Calling All Disciples (January 12, 2020)
Mark 1: 9-11, 16-20
Calling All Disciples
We continue our look at the story of Jesus in the New Testament. And we’re going to, over the next few months, look at the story of the church throughout the New Testament. And we’re going to begin looking at the story of Jesus, looking at the story within the Gospels up until about Easter. And look at that were left with a question of what the order of events is; what is the timeline? What is the actual story that is being told if you will? Now in the fall we looked at story in the Old Testament. And the order events in the Old Testament is relatively easy to figure out because you have one gigantic timeline that everything else fits into that goes from Genesis, to Exodus, to Numbers, to Joshua, to Judges, to Samuel, to Kings, and then to Ezra and Nehemiah. For the most part that is the storyline, and everything else fits in around that.
But the story of Jesus is much more difficult. In the story of Jesus, you have four accounts of the story. Three of them are trying to tell a timeline (the gospel of John makes no indications of even trying to tell a series of events in that way). But Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t agree on the order of events, the specifics of the events, or even how long the ministry lasts. There’s three different accounts of Passover for instance, which is where we get the three years of Jesus‘s ministry from. But at least in a few of the Gospels, there’s indication that Jesus only lasted one year in ministry; beginning in Galilee, and then turning his face somewhere in the middle toward Jerusalem and ultimately his arrest, passion, death, and eventual resurrection.
For this upcoming few months I have chosen to go through the Gospel according to Mark. So for most of our readings, not all of them but for most of them, the readings will take place from the Gospel according to Mark with suggestions to read the other Gospels surrounding that event. That means that we’re going to be organized in our story by looking at who Jesus is until we arrive at an event called the Transfiguration; that is really the turning point in the Gospel of Mark, and from that point on will begin to look toward Jerusalem will begin to prepare have Jesus prepare his disciples for what is going to happen in Jerusalem, experience what happens in Jerusalem, and then ultimately on Easter Sunday we will look at Jesus‘s rise from the tomb and the Easter story.
But of course that begs the question of where does the story of Jesus, or the story of the church, really begin? And obviously since we talked about Jesus for a few weeks before I’ve even gotten to the Gospel of Mark, I disagree with the Gospel of Mark. But you’ll notice that in the Gospel of Mark there is no Christmas story. There’s no wisemen, there’s no manger, there’s no shepherds, there’s no star, there’s no nothing. With Mark, the beginning (declared so with the words “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ” in the actual text) is Jesus‘s baptism by John in the Jordan River. I tend to think Jesus‘s ministry begins and his birth if not long before. For instance Mark isn’t the only gospel to begin with the word “beginning.” John begins the same way, right in the beginning of the book. And John places that “beginning” before Genesis chapter 1, in the very beginning of all of creation. John declares that Jesus is active through all of it, I tend to agree with that. That’s why we have the Old Testament, and why I preach from the Old Testament.
But Mark makes the case that the beginning is at the baptism. And certainly there is an argument to be made that the beginning of Jesus‘s ministry is indeed at his baptism. This is the moment where Jesus turns away from being a carpenter, sets down the hammer and takes up a shepherd’s staff and becomes a rabbi. There are moments in other Gospels before this moment where Jesus doesn’t appear to be ready to start his ministry but he still does a God thing, such as the Wedding at Cana. But this is really the moment where he accepts his ministry and he becomes the rabbi, takes the shepherd’s staff, and he goes forward.
Now Mark goes through a lot here very quickly. Much of the Gospel of Mark leaves us wanting more, which I believe is one of the primary reasons the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew exist: to expand hte stories. Often times we will read the Gospel of Mark and then run to the Gospel of Luke or the Gospel of Matthew, which is why you don’t hear the Gospel of Mark all that often in reading. But I think one of the things Mark is saying here is that the actual story to be told is not the story of Jesus, but the story of the church. The story of the church does not begin until Jesus calls the first disciples. So Mark gets from the beginning of Jesus‘s ministry to the beginning of the church as quickly as he can.
We see Jesus be baptized by John in the river Jordan, and the heavens open up as the Spirit of God descend upon him saying “this is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” God is giving Jesus that vote of confidence, giving Jesus that strength that many of us long for. Immediately after that the Spirit drives him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. And if you remember, in the Gospel of Luke we understand that he survives the temptations by quoting scripture, by relying upon the book of Deuteronomy in particular.
What I think is happening here is that the Spirit of God is driving the human side of Jesus into the wilderness, and driving him to the to be baptized, in order to show the human side how strong he is, and how much he can do or if he relies upon God to be his strength. Because the human side of Jesus is going to need it. I am not one who uses the phrase “there must be a reason,” because I think there’s a lot of times things happen and there isn’t a reason. But Jesus is, of course, a special case being the Messiah and all. I do wonder if maybe the Spirit was saying “you need to be prepared.” He certainly could use it. Mark shows that he returns to Galilee and preaches his first message. And in that message he declares what the mission statement of his ministry is: to preach that the kingdom of God has come near and the time has been fulfilled, and to repeat that all need to repent and believe in the good news. But if you look at the Gospel of Luke, you remember that sermon did not go over very well. He was in his hometown in Nazareth and the people of Nazareth attempted to throw him off the cliff. Maybe he needed that kind of strength.
Now the Gospel of Mark begins to slow down. Jesus begins to assemble his team, begins to begin the church. If it were a movie, all the previous stuff world would have been this opening montage. Now we get to the crux of the actual story. This is the story of the church, the story of Jesus’s his actions through ordinary people like you and me, like Peter and Andrew and James and John. One thing that I will say a lot in the spring is that the New Testament is still being written. It’s an idea that has been called “Acts 29.” There’s a group by that name, and I’m not referring to the group I don’t know much about them. But this is the idea that the author of the book of Acts, which is the same person as the author of the gospel according to Luke, gets to the present day and stops writing. But that the story of the Acts of the Apostles continues; that there is an Acts 29, and 30, and 31. That you today are living Acts chapter 29, or 129, or 2020. And the question is what are you doing for God that is scripture worthy? How are you contributing to the acts of the apostles of God? That this is our story as much as it is the story of the people that we’re reading about.
With that in mind, let us look at the way in which Jesus calls these four disciples with an idea toward what that tells us for how to Jesus might call us. First we see that Jesus goes to them where they are. Jesus does not require the lost to come to him, he goes to them. He doesn’t require the Peter, and Andrew, and James, and John show up in the synagogue in order to meet him. He goes out to the shore and calls out to them. We, and here it is a collective we with all Christians at least in this country and Europe, need to do a better job of this. I am looking for ideas of how you can bring the church out of these doors to where you are in the midst of your daily life. And if you have an idea for how that might happen, I am more than happy to bring as much of the resources of the church as I can get to help you out. But you know where the seashores are in your life. You know your life better than me. The best ideas will come from you.
The next thing to note is that Jesus interrupts their lives. Jesus is rather rude here, right? They’re in the middle of their shift! They’re all just minding their own business and Jesus comes up and interrupts them. Probably not the ultimate model for us to follow. But Jesus still does this; Jesus gets a special pass. But he still interrupts our lives in the most inconvenient times. My own call came in the middle of a social studies lesson in eighth grade. I received a communication; it wasn’t words, but he iw was a message that was so powerful and so irresistible that I had to stop my social studies lesson, I just sit there and converse with God and answer the call right then and there. Jesus interrupted my life, and he still interrupts our lives. Our job is to stop to listen.
The other thing to note here is that they drop everything and they follow him. They drop their nets, they drop their boat, they follow him. When you follow Jesus there’s no turning back. You are changed and you’re not going back to the person you were before. You might be in the same job, you might not drop your net, but you’re going to be doing it differently. They’re not going home. In fact the disciples try to go home in the Gospel of John: after Jesus is put to death, they go back to the sea of Galilee and get back on the boat. And the next morning Jesus is there on the shore and says “no,” and calls them back out. There’s no going home; you have a different home.
Next we see that Jesus offers them a call that fits their skills. They are fisherman; he says “I want you to fish for me. I’m just going to adjust it ever so slightly so that it looks different for the Kingdom.” This continues for us. He uses what we are good at, slightly adjusted, for use for the Kingdom.
And Jesus will always call you to something specific. He calls them to be fishers; just fishers of men. He always calls us to something specific. You never follow Jesus in the abstract, you never follow Jesus in theory; Jesus is always calling you to do something specific, to do something concrete. It may not be the same as your neighbor. You may not be called to preach (you may be called to preach), but you may also be called to work where you are. But you do it a little differently. But there will always be something specific to be done. You just listen to the Spirit.
Lastly, we see that something about the call of Jesus was irresistible, at least for these four people. Others in the story do resist. Maybe they weren’t called? We don’t know about what happened with Zebedee or the hired hands. But for these four people; for Peter and Andrew and James and John; it was something about Jesus that was irresistible. There is something about Jesus to these four men that was irresistible, and they followed him. In spite of all logic, they put down their livelihood and they answered “yes.” And as is often the case, even for us today, they answered “yes” when they didn’t quite know what they were answering yes to, other than they were answering this specific man. There was something about him that drew them in, in spite of all logic, to answer “yes.” And it changes their lives. Following Jesus is not easy or logical, at least to the world’s standards. But it is what it a disciple does. And we should be trying to be disciples. Jesus has called you; is calling you, today. What is your answer? Amen.