all. Immediately they followed Jesus. Both Simon and Andrew and then James and John. James and John even left their father in the boat, which in the culture of the time would have been seen as a scandalous failure of a son’s duties. The draw of Jesus, the sense of understanding that there was nothing else to do but to follow Jesus, must have been powerful and clear.

They weren’t coerced against their will. They weren’t threatened.

Sometime people, do have to instantly do things on command. But this will be because they are under some worldly power dynamic. It is very different to be faced with Christ telling us something. Read on into the rest of chapter 1, and you will begin to see and hear the unique authority of Jesus, and as we do so, we understand more and more, that Jesus is the one person who has the loving power and authority to tell us what to do.

Jesus tells us to repent, to leave all our sin, to begin a new life following him.

He says ‘Follow me’!

These fishermen, later mocked as ‘unschooled, ordinary men’ by the chief priests in Jerusalem (Acts 4:14Open Link in New Window), are, within the year, visiting the towns of Galilee calling on the people to repent. How amazing is that! And the second set of verses today, from Mark 2Open Link in New Window, remind us that Jesus calls all of us. Jesus calls sinners, as he called Levi, derided and despised because he was a hated tax collector.

Jesus’ call is to everyone. With whatever experience of life they have had, they have as much to offer as anyone.

Due to the exceptional and challenging times we are living in, St Matthews has many ordinary things we should like to do again, to help re-build community. E.G. after church coffee… It’s so lovely to be able to have a chat with people, and get to know new friends. There are other areas of church ministry too, be it Alpha, children’s and family ministry and outreach back into our community, or helping out with reintroduction of services, offering different spaces and places for worship in these Covid times. Is there something new you can do, willingly and joyfully, to serve in some small way, and help re-build this community of faith?

Christian ministry is not about always having the ‘right people with the right experience’, according to our personal judgements, in place. This can sometimes be very excluding… as well as very tiring for the people who end up being asked to be on every committee.

One of the central points of these passages is that Jesus did not call all the obviously equipped and experienced people onto his teams or committees or to go out into the community. He told inexperienced and unskilled people, with willing hearts. He told sinners like me and you, who would have felt inadequate, nervous and unprepared. He then loved them and taught them, while at the same time modelling to them and showing them, what a community of God’s love and grace looks like. This sort of community can be the smallest of groups, teams or committees, up to the largest of church gatherings.

In the years to come, these first disciples travel the Roman world proclaiming the good news of the Messiah, the king, Jesus. They become ‘fishers of people’.

What a powerful testimony, to the truth that the kingdom of God did come in the death and resurrection of Jesus. How else can you explain the lifetime commitment of these people, resulting for some in violent death, unless the message was true?

Jesus has the power and authority to tell you and me what to do. The most important job for us, as was asked of these first followers, is to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ, so they may know ‘life in all its fullness’. He may not want you to leave your job. He may not call you to be a preacher. However, he does want all Christians to ‘fish’ for people, to help people to come under his rule of love and grace. Alpha…

In Psalm 145Open Link in New Window David says, ‘All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.’ (Psalm 145:10-12Open Link in New Window)

More than ever, following the consequences of a global viral pandemic, in a world situation where it is predicted that over the coming decades, tens of millions of people will become displaced refugees by climate change alone, notwithstanding wars and oppression, families and our communities are crying out for answers and hope, and for someone to offer them the opportunity to hear the Good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus calls us to face outwards to the world and hear it’s cry.

So, as we remember that Jesus has the loving power and authority to tell us what to do, that he calls us to follow him, and become fishers of people, I offer some questions for us today.

  • Have we perhaps become a bit complacent, overly willing to accept life as usual?
  • Does God perhaps have that new story to write into your life. Is there something that the Holy Spirit wants to push you into?
  • Is there something Jesus is calling you now, to leave behind in your life, so that you can more fully follow him?
  • Is there some sort for security you need to let go of?
  • Is there a ‘net’ you need to leave behind today, so that you will go out and tell people about the Good News of Jesus?

This is how church communities and the Kingdom of God will grow. As a disciple of Christ, what is Jesus telling you today?

There will be a video version of the service.

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