Summary: In Jesus the kingdom of God arrived on earth. The world and the lives of people (like Peter, Andrew, James and John) have never been the same. They have received a new purpose and started to follow a different path.
Mark 1:14-20 “And Heaven Came Down”
What would make you drop everything and pursue an entirely new life? A great job offer? A marriage proposal? The chance to make a huge difference in another part of the world? What do you think--what would prompt you to take off from everything you know for something entirely different? What if it was a former carpenter and itinerant preacher talking about the kingdom of God come near?
These are thought provoking questions—inspired by today’s text. What was happening when Jesus called these four disciples and the dropped everything and followed him? How do their actions apply to our lives today?
A CALL TO CHANGE
Last Sunday we highlighted the point that one of the earliest invitations of Jesus and his followers was to, “come and see.” Accepting the invitation, as we saw in the lives of Philip and Nathanael, was a life changing event. We realized, from this story, that faith is more than belief in a sterile set of religious assumptions. The Christian faith is experiential.
Change is part of the Christian life. Jesus never calls anyone to the status quo. Jesus accepts us for who we are, but he always knows that we can be more than we are.
Some people experience drastic changes. The Apostle Paul changed from a persecutor of the early Christians to one of the Church’s greatest missionaries. When I was growing up, a popular book was entitled, The Cross and the Switchblade. The book, which was written by Dave Wilkerson, told of Wilkerson’s ministry to the gangs of New York, and the conversion of Nick, one of the gang leaders. Some of us probably know of people who have experienced drastic changes in our lives when we started to follow Jesus. Perhaps some of us have had such an experience.
Change does not need to be dramatic. Change can happen over a long period of time. As the Holy Spirit moves within us the priorities of our lives are turned around—even turned up-side-down. These internal changes have their outward expression. We may lesson our time vegging out in front of the television and increase our time in prayer, meditation and Bible study. We might reorganize our finances and our financial goals so that we can give more and support Christ’s mission. We might seek to heal long broken relationships, or to let go of long held grudges. Whatever happens, change is the key word.
A CALL TO FOLLOW
Jesus’ invitation to Peter, Andrew, James, and John was to “follow him.” To follow means that we subordinate ourselves to the leader. We go the direction that the leader is headed. We accept the instruction and the discipline of the leader.
It is tempting for us to compartmentalize our faith. We worship and pray, but when it comes to the decisions of life we chart our own course. Following is a short-lived, Sunday enterprise. Following demands that we ask difficult questions like, “What would you have me to do, Lord?” or, “How can you be best honored in this particular situation?”
For three weeks the council has been fasting and praying, seeking to discern God’s will for Desert Streams. Yesterday we spent the day in retreat sharing where we believed the Spirit was leading. We shared our personal visions, developed a group vision, and later discussed where we were and what we needed to do to get to where we believe God wants us. This is not simply a council exercise. Seeking to discern God’s will is an essential exercise of the Christian life.
A CALL TO DEATH AND RESURRECTION
Jesus’ call to follow him is not an easy call. Often the call is not only to change, but also to die. A career might die, so may a way of life, or even a cherished dream. Dying hurts and dying is scary. It is not usually something we want to do.
The promise that we have as Christians, though, is that of new life. Jesus raises us up from death to life. The disciples left their trade as fishermen in order to be fishers of men—an immensely great, more fulfilling task. Paul died to his life as a persecutor of Christians to that of a missionary to the Gentiles. We follow Jesus with the constant promise of new life.
What would motivate you to accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him? God’s love? God’s grace? The promise of hope and new life? Whatever it may be, the invitation is constantly ours as Jesus calls to us, “Come, and follow me.”