2009-07-26 (am) Mark 1.14-20 Follow Me

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2009-07-26 (am) Mark 1:14-20 Follow Me

            We pick up our series in Mark where we left off a few weeks ago.  Remember, Mark’s purpose in writing this gospel is to demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth is the anointed one, the Messiah, the long awaited Son of God who came to bring salvation and the kingdom of God.

          Last time we looked at Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the wilderness.  In both, Mark showed us that Jesus really is the one, he’s willing to take up this ministry, the Holy Spirit has anointed him to do it, and he has his Father’s spoken blessing.

          Now, by way of transition, Mark tells us that when John was put in prison, Jesus went to the Galilee region to begin his ministry.  Probably a year has passed since Jesus’ baptism.  Peter and Andrew have already met Jesus, while John was still baptising.  John had disciples, and already there were people following Jesus, for he had disciples as well.

          The Pharisees grew jealous of John, and conspired to have him thrown in prison.  Jesus, sensing that they might try the same tactic on him and knowing that it was not yet time for that, leaves the Jordan and makes his way north to Galilee.

          And as Jesus went, he was proclaiming the good news saying, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.”

          These are the first words Jesus says in Mark’s gospel.  They summarise his ministry.  They summarise the whole biblical message.  The time has come, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.

          The time is the event that the Jews were longing for.  The Old Testament promised the messiah would come.  They were impatiently waiting for him to come.  The Messiah would finally usher in the kingdom of God.  They had waited so long.  How do we know that this Jesus, this guy from Nazareth really is the Messiah?  People had doubts back then, so how do we know? 

          Well, we can compare what the prophet Isaiah wrote about the coming messiah, and in doing that, we see that Jesus of Nazareth really is the messiah, the Son of God.  But there’s more than just Isaiah, hear the words of the prophet Malachai.

          “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).

          John represents Elijah.  John called the people to repent.  John turned the hearts of the fathers to their children.  This means that the time really had come.  The day of the Lord had come.  Jesus really is the messiah.

          I’ve often wondered about Jesus’ words, the kingdom of God is near.  Here we are, 2000 years after Jesus ascended into heaven, and it doesn’t seem like the kingdom is any nearer.  Some days seems like we’ll have to wait another 2000 years before it will come.

          But the nearness doesn’t refer to time, but rather to proximity.  Jesus, the king of Kings and Lord of Lords is standing right there.  It can’t actually get much nearer than that!

          Jesus was telling them, “Look, I am the Messiah.  I’m standing right here before you!  Now’s the time to act!  Repent and believe.”

          And know this, the situation is still the same today as it was 2000 years ago.  Jesus, though he is in heaven, sitting at the Father’s right hand, by his Holy Spirit, he is as near to us today as he was then, walking around the Sea of Galilee.  Indeed, the Spirit of God is in this room, right now.

          And through these words, written on the page, and spoken by me, Jesus himself is calling to me, to you.  Repent and believe.

          What does this mean?

          Repentance is a complete change of mind.  It is a 180 degree change in direction.  It is doing the opposite of what was; doing something new.  The Bible describes it as coming to life from death, going from darkness into the light. 

          What has to happen is the Holy Spirit has to make us aware of the reality of the situation we’re in.  If you’ve seen the movie The Matrix it’s the moment when Neo sees what the matrix really is.

          What the Holy Spirit does is shows us what we’re really like.  We’re born into slavery, we’re born into sin, as we heard in baptism this morning.  That’s reality, but many people still believe Satan’s lies.  Many people think that they’re pretty good, that they’re living their lives well enough, and that in the end, God’ll be happy enough with their efforts and will take them to heaven.

          But the reality is that all of humanity is bad, sinful, in effect, humans are spiritually dead and because God is holy and pure, we’re separated from God.  Unless there’s something to make us alive, to take away our sin, to make us good, God will reject everyone, and send them to everlasting punishment.

          What the Holy Spirit does, is show us how God the Son, holy and pure and innocent, came from heaven to earth, became human while maintaining his divinity, took on sin, took on our punishment, our guilt and paid the curse for us.  The Holy Spirit, makes us spiritually alive, to see Jesus as the Messiah, to see ourselves for who we really are, and causes us to realise that unless we accept the reality of the situation, there’s no hope for the future.

          And so, that same Holy Spirit, who is here this morning, in this room, is at work in your hearts, your lives, and is using these words that I’m speaking, to show you the reality of the situation.  Some, probably most of us have already believed it and received it.  Though, the repentance part is still a daily necessity because we’re not yet made perfect.

          But perhaps some of you here this morning haven’t really repented.  You haven’t really seen the plainness of the situation.  Maybe you’ve only experienced religion, a series of do’s and don’ts but no relationship with Jesus Christ.  Wake up!  Repent, turn away from the old way of thinking!  See reality!  See that God exists, Jesus is really real, that true life and true faith is freely, graciously given to you.  Believe it!  And God will plant it in you.  He will make you alive!  He will cause you to know and experience things beyond your imagination! 

          But maybe you’re sitting here this morning and you’re thinking, “That sounds nice Paul, but what you’re saying is too much.  What you’re saying is that the God of the universe, the one by whom all things were made, the earth, the moon, the planets, the sun, the stars the galaxies, everything, that God is speaking to me and calling me to follow him.

          I’m nothing.  How can he possibly know me?  I’m just a farmer, I’m just a trucker.  I’m just an infant.  I’m just a child.  I’m just a stay at home mom.  I’m just a nobody.

          Look at verses 16 and 17.  “Jesus went up to some fishermen and said, “Come, follow me.  And I will make you fishers of men.”

          We would have expected Jesus to go to Jerusalem to the finest rabbinic school, to find the most knowledgeable students of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible.

          But Jesus didn’t come to call Bible scholars, even though those people are important.  Jesus came to call people to do what he was doing.

          Jesus went to fishermen, scum of the earth, oh yes, the Jewish society people looked down on them.  They were even lower than lawyers, car salesmen.  Lower even than pawn shop operators.

          Jesus went to them because he had a purpose for them.  They were diligent, persistent, hard workers.  They kept going at it.  They faced danger, they faced humiliation, they faced hardship, and they kept doing their trade.

          Jesus came to call them to a different purpose.  He called them to become His disciples.  Peter and Andrew, as I’ve already mentioned, already knew him.  James and John most likely knew him too.  And the fact that Mark mentions that Zebedee had hired workers in addition to his sons, they might not have been working full time for him at this point.

          Jesus is gathering around him what will eventually be a core group of 12 disciples who will continue his teaching and preaching and healing ministry. 

          Jesus, by his Holy Spirit, using the words I’m saying, is standing right here in front of you this morning.  And he’s saying the exact same thing to you.  Follow me.  Follow me, you neglected, you despised, you uneducated farmers, stay at home moms, children, constables, whatever you do, and I will care for you, I will honour you, I will make you sowers of the word.  I will make you parents of believing children; I will make you grow up knowing me, even though you’re an infant, a child, a teenager, a young man.  I will make you into the person I want you to be.

          I will make you an officer of true peace, and true justice and true mercy.  You will be my witnesses.  You will be my disciples.  The world will know about me because of what I am doing in you.

          Jesus said those words to the disciples and they followed him immediately.

          Are you ready to follow Jesus immediately?

          Don’t answer too quickly.  By all accounts, these men had already learned who Jesus was.  They could have rejected him.  If as some suppose, James and John were Jesus’ cousins, they could have refused, thinking to themselves, “What’s Jesus playing at?  Why isn’t he making furniture?  Who does he think he is, some rabbi now?”

          But they didn’t think that.  They believed him.  They followed him.  Their actions demonstrated their belief.

          But they knew him.  Do you know Jesus?  Do you know that he really is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  Have you come to terms with the reality of the situation?

          Are you like Neo, sitting there, not in a chair, but in the pew, wondering if you should take the blue pill or the red pill?  One will leave you in the state you’re in, total delusion, a wasted life, and an awful future.  The other will open your eyes and you will see reality, but you’ll see Jesus as he really is, the greatest treasure in the universe.

          In the movie, Cypher resented taking the pill that took him out of the matrix.  Maybe Judas resented taking Jesus command to follow him.  He did not weigh the costs carefully enough.

          Following Christ means taking up your cross and dying to the false reality we’re born into.  There will be hardship, pain, suffering and defeat.  There will be failure.  I’m not going to lie to you about that.  You probably won’t have your best life now.  You won’t hear seven steps to a better you. 

          But you will get eternal life.  You will have eternal joy.  You will have peace.  You will have the greatest treasure in all the earth, the treasure that makes the stuff of earth look like garbage.

          On Facebook this week, a person posted something a child said, “I hope there will be banana slushies in heaven.”  I agree, banana slushies are great.  As much as I too would want them in heaven, I believe that what heaven will have to offer will be so beyond our expectation, that it will make banana slushies taste like Buckley’s Mixture in comparision!

          The time has come.  The kingdom of heaven is near.  Repent and believe the good news!  Follow Christ.  Amen.

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