Summary: This is week two of this series and will look at the first three commands of Christ.
What Jesus Said about Our Behaviour: Follow Me
Last month I received an email from a man who is planning on carrying a cross across Nova Scotia. He didn’t tell me how big the cross was going to be but I’m assuming that it isn’t going to be a small cross. And to tell the truth I’m not sure what I think about his project, if indeed I think anything about it, kind of ambivalent for me. It really doesn’t affect me one way or another.
I’m sure that his intentions are good and there will be those who think that he is committed and others who think he should be committed.
Our topic this month is “What Jesus said about our behaviour” and you might be wondering what a man carrying a cross across Nova Scotia has to do with that topic, bear with me. In both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospel accounts we see Jesus’ ministry begin with the same two commands. First he tells people in Mark 1:14-15 . . . Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” So, the very first thing that Jesus command us is “Repent and believe” And that is awesome. This is the Cornerstone of our faith, repent: That is acknowledge that you are a sinner and be sorry for that and not just a little sorry, but sorry enough to want to stop that behaviour. And then believe the good news. What is the good news? That when we repent of our sins, that in the eyes of God our sins are forgiven. And repentance isn’t “I’m sorry because I got caught”. It is an acknowledgment that your sinful behaviour has been an offence to God.
William Barclay writes that this command to repent was a command to “Turn from your own ways, and turn to God. Lift your eyes from earth and look to heaven. Reverse your direction, and stop walking away from God and begin walking towards God.”
That is the same message that Peter preached after Jesus had been crucified and after Jesus had been raised from the dead and after Jesus had returned to the Father. On the day of Pentecost Peter preaches and when he is done those in the crowd ask him “What should we do?” and we read in Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness for your sins.” And then later Peter proclaims in Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
So the first thing that Jesus said about our Behaviour is that It Will Involve a Decision to Leave the Past
And maybe you are thinking, “What does that have to do with the guy with the cross?”
Patience, we will get there.
If Jesus first command was to repent then what was his second command? Mark 1:16-18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
If Jesus’ first command was for people to draw a line in the sand to delineate the past from the future his second command was to step over that line and to leave the past behind. And so he called Peter and Andrew to follow him, and then he called John and James to follow him, and then he called Philip to follow him, and then he called Matthew to follow him. And he is still calling people to follow him today.
And that was the beginning of Christianity. Up to the point Jesus was just a lone preacher calling people to repent, it was when Andrew and Peter put down their nets and followed Jesus that it went from a sermon to a movement.
But what does it mean to follow? We really don’t need to bring up a dictionary definition of follow, you understand that. Follow isn’t a complicated word, it has no deep hidden meanings, it’s not rocket surgery. If you are going to follow someone you follow them. If we were heading to the same place and I told you to follow me you would know exactly what I meant. If I wasn’t going that way but knew how to get there I could give you directions and tell you to follow the directions. Dorothy and her friends understood that they would find their way to the Emerald City if they followed the yellow brick road.