Summary: The story of Jesus is an amazing story, which we sometimes take for granted. It should not be this way. We should be amazed!
It is an amazing story, wouldn’t you say? The story of Jesus - his birth, his life, his teachings, his death, his resurrection. An amazing story, indeed. As the title of a movie about Jesus’ life once described it, it’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” John the Baptist had told the people about Jesus; he had told the people that there was an amazing person coming. To all the people who had been amazed by John, who had traveled into the wilderness to see him and hear him preach, John had said that compared to the one who was coming, he wasn’t all that amazing. “I’m not even fit to untie his sandals,” was the way John had put it. And John had told the people to prepare themselves for the coming of this amazing man. “Repent!” was his message. “Be prepared! Someone far more powerful than me is coming. I can only baptize you with water, but he’s going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit. It’s going to be more amazing than you can dream!” And then, John was arrested and locked away. And when that happened, Jesus took centre stage. John’s ministry was completed; Jesus’ ministry was now to begin. “The time is fulfilled,” Jesus said in response to John’s arrest. Jesus’ message wasn’t going to be radically different from John’s. He would stress a need for repentance, for faith and for transformation. The content was similar, but there was an important difference. John pointed beyond himself to the one who was to come; Jesus drew people to himself. “The time is fulfilled,” he said to those gathered around him. “My time has come; my ministry has begun. The time is fulfilled.” An amazing story was about to begin.
It seems to have been Mark’s purpose to amaze his readers. His Gospel is written in a fascinating style. Matthew and Luke relate a very similar account of the life of Jesus to the one Mark relates, but Matthew and Luke “flow” much better, so to speak. They tell the story of Jesus’ life in a narrative form. They offer well-written accounts from Jesus’ birth to Jesus’ death to Jesus’ resurrection. Mark is different. When you read Mark, his account seems a lot more choppy. Mark’s focus is on the signs and wonders that accompanied Jesus’ ministry. He moves quickly from miracle to miracle; from exorcism to exorcism. Mark’s purpose is to amaze his readers. Now, we should never be satisfied with simply being amazed - there’s a lot more involved in the faith - but we should nevertheless be amazed by the life of the Son of God.
Let’s consider some of the amazing things that happened just in the few verses that we read from Mark’s Gospel this morning. Those four disciples (Simon and Andrew and John and James) were amazed by Jesus. This really is an amazing story. We have these four fishermen, tending their nets. They were probably relatively comfortable and well-off. The fishing industry in Galilee two thousand years ago was fairly lucrative. And then along came this man Jesus. There is nothing in Scripture that even gives a hint that these four had ever met Jesus. They may have heard stories about him, but even that we can’t be sure about. At this point, Jesus is probably a lonely figure. He has just begun his ministry; he has no disciples following him according to the text. Becoming a disciple of this man certainly didn’t look like a very promising career choice. And yet, Jesus simply called to them “come, and follow me!” And the most amazing thing happened. Simon and Andrew and John and James dropped everything to follow him. Something about this man intrigued them. Is it too dramatic to suggest that they were amazed by this man? And what was it that caused them amazement? If nothing else, it was perhaps the nerve of Jesus in extending this call to people he had never met. He spoke with great authority. He wasn’t hesitant. He didn’t ask a question. It wasn’t - with respect to the hymn of the same name - “Would you come and follow me?” Not at all. It was more in the nature of a command: “Come and follow me!” And they did. Jesus’ very confidence amazed them. They had no choice but to follow.
It really was amazing. Think about the sacrifices that these four men made to follow Jesus - someone they had never met before in their lives. They gave up family, friends, home, careers. All for the sake of responding to a call from Jesus. Think about this for a second. How much are we willing to sacrifice in order to respond to Jesus’ call upon our lives? How much? An hour a week? A few dollars in the collection plate? That’s wonderful. We do that today. But what are we willing to offer to Jesus tomorrow and into next week? How are we going to respond to Jesus on Thursday morning at 10:00 when we hear Jesus calling us? How are we going to live our faith 24 hours a day, seven days a week? A faith only lived for an hour or so on Sunday isn’t really a faith; it’s a habit perhaps, or a tradition, but not a faith! It’s a good question, isn’t it. What will we offer of ourselves in order to follow Jesus? Does Jesus amaze us enough that we’re willing to sacrifice for him?