Summary: Epiphany 3.. Jesus call to us creates the faith to follow Him. Following Jesus is our faith in action. As followers we are not in charge, and cannot see the future. We follow Christ because we trust Him with our lives now and in His kingdom forever.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Last week we read in the Gospel of John how Jesus had begun to call his disciples. We learned of his call to Andrew and Simeon, and to Philip and Nathaniel, the one under the fig tree. Today we read in Mark, how he called these men, who believed in Him, into a new and different life. We will see how in faith, they followed Jesus, and how we, church, in and by faith follow Him also.
Jesus had been baptized by John in the Jordan, and there received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who descended on Him as a dove. At His baptism, the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” And so Jesus enters into His ministry on this earth, proclaiming the Gospel.
And that is where our reading today in Mark picks up. John who had baptized Jesus had been arrested by Herod. This Herod was the nephew of the King Herod at Jesus’s birth, who had killed all the baby boys of Bethlehem. Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (verse 14). Here we see two things. First, that Jesus is proclaiming. This is the beginning of His work, as the Father had said, “Listen to Him.” Second, His message is a message of repentance and of the kingdom of God, very similar to the message of John. John had just been arrested by King Herod. It would seem foolish to follow one who was proclaiming the same message that got John arrested. To keep proclaiming that message, the one that got John thrown in prison, one would either have to be fool or on a mission from God. There was little reason to follow such a proclaimer. To be a follower was dangerous. Following might get you arrested, too.
Now Jesus is walking along the shore of the sea of Galilee. This was a busy place for fisherman and merchants and the like. And He sees Simon and Andrew, and says “Come Here, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And right away, they do. They put down their nets, and follow him.
Just down the shore there was a boat. In it was a man, Zebedee, with his two sons, James and John. They had finished fishing and were mending their nets. Jesus called out to James and John, and they too, stopped what they were doing, and came and followed Jesus.
We see that Simon, Andrew, James, and John followed Jesus. What does it mean to be a follower? First, the follower is not the leader. And in fact, it takes a leader to have a follower. Two leaders are not leaders. They will tangle and rub against each other. And two followers are not followers. They are just lost together. The follower follows behind the leader. The leader decides to stop or go, turn left or turn right. The follower, as long as he is following, does not get to decide. He cannot just do it my way. The follower is not independent, not his own boss. It is the leader who leads, who decides, and who is responsible. The follower must be willing to surrender the right to make his own decisions over to the leader.
Second, because the follower is behind the leader, the follower does not get to see what lies ahead. Only the leader knows that. The follower simply walks in the path and footsteps of the leader. The follower cannot see ahead, he can only see the leader.
What does this tell us about following? Following is an act of trust. Following is faith in action. To be a follower, one must trust the decision-making to the leader. And to be a follower, one must trust the decision the leader has made. The follower follows because he trusts the leader. And when he stops trusting the leader, he will soon stop following. Following and trust are tied together. The follower has faith in the leader, and a faithful follower will follow his leader. Why? Because he has faith in the leader.
Well, now, what about those disciples? Jesus called the disciples to a life of faith, a life of faith in Him. Notice how when He called, they came right away? Now, how is that? Remember, Jesus was proclaiming repentance and the kingdom of God, just as John had done. You can see where that had gotten John. And the danger was the same for those who followed such a proclaimer.