JESUS BEGINS HIS MINISTRY
Here we are in the middle of a three part series where we are looking at what it means to be called by God. Last week, we began by talking about the need to listen for God’s voice because it all starts with listening. To do that we used the story of God calling Samuel which is found in 1 Samuel 3. Today we’re going to look at four people who not only heard God’s call but also responded to that call in a positive way. And to do that, we are going to look at what happened when Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him and be his disciples.
Here’s a bit of background. This story takes place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is just starting his ministry. He grew up in Nazareth in the region of Galilee. We know from the previous story in Mark that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River which is south of the Sea of Galilee. And it seems that Jesus has now made his way back north to the Sea of Galilee where the story will begin. In the meantime John the Baptist has been arrested and thrown into prison. It doesn’t tell us why in this version of the story but in the Gospel of Luke chapter 3 we learn that John had got on the wrong side of the Roman governor by suggesting that he should stop sleeping with his brother’s wife. While that might sound like good advice to you and me, the governor didn’t quite see it that way. So he locked up poor John the Baptist. So now let’s get on with today’s Scripture reading.
It starts with Mark 1:14-15 (NIV) which says, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'” So Jesus has begun his earthly ministry. Note that he’s on his own. There are no disciples, no apostles, no one but him and he starts to preach. “The time has come,” he says. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe.” So Jesus has a message. That message is that the kingdom of God is near and that if people want to enter that kingdom, they have to repent and believe.
Here’s my question for you. Do you think people today really want to hear that message? Or to put it even closer to home, is that a message that you want to hear? Lots of people say, “No,” to that one. I don’t want to to have to repent of anything. And I certainly don’t want to have to believe in anything. I’d rather just walk through life believing that everything that I do is okay. I’m a good person. I do the right things and if I happen to hurt others from time to time, I didn’t mean to so it really doesn’t count.
Do people like being told that they have to repent? I don’t think so. People do not like to be told that they’re wrong about anything. We seem to live in a time when everyone seems to think that they should be able to do exactly as they please and that they don’t have to be accountable to anyone other than themselves. And yet, into that mix, Jesus says that we have to repent and believe. That’s his message.
Why is that? It’s because our Christian faith says that we are by nature sinful people. That’s our default position. That does not mean that all of us are horrible people. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything good but it does mean that none of us is perfect. All of us sin. All of us fall short of the glory of God. To be sure, some fall more and some people fall less but all of us fall short. Whether we want to or not, all of us hurt others from time to time whether we meant to or not. Again, that doesn’t mean that we’re horrible people. All it means is that we’re human and, let’s face it, being human means that we’re not perfect. Our default position is that we are sinful people.
That reminds me of something that happened to me this week. It has to do with my car. I drive a 2015 VW Passat which I really like but one thing I don’t like about new cars, in general, is that they talk to you. That’s how they come when you drive them off the lot. Everything is voice activated. The car tells you when you need fuel or when the tire pressure is low or when you need servicing. In the olden days, you’d just hear a ding and then look for an indicator light on the dash to tell you what was wrong. Now, maybe I’m just old fashioned but, when a car talks to me, that sort of freaks me out. So what I do is I turn off all of the voice stuff. If I want to change the radio station, I turn the knob. The voice on the GPS system really annoys me so it’s off; I just look at the screen on the dash just behind the steering wheel.
But there’s been something going on with my car that really bothers me. For some reason when I start to car and it connects with the Bluetooth on my phone, it starts playing a song from my phone. And there’s only one song on my phone because I don’t put music on my phone and I don’t really like the song. So I was trying to figure out how to change the settings so that that would not happen. I tried and I tried to find some way to change it but couldn’t figure it out. So finally, as a last resort, I decided to go back to the factory default setting and start again. So I pushed the factory default button.
That was a mistake because all of a sudden the car starts talking to me again. But because it’s a Volkswagen and I pushed factory default, it started talking to me in German. And it sounded eerily like Sergeant Schulz from Hogan’s Heroes which freaked me out even more. So I started pushing the settings button again until the languages came up. And I didn’t know what to do because there were two English language settings; one for the US and one for the UK. Which do I push? If I pushed the US English option would I get Donald Trump? If I pushed the UK option, would I get Mary Poppins? I didn’t know and Sergeant Schultz was still talking to me so I decided to talk back but the only German I know is, “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” glockenspiel and gesundheit. And it didn’t seem to make any difference… so I turned the car off.
That all happened because I went back to the car’s default setting. Jesus tells us that we as people have a default setting and that default is that we are imperfect, sinful, human beings. The amazing thing about that, of course, is that God still loves us anyway. And that’s why God came to us in Jesus Christ to reconcile us and make us new. That means that if people want to respond in a positive way to Jesus’ call, they have to be willing to put their egos on the shelf and understand his basic message; that the kingdom of God is near and that we need to repent and believe.
JESUS CALLS THE FISHERMEN
I’m sure that there were a lot of people in Jesus’ day that didn’t want to listen to what he had to say but what we discover in verse 16 is that there were indeed people willing to hear Jesus’ message. Mark 1:16-17 (NIV) says this, “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting nets in the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”
First of all, do you see a progression here? I think there is one. In the previous verse, Jesus said to repent and believe. In these verses, he asks the fishermen to follow him. There’s an order here I think to which we need to pay attention. Here’s the order: repent, believe and then follow. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think what Jesus is telling us is that repentance and belief must come first before we can truly follow him.
What that says to me is that before you can follow Jesus, you need to be willing to look deep inside at your own life and see what’s there. I’m sure that you’ll find some good things. I’m sure that you’ll find some good qualities, some things that you’d like to enhance. Maybe you’re a generous person. If you are, than admit it and be glad. Maybe you’re a kind person, a caring person, an empathetic person. If you are, be glad and rejoice. But what about the other stuff that you know is deep inside. What about the stuff that you’d rather keep hidden from the world? Do you have any long held grudges? Do you harbour hatred or resentment toward someone? Do you lust after that which is not yours and never can be? What about that short temper or your unfortunate habit of putting your mouth in gear before engaging your brain? These are the kinds of things that separate us from each other and from God and so we need to come clean with them and repent. I doing so, in that act of repentance, we prepare our hearts to put our egos aside and follow Jesus when he calls our names.
Jesus calls the people to repent. Then he called them to believe and when that was done Jesus asks the fishermen to follow him. Have you ever wondered why, of all of the fishermen on the shore that day, Jesus chose Andrew and Simon? I’ll tell you that it wasn’t a coincidence. This story in Mark doesn’t tell us but John 1:35-42 does. We’re not going to read that passage this morning but what it tells us is that Andrew first met Jesus through John the Baptist and that Andrew was so taken by Jesus that he went and got his brother Simon and that together they went and visited with Jesus. We know that this happened before John the Baptist was put into prison. So the reason why Jesus approaches Andrew and Simon is because he already knew them and for some reason, Jesus believed that their hearts were ready to follow him.
“Follow me,” said Jesus, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Isn’t that an interesting phrase?: I will make you fishers of men. Who did he say it to? He said it to fishermen. It makes me wonder sometimes what Jesus would have said to them if they were bakers or blacksmiths or farmers. I don’t know but I do know that he told fishers that he would take their skills and use them for his glory. “No longer will you be fishing for fish,” says Jesus, “but from now on you will be using those same fishing skills to catch people for the kingdom.
Do you know what this tells us? It tells us that God can take the skills and talents that you possess from other areas of your life and use them for a greater purpose. In fact, it tells us that throughout our lives, God prepares us to do that which we someday be called to do. And all of that can be summarized by this statement, that God will never call you to do anything that God has not already equipped you to do.
I think about that in my own life and how God prepared me to be a minister by putting me though all kinds of other training first. I’ve been asked before how I learned to be a minister. And my answer usually goes something like this. As a high school student and throughout my undergraduate studies, I worked part time in a shoe store. That’s where I learned my people skills. Then I graduated from university and began working in the business world where I learned all about organization and management. Then I joined the army reserve where I learned all about leadership. And in the middle of all of that somewhere I spent four years at Emmanuel College in Toronto where I learned a bit of theology.
When I look back at my life, I can see how God put me in different positions and gave me different training in order to prepare me for ministry. And my hunch is that if you look back at your life, you will find the same thing. When you look back, what experiences have you had, what skills have you learned that you can use for the work of God’s kingdom? Are you good with kids? Maybe God can use you in a children’s ministry. Do you have organizational skills? Those are in demand. Can you cook a mean pot roast? One thing the church loves to do is eat. As it says in Romans 12:6-8 (NIV), “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” All of us have skills and talents. And the reason why you have been given those skills is because God wants you to use them for the kingdom.
What that comes back to for me is something that I have said many, many times before. It is that God will never ask you to do anything that God has not already equipped you to do. Look in your own lives. How has God used what went before in your life to prepare you for what lies ahead when he calls you once again to follow him?
THE FISHERMEN RESPOND
How did the fishermen respond? We find out in Mark 1:18 (NIV) which says, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” “Repent,” Jesus said. “Believe,” Jesus said. “Follow me,” Jesus said. And they did. In fact, it says that at once they left their nets and followed him.
In the next two verses, Mark 1:19-20 (NIV) we find to other fishermen doing the exact same thing: “When he had gone a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Jesus.” It’s the exact same story, just two different people. Jesus calls them to follow and they do.
Do know what this teaches us? It teaches us that to say, “Yes,” Jesus is a huge commitment, not to be taken lightly. It means that you have to be prepared to leave everything else to follow him. Does that mean that you have to pull up stakes, leave your family and start wandering around the countryside preaching, teaching and healing? I don’t know. That’s between you and God. All we know is that that is what Andrew, Simon, James and John were called to do.
For us it might mean something different. It might mean have to forego your Thursday evening hockey game on TV because God is calling you to go to choir practice. It might mean that you need to give up smoking because God is calling you to quit. It might mean that you give up some of your free time because God is calling you to volunteer at the food bank or the Downtown Mission or put in the odd Tuesday morning at Gleaners. But whatever it is, big or small, when you are called by God to follow and do something, it has to come first. And furthermore, you have to trust God that when you are doing what God wants you to do and follow Jesus, that God will look after everything else.
I want to leave you with this thought. Do you remember my car, the one that started talking to me in German? I eventually turned the car back on a figured out to fix it. When it feels like having a conversation with me now, at least it’s in English.
But it made me think, wouldn’t it be good if we had a new default button in our lives, one that enable us to say yes to God and follow him? Wouldn’t it be great if we could leave all of the sinful stuff behind knowing that we are forgiven, cleansed and made new? The truth is that there is a button just like that. His name is Jesus.
After you repent, after you believe
and after you respond in a positive way to Jesus’ call to follow him, something
amazing happens. The Holy Spirit comes in and begins to work within you and
transforms you from the person you are into the person God always intended you
to be, the factory default. And that is where we will be going next week. So
come on back and hear the rest of the message.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of the Universe, who made the Sun and stars and moon. You cause the ocean tides to rise and fall. The changing of the seasons is in your hands. The wind blows as you direct. How great and awesome you are. How magnificent is the Creation of your making. How full is your love for us.
Heavenly Father, for Christians who have walked the road of faith before us and shown us the way to go, we thank you. May we travel in the footsteps of Jesus even as they did that, one day, our children may look back at our lives and call us faithful.
We give thanks for those in positions of leadership in our country and in our church. Grant them wisdom and faithful insight that your name may be lifted up and your standards maintained. It is so easy for us to divide ourselves along political lines and political parties but encourage us to keep all of our political leaders in prayer for them need it even as we to too.
There are many who are sick. Some of us have conditions that are noticeable and apparent. Others have illnesses of the heart that are less easily seen. Make us well and whole in your sight. In mercy, grant them your healing touch.
We also pray for our American neighbours who seem to be so divided along partisan grounds and ideologies. We pray for two things. First, that you would help to heal that nation and second that you would prevent us from going down a similar path in our country. We pray for unity even in the midst of diversity. We pray for the healing of relationships and the healing of nations
O God, help us to hear you today.
Help us to read the seriousness of the times in which we live. Divert our
attentions from interests that divide and misdirect our commitment. With the
devotion of Christ’s earliest disciples, may we dare to leave all to follow
you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
January 21, 2016 / Epiphany 3
Psalm 62:5 -12; Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Mark 1:14-20; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
CALL TO WORSHIP
The greatness of the Lord is experienced in the tenderness of God
The power of the Lord is known in the gentleness of God.
Come, we will worship the One who give us refuge.
Let us worship the One who protects and saves us.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
The world is our God’s and the fullness thereof. The mountains and the valley together call out to you who created all things and nurtures all creation in the your arms of love. We await your presence in our worship. We wait with patience for your Spirit to move and breathe into our inner most beings, transforming us into images of your grace. Remind us that our hope in you is not in vain. You are our protector and defender. Upon our faith, we can stand firm. Come Lord Jesus come to enliven the ministry to which we have been called. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Your call is heard and your mission is clear. We are your people called to share your Gospel message with a hurting world. Protect us, O God, from the fears that would hinder our ministry. Defend us from the uncertainties that prevent us from boldly being all that we can be. When we stand upon your scales of justice, we discover the times when our feet and hands have been immobilized by the hardness of our hearts. We call upon you to forgive us for those times when we have failed you and one another. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Despite our failures, we have a God who reaches down and lifts us up above our sinfulness. Jesus Christ died for our sins so that we can be forgiven through the power of his blood. In him we have new life as the resurrection people of God.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
From the tallest tree to the tiniest crumb, all of the Creation is yours, O God. In our offerings, we honour your creative hand and bold imagination. Enable us to give as to you freely as you have given to us. Nothing that we can offer will ever match your generosity, so we humbly bring what we can asking you to provide the increase. Amen.
As Spirit filled followers of Jesus Christ, we have a mission to fulfill. May the Spirit give us the boldness to share the Gospel message and the sensitivity to understand the needs of others.