Sunday, January 21, 2018
“Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
Last week we read in the Gospel of John how Jesus had started to call His disciples. We heard Him call Andrew and Simon, and Philip and Nathaniel, the one under the fig tree. Today we read in Mark, how He called four more men, Simon and Andrew, along with James and John the sons of Zebedee, they believed in Him, and joined into this new and different life. We’ll see how in faith, they followed Jesus, and how we, the church, in and by faith follow Him also.
Jesus had been baptized by John in the Jordan, and 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 His ministry on this earth, proclaiming the Gospel.
And that’s where our Gospel reading in Mark picks up today. John who had baptized Jesus had been arrested by Herod. This particular Herod was the nephew of King Herod who ruled during the time Jesus was born. The same Herod that had all the baby boys of Bethlehem killed.
So, here we hear of Jesus as He 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).
Notice two things. First, that Jesus is proclaiming. This is the beginning of His work, or His ministry. I'm sure you remember what the Father said at His Baptism, mainly because I just quoted it, “Listen to Him.” Second, His message is a message of repentance and of the kingdom of God, very much like the message of John, actually exactly like John’s. John had just been arrested by King Herod. It’d be foolish for anyone to follow someone 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 have to be either a fool or know that this person was on a mission from God. There was little reason to follow such a proclaimer. To be a follower was dangerous. Let’s face it following someone like that, 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 become fishers of men.” And right away, they do it. They put down their nets, and they follow Him.
Just down the beach a little bit there was another boat. In it was a man, Zebedee, with his two sons, James and John. They were finished fishing for the day and were busy fixing their nets. Jesus called out to James and John, and they too, stopped what they were doing, and came and followed Jesus.
So, this week we hear and see that Simon, Andrew, James, and John left everything behind and followed Jesus. So, I ask the question, what does it mean to be a follower? First, the follower isn’t 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 by themselves are not followers. They’re just lost together. The follower has to follow behind the leader. The leader decides to stop or go, turn left or turn right. The follower, as long as he’s following, doesn’t get to decide. He can’t just do it his way. The follower isn’t independent, not his own boss. It’s the leader who leads, who decides, and who’s 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 doesn’t get to see what’s ahead. Only the leader knows that. The follower simply walks in the path and footsteps of the leader. The follower can’t 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’ll 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? We’re not told if they ever knew or even heard of Jesus, only that Jesus called and they followed. 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.
A follow would have to decide: This Jesus was either a fool, or He was on a mission from God. Yet these disciples came right away. How and why did these disciples come so quickly? They came because of the call of Christ. Christ called them. His Word, His call gave them faith, faith in Him. By that faith, they knew that He was true. They knew He wasn’t a fool, they knew He was on a mission from God. And by that faith, that trust, they followed Him. They couldn’t see what was ahead of them, but they trusted Jesus. In the past, they made the decisions about fishing. But now Jesus would make the decisions. They had faith and trusted Jesus. Their following was a result of their faith. It was their faith in action.
What about us? What about you and me? Jesus has called us, the Church. He has called us to a life of faith in Him. Do we ever feel that life is out of control? Yes. And it is. Life is out of our control and in the control of Jesus. He is leading. He has called us to trust Him and to follow Him. What happens when we’re not content to be the follower, and try to be in control of our own lives? We get all tangled up. How, then, do we follow Jesus? By trusting Him. To follow Him we don’t need to work harder at following, we need only trust Him. How do we trust Him? By faith. Faith which He gives us through His Word.
What about our lives? What will this year bring? Or what will tomorrow bring? We don’t know. We can’t see the future. But we have One who can and who does. Jesus sees what’s coming. We need only follow. And to follow, we don’t have to see the future, we only need to see our leader, Jesus. And we do see Him. We see Him by faith. We see Jesus by faith when we hear His word. We see Him by faith in His body and blood. We see Him by faith when He receives our prayers.
Just as the disciples, it can be dangerous to follow Jesus. And just like them, we must determine whether this Jesus, who calls us to repentance and into the Kingdom of God, whether this Jesus is a fool, or on a mission from God. And how do we know? Quite simple, “by faith”. The faith we have received from the Apostles, the faith we have received from God by His Word. He has called us by His Word. And by faith we believe. We know that He was and is on a mission from His Father. We know that Jesus is true.
Like the first disciples, we follow Jesus by faith. We can’t see the future. But we see our Savior. We can and do trust Him, with our lives now, and in His forever kingdom. We follow Him by believing. We’ve been called to be His people, His followers. We don’t need to work harder at following Him, doing it in and with our own strength. Rather we follow by believing and trusting Him. We have believed His word and repented. And faithfully we follow, day by day, step by step, trusting Him to lead us. For His kingdom, the kingdom of God, is at hand.