Today’s reading was Mark 1:14-28
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 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 impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
The question I first asked Landon this morning was why he thought the fishermen so easily quit their jobs to follow Jesus. He said, “Because it was JESUS.” And though that is a simple answer, there’s something profound in it too. When people are confronted with the pure, 100%, unadulterated Jesus, there is something compelling and attractive about him. But when we dress him up as a Republican or a Democrat, a freedom fighter or a revolutionary, a Caucasian American or a Brit, or anything other than he truly is, we hinder people from seeing him. To the extent that we do that, he is less compelling and attractive to people.
Now I’m not naïve enough to think that my presentation of Jesus is untainted by cultural or theological assumptions, but I do know this: when I allow Jesus to be who he is, rather than who I would like him to be, things will be better. When I try to force him into the box of my expectations, it doesn’t go to well. When Jesus said, “I AM who I AM,” it could also be interpreted as, “I WILL BE, who I WILL BE” and woe betide the person who gets in the way of that.
The second thing that struck me about this story was the instant obedience of the fishermen. Mark says, “At once, they left their nets and followed him.” It sounds rash and uncalculated. But perhaps that’s the way that following Jesus should be. Of course, for some people there needs to be a serious counting of the cost (people who will be rejected by their community and family if they become Christians) but for many of us, it’s simply an act of the will, not an assessment of the price tag. To be honest, the “cost” of being a Christian in the USA is not that high compared to many other countries in the world. For me, the question remains, do I have a heart that is attuned to Jesus, so that when he says, “Come, follow me…” I come. Am I willing to leave the equivalent of “my nets” behind? For these fishermen, the nets represented their source of income, their security and the life they had known. They were willing to leave all of that behind in order to follow Jesus. What would Jesus call me to leave behind to more fully follow him? A sin? a habit? For some of us, perhaps a career?
The call to come is with a purpose – that they might be fishers of men. When we read the story that followed, where Jesus casts out the impure spirit, Landon’s legitimate question was, “Why didn’t he just get rid of all the evil?” I asked him to answer the question for himself, and he said, “Because he wants more people to follow him, and if he got rid of the evil now, he would have to get rid of them?” Indeed. I sometimes hear Christians say the phrase “Maranatha,” which means “Come soon, Lord Jesus.” For myself, I am glad he is delaying, because there are people I love who are not yet in relationship with Jesus. Landon and I closed our time by praying for those people.
Who is it that you love, who does not yet know Christ? Spend a minute or two praying for them, that God might put a good Christian in their life, or they might have the gospel presented to them in a way that they understand, that Jesus might be compelling and attractive to them.