When I was in university I had a variety of different jobs. Each year when school was out I would start a job. I remember the first day I worked for Rempel Glass. We had to cut the old caulking out of the expansion joints at a school in St. James and re-caulk them. It was a cool May 1 and most of the day I stood around while the professional did the work and I moved his ladder.
One year I worked for a friend of mine shoveling gravel in basements in houses that were being constructed(this was before skid steers and you had to do it by shovel). I remember that I worked at that job for about a month and then went on a mission trip. Just before I left he told me that I was just starting to be worth something.
What kind of new jobs have you had? What do you do on the first day of your new job? Whenever I have started work at a new church, I have spent my first days getting to know what I have to do and trying hard to get to know the people I will be working with.
Several weeks ago we began a series of messages on Mark. In it we talked about the gospel which Jesus had come to bring. In Mark 1:14, 15 we noted that after John the Baptist had been put in prison, Jesus began his new job by preaching the good news of the kingdom. In Mark 1:16-45 we have some details of the early days of his ministry. What was the first thing Jesus did?
Tim Geddert says, “…the first order of business in establishing God’s reign is the creation of a kingdom people.” Jesus did that by calling to himself a group of people who would follow him and learn from Him. They were called to be His disciples and as such they were to learn from Him. As he began to minister, in their presence, they got to know Him and they learned what it would mean to follow Him. In this chapter, we have the call of the disciples and we have early indication of Jesus’ ministry and what it meant to follow Him. As we examine these things, we also hear the call to be a disciple and learn for ourselves what it means to be disciples of Jesus.
Jesus began his ministry in Galilee which was the area in which he had grown up. As he walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he came upon two men who were fishing. He called to Andrew and Peter and invited them to “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The text says they left their nets and followed him. A little further along the shore he came upon James and John who were also fishermen. He similarly called them and the text says that they left their father and the hired men and followed Jesus.
The call to follow which Jesus gave them had three parts. If we examine the statement which Jesus made in following them we notice that he invited them to follow Him; He promised that he would teach them and make them into something new and the goal of the training was that they would be involved in mission, or as He puts it “fishers of men.” This is the call to be disciples. It is similar to the call which He extended to all the disciples in Mark 3:14, which says, “He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that he might send them out to preach…” This is the call to be disciples that also extends to us.
The first call of discipleship is a call to follow Jesus. In the case of both Peter and Andrew and James and John, they understood it as a call to leave something. In the case of Peter and Andrew, they left their nets and in the case of James and John, they left their father and the hired men.
The call to follow Jesus still involves these two aspects – leaving something behind and following Jesus. Sometimes we are called to leave the world, sometimes we are called to leave family and always we are called to leave sin. Following Jesus is a full time occupation. We cannot give ourselves fully to following our own personal pursuits and following Jesus.
In the case of Peter and Andrew, this leaving did not mean that they would never see their family again, or ever get into a boat again. In fact, in this very chapter, we find that they are back home again and Jesus ministers to Peter’s mother-in-law. But there is an important decision that every disciple of Jesus must make and not just once, but many times in life and that is, “If I am following Jesus, then everything else must take second place in my life.” What do you need to leave in order to follow Jesus? Are you willing to leave it? Geddert says, “Leaving everything to follow Jesus is thus about priorities more than about actually abandoning people and things. It is about putting kingdom matters first.”
The positive side is the invitation to follow Jesus. As these four disciples left their fishing, they did so in order to follow Jesus. Their response to Jesus is truly amazing. Of course it is possible that there is a background here that we don’t know about. Had they followed John the Baptist? Had they heard Jesus teaching before? Yet the impression with which we are left is that they left immediately to follow Jesus. They were responding to Jesus. They were not responding to sound arguments or to an amazing miracle or to a persuasive sales tactic. They were responding to Jesus and they wanted to follow Jesus. Somehow their hearts were in the right place to recognize the divine authority in the voice of Jesus and when he called they were ready to respond immediately.
Is our heart in that place? Is it our desire to leave everything behind in order to follow Jesus?
The call was also a call to be changed. Jesus gave them the promise, “I will make you…” As they would follow Him a profound thing would happen. They would observe Him to see what He was like and how He dealt with situations and what His character was like. As they observed this, they would learn what God was like and their lives would be changed. As they walked with Jesus, He would teach them and they would learn from what He taught them and their lives would be changed.
The promise to the disciples and to all of us who are disciples is that as we follow Jesus, He takes the responsibility to make us into something new. Jesus wants to change us. Being a Christian is not only about knowing that we will make it to heaven. It is about a life in which we begin to be changed so that we will be fit to be in heaven.
How have we responded to the call to discipleship? Are we resistant to the changes which Jesus wants to make in us? Are we fighting against what Jesus wants to do in us? Are we making time to observe Jesus and see what He is like so that we can also be like Him? We have great opportunities to follow Jesus and be changed by Him. His Word is easily accessible to us. We have lots of opportunities for Bible studies and learning and growth and observing and following Jesus. Are we taking them or are we distracted by all the other stuff?
In your heart, do you desire to be changed or are you comfortable where you are? Jesus has given us this great promise, let us allow Him to change us!
Ultimately the call to follow Jesus leads to a call to be involved in ministry. Sometimes we look at this in terms of levels of achievement. We commit to believing Jesus, but not to following Him. Then one day, we commit to following Him, but we don’t want to be changed too much. Later, when we have opened our heart more we begin to allow Him to change us and when we have really achieved a high level, we serve Him. But discipleship cannot be separated like that. When we become Christians, we become followers of Jesus and as followers of Jesus, we are being changed and as followers of Jesus we are involved in ministry. There are no levels of involvement. That is why Jesus councils people to count the cost. Being a Christian is an all or nothing thing. Have we given ourselves to Him to follow, to be changed and to serve Him?
As we have already noted, Andrew, Peter, James and John immediately said “yes!” There was a lot to learn. They still would need to learn all that it would cost to follow Jesus. They would learn how to minister effectively. They would learn to trust Jesus – and as we will see in a future message, that was not something that came immediately. But as they began, they set out on a direction. They left all to follow Jesus. This is the response of a disciple. It was so for them and it must be so for us.
As these disciples began to follow Jesus, what did they see? As we go on in the passage, we observe Jesus at work. We see how He lived, how He reacted and what His priorities were. We begin to see Jesus and as we see Jesus, we learn to follow Him in all of these ways.
As we read these stories, it is not just to satisfy our curiosity about Jesus, but also to begin to see what He is like in order that we may know what we should be like.
Jesus and his four disciples went to the city of Capernaum and on the Sabbath Jesus began to teach the people. While He was teaching, a man who had an evil spirit disrupted the service and the spirit acknowledged that he knew who Jesus was. Jesus silenced the spirit and then cast him out of the man. Can you imagine what it must have been like that day? What would the synagogue service have been like as an unruly man disrupted the service? Can you imagine what it would have been like as Jesus took complete control of the situation?
What the disciples and the crowd learned about Jesus that day was that He was one who had authority. Mark 1:27 summarizes this well when it says, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” The authority of Jesus was demonstrated both in how he taught and in His power over the demon. The crowd immediately recognized that when Jesus said things, it was not like when the religious leaders said things. They recognized the authority of one who had been sent by God. They felt the power of one who had the Holy Spirit indwelling Him. HIs authority was not “smoke and mirrors.” It was not authority without power like that of a good orator. It was authority that also had power as demonstrated when Jesus cast out the evil spirit.
Jesus still rules with authority. In fact, now He not only has the authority of being sent by God and the authority of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, He also has the authority of the only one who has conquered death. He has the authority of the one who has been raised from the dead. He has the authority of the one who has ascended into heaven and sits enthroned for all eternity.
What do we do with the authority of Jesus? Does it not invite us to be amazed, as they were amazed? Does this authority not call for us to follow Him? Does His authority not require that we obey Him?
Following the synagogue service, they thought they might go to CK’s for lunch, but since it did not exist, they went to Peter and Andrew’s home. But lunch was not ready because Peter’s mother-in-law was sick and so not able to help with serving the Sabbath meal. Jesus healed her and she began to serve them. We seem to have a picture of a quiet restful afternoon at home, but it was not to stay quiet. In the evening, after the Sabbath was over, many people brought those to him who were sick so that they could be healed. They had been in the synagogue and had seen what Jesus could do and people from all over the region came in order to have those among them who were sick and demon possessed healed. By the time they all left, it had been a full and exhausting day. Jesus had put out a lot of energy in ministering to people, serving them and healing them.
Yet in spite of such an exhausting day, Jesus got up early the next morning and left the house and went to a solitary place, a wilderness place. He went there in order to pray. Mark mentions the prayer of Jesus in three passages. This is the first one. The second one is in Mark 6:46, just after the feeding of the 5000 and the third is in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before his crucifixion. The fact that Jesus took time to pray is something that always amazes us. Why would the Son of God need to pray? Yet He did. He needed a time of intimacy with God and a time for renewal of strength. Our solution to a particularly busy time is sleep. Jesus response to exhausting ministry is being alone with God and praying.
Dowd says, “If even Jesus found it necessary to pray, how much more should they (his disciples) do so.” Yet the disciples never really caught on. In this story, Peter and his companions found Jesus and their first line was, “Everyone is looking for you.” They did not see the necessity of prayer or the importance of solitude in the presence of God. Even after three years of observing Jesus, they still had not caught on. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus taught them about the importance of prayer and encouraged them to pray, but they preferred to do what we prefer to do – sleep.
Yet, the lesson is not lost entirely. Mark recorded it and it stands as an opportunity for us to see Jesus. What was He like? He took the time for solitude, for intimacy with God and for prayer. If we are to follow Jesus, then surely it is critical that we also learn this lesson from Him. Discipleship means being willing to follow the example of Jesus by making prayer a priority in our life.
When Simon and the others found Jesus, they seemed rather demanding as they told him, “Everyone is looking for you.” What were they after? I wonder if they didn’t think that they had come onto the ground floor of an incredible and extremely successful venture. Within a short period of time, perhaps just a few days, they had seen Jesus teach with authority, cast out demons, heal the sick and become so popular that the whole region of Galilee crowded into their house. What a thrilling ride that must have been! By telling him that everyone was looking for him, they were affirming his popularity and probably quite tickled about it.
But Jesus puzzled them and perhaps us when he responded, “Let us go somewhere else…” What was He thinking? We would say, “Don’t mess with success!” We might suggest, “You have a good thing going, why not do all you can to keep it going.” But Jesus had not come to be a success. His focus was not popularity or even meeting every need in Capernaum. Jesus had come to proclaim the message of the kingdom throughout the whole region. He corrects their misguided enthusiasm when he says, “Let us go elsewhere…so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
As the disciples followed Jesus, they learned in this story that Jesus was focused on His mission. He knew why He had come and He was not about to be distracted from it.
Following Jesus means being focused on the mission He has given us. First of all, this means living a life of service. Why are we on this earth? Our lives would sometimes suggest that we are here to enjoy life as much as possible or to be comfortable and have a good job or house. But if we are following Jesus, the example of Jesus would suggest that we are on earth for His mission.
Following Jesus as we examine this story also invites us to think about our service. Why do we serve? What is our motivation – because it is cool to do so? - Because people admire us? - To carve out a kingdom for ourselves? Or is it because we are servants of Jesus who know the job He has given to us and we are committed to doing it faithfully?
As the disciples followed Jesus, they learned that Jesus was on mission. Are we?
As they travelled about in these other areas, Jesus was met by a man who had leprosy. In that day, leprosy was not as clearly defined as it is today. Many different skin diseases were all identified as leprosy, so it is possible that even something like eczema was identified as leprosy as well as the more serious forms of the disease. Therefore, in this Jewish community, it wasn’t even always the disease that was so terrible. What was terrible was that if you were identified as a person with leprosy, you were immediately stigmatized. You were condemned as unclean. You could not live with other people, you could not go to the temple and everyone would try to avoid you. It could be a debilitating disease, but even worse, it was socially devastating.
This man came to Jesus seeking to be cleansed from his leprosy. He asked Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” As this man came, we can imagine the scene. A whole crowd was around Jesus. The disciples were watching His every move. As this unclean man came upon the scene likely the crowd and probably the disciples made a wide circle around him to avoid coming anywhere near into contact with him. But Jesus was different. Mark reveals the heart of Jesus when he says, “Filled with compassion…” Jesus did not avoid the man. He did not walk quickly away. He was moved from the very depth of His being with compassion for the man and a desire to care for him. Jesus did not do what everyone else in the crowd was doing. Everyone else was desperately trying to avoid touching him. Perhaps they were even rude. Perhaps they were tripping over each other to get away. But Jesus did the very opposite of everyone else. The text says that Jesus did the unthinkable! He “reached out his hand and touched the man.” Jesus was not afraid to be defiled. He reached out, with compassion and touched the man and healed him.
What a profound impact this must have had on the disciples. In this instance, as they watched Jesus, they saw something very important about Jesus and something very important about being a disciple. Compassion moves us not to fear those who are unclean, but to reach out and help them. That is why it is Christians who have opened leprosy hospitals. That is why Christ followers have become involved in AIDS ministries. Following Jesus means following His example of serving all with compassion. Are there some we are avoiding or are we learning to follow Jesus as we serve with compassion. Who are the outcasts who need our love? Who are those everyone else avoids, who need our compassion? Who are the newcomers who need a friend?
Geddert points out that “Chapter 1 opens with the Judean crowds flocking to John in the desert. It closes with the Galilean crowds flocking to Jesus in the desert.”
Are we flocking to Jesus? What can be better than following Jesus?
We have been invited to be disciples – to follow Jesus, to be changed by Him and to serve in His name. As we follow Jesus, we see that He has authority over our lives. Do we submit to that authority? We see that He gained strength by seeking His Father in solitude and prayer. Do we see the importance of prayer? We see that He was focused on mission. Do we exist to serve Him? We see the compassion with which He served. May we also serve with that kind of compassion!
May we continue to look to Jesus, to learn from Him and to follow Him!