Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Mark 1:14-20 (NRSV) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.Over the years, I've heard many sermons that talk about "the kingdom of God." I suppose the simplest explanation I have heard, that I remember, is that the "the kingdom of God has come" means that the King has come, and, of course, that king is Jesus! Now, of course, God has been ruling the universe all along, but in terms of a distinct and dramatic intervention in human affairs, the arrival of Jesus into human history is huge. And, so it is here announced.
So what happens next? What response is called forth?
Repent. Believe. Follow.
Repent means to change one's mind. At the most basic level, I think the change is from "I am the king" to "Jesus is the king." As human beings, autonomy is a big deal. Self-pleasure and self-preservation and self-gain is what drives us. I want things my way. What is in it for me. Its comfortable and convenient for me. Me, me, me. I, I, I. Repent! Our outlook shifts from looking at ourselves to looking up to the King.
I suppose another level of change of one's mind is in regard to sin. Going from thinking, there is no such thing as sin to saying, yes, there is such a thing of sin. Going from saying, I'm not sinner or I'm not very much of a sinner to saying, I'm a sinner and I need help!
Believe means to think something is true and to have confidence in it. So often, skeptical people think faith means, I conjure up the will and emotion in regards to something false. As such, they conclude that, at best, belief is a useful fiction and, at worst, self-deception.
To the contrary, Biblical belief is a confidence in the truthfulness and validity of the object of that belief, in this case, the Good News. And the Good News is the proclamation that Jesus is the King and He is here and because of this the status quo of the human condition has been changed!
Follow means come here and come now with an imperative commanding tone! In the case of the disciples in this episode, they immediately left their nets and their life as fishermen.
We work at what ever jobs we work at and so does this mean we should quit our jobs?
Well, maybe, but probably not. We have to remember that Jesus' call on the disciples was unique in the sense that these guys became the Apostolic foundation of the Church. In the case of the disciples, they were having a change in vocation from fishermen to Apostles! So then, how does this "follow" apply to us?
I suppose we need to look at the totality of our life and see if there are aspects of our life that we need to leave behind. Scan through our 24 hours in a day and see if there are things we are doing that perhaps we need to leave behind? Are their behaviors that we know that God is not pleased with?
Beyond behavior, we need to check our attitudes. Are their thought patterns we need to leave behind? In professional sports, it is often said that the talent gaps are not large but the mental part of the game is what separates the champions from the rest of the field. And so are their things in our minds and things we feed our minds that need to be left behind because Jesus has commanded us to follow him?
Following involves leaving something or someplace. But it also involves going somewhere perhaps unfamiliar or doing something perhaps unexpected. And so, maybe we keep the same vocation but maybe do it somewhere else? Maybe we keep the same vocation but take a different attitude about what it means to us?
Perhaps Jesus call to follow Him might mean taking a look at how we use our time outside our job as well? He maybe asking us to follow Him into participation as a volunteer in the church youth group. Or maybe to join the team that provides practical help for individuals or families the church has come to know are in need. It starts with asking God, help me to have a heart to serve others. It continues with a prayer to have eyes and ears to see and hear where the need might be that God is asking me to follow Him to meet. It could be something the church is doing we could plug into. It could be a neighbor. It could be some community group. Following Him means an openness to possibilities.
The call to discipleship starts with a change of mind about the way we have seen things. It continues onto a trust and confidence in Jesus as our Lord and King. When these two things happen, our lives will change as we will want to follow Him. He will lead us into surprising places, doing things we probably never expected and almost certainly with people we would not have considered.
Lord, have your way with us as your way is the way of truth and life! Help me follow! Amen.