Text: Mark 1:14-20
Title: Follow Me
Theme: Since Jesus is the Son of God, therefore his followers must follow him on his terms.
The consumer mentality has slowly and quietly creeped into the churches, both here and in other parts of the world. When we start a new church or reorganize an existing one, we conduct survey to discover what people like and don't like about the church. We want to find out their preferences for music and sermon topics. We will even stay away from the word sermon for it is too preachy and unfriendly. Instead we'll use words such as message or sharing. We want to cater to their needs and preferences. So when we prepare our promotional materials, we can say that this is the church where you will not find anything that you don't like about the church. Our programs are like the ‘all you can eat buffet'. It will meet the needs of the children, the postmodern generation, the x-generation, baby boomers and their parents. Just come as you are; this is a warm, casual, cozy and all inclusive place.
But the picture that Mark painted for us about Jesus' ministry seems to be quite different from what we are familiar with. The Jesus that we will meet in today's passage does not speak words to please our ears. Instead, he clearly tells us that if we are to follow him, it has to be on his terms. Very often his terms are quite alien to us. Let's take a closer look at this.
I. The Messiah proclaims the magna carter of his kingdom. Vs.14-16
Mark told us that Jesus was the promised and prophesied Messiah in the OT. His arrival into the world was announced by John the Baptist and confirmed by the trinity God. Immediately after this public introduction, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. The first Adam was tempted by the devil in the Garden of Eden. He failed miserably. Now, Jesus, the second Adam was tempted by the devil in the wilderness and he came out of it victoriously.
In vs. 14 we read that, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee , proclaiming the gospel of God.” After John was arrested, Jesus came and started his ministry in Galilee . Since John was the one who prepared the way for the Messiah, now with his work completed, it is logical that Jesus started his ministry. This way, with John fading into the background, the spot light, and focus is on Jesus and him alone. This is what John meant when he said, “he must increase, I must decrease.” What is Jesus' first public announcement?
1. The time is fulfilled.
Vs.15, “and saying, ‘the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God has come. It is like the pregnant mother counting months, weeks and days for the birth of the baby. Then, the baby is here.
Jesus is saying that he does not come out of nowhere. The countdown for his coming started about 500 years prior to Mark's writing. And to be exact, this countdown started the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God. And now, the Messiah is here. The time is fulfilled.
2. The kingdom is near.
Vs.15, “……and the kingdom of God is at hand;…” With the arrival of the Messiah, the kingdom of God is near. The kingdom of God is where God rules. The Israelites were expecting a kingdom where there is the physical and visible government and authority, overthrowing the Roman rule. However, as Jesus'' ministry continues to unfold; it becomes clear that it was a rule over individuals' lives. Moreover, there will also come a time, at the end of human history, that God's kingdom will be visible to all. All creatures will bow to him and acknowledge him as the Lord of all, and King of all. This is what we mean by the kingdom is here, and is also yet to come.
3. The core message of the kingdom of God .
What is this kingdom? What are some essential characteristics of his kingdom? Jesus did not ask his audience what they thought his kingdom should be. Instead he gave them a clear snapshot what his kingdom is all about.
a. Repentance. “Repent and believe in the gospel.” In our culture, if we want people to come to our church, we will try to use non-threatening, and all inclusive words. Come as you are, you don't need to make any changes, just be yourself. Instead, Jesus'' first public statement was: Repent. It's offensive and unpleasant to the ears. Can you imagine Blockbuster rolling out their latest campaign to win customers with these words, “Welcome, late fees here.” No, its offensive, so they say, No more late fees. That pleases everyone.
You see, facing this God, all we can see is our own shortcomings and sinfulness. We are sinful not because we have done the wrong things. We are sinful because we are all in the 1 st Adam. We sin, because we are sinners. Therefore the first thing we need to do as we stand before the kingdom of God is to acknowledge our sinfulness and express our determination to turn around and begin a new life. This is repentance.
b. Believe in the gospel. Besides, repentance, we also need to believe in the gospel of God. To believe is to put one's trust into something. There is content in this belief. We learn that some churches in China is called the “Crying Sect ( ??? )”. The teaching is that all you need is to call out ‘Jesus'' 3 times and you are saved. Here we are told that we are to believe in the gospel. As Mark and other NT will tell us, this gospel includes the following:
First, when we recognized our sins, we also know that God placed our sins on Jesus, the son of God. This is what John the Baptist said in the gospel of John 1:29, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Having put our sins on Jesus, God also placed Jesus'' righteousness on us. So that, on behalf of Jesus, God considers us as righteous.
Second, having been moved from the 1 st Adam to the 2 nd Adam, God's spirit also enables us to overcome our sinful nature. He helps us to put on Christ's characters that we become more like him each day. The Holy Spirit also enables us to be the salt and light of a dark and rotten world.
And lastly, while on earth, we will see our sinful nature, but we look forward to the day when Christ returns and we'll be completely transformed into his likeness.
This is the good news, the gospel we are to believe. We do not decide what to believe and what not to believe. He, the son of God, has given us the content of our belief.
II. The Messiah calls his disciples. 16-20
Vs.16-20, “ 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee , he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”" 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. ” I want to make several observations on these verses.
1. The Messiah initiates the call to individuals.
The Messiah initiates the call. He is the one that calls individuals. He saw Simon and Andrew, and he said to them….. He saw James and John and he called them. He is not asking for volunteers, but he calls individuals to come and follow him.
2. The disciples respond to his call promptly.
Vs.18, “And immediately they left their net and followed him.” Vs.20, “And immediately he called them…and they…. followed him.” When Simon and Andrew, James and John, heard the call, they followed him promptly. They were very much unlike some characters in the gospels who wanted to take care of some of the family matters and then come and follow Jesus. The four individuals Jesus called, responded and followed him promptly.
3. The disciples respond to his call totally.
Simon and Andrew left their fishing net and followed Jesus. It was their livelihood, which they put aside. James and John left their father and followed Jesus. In that 1 st century culture, loyalty to the family was very important. It is hard to imagine that the sons will leave their father and family trade to follow another person. Just as career and family were very important to the 1 st century people, it is the same today. Sometimes, when we follow Christ, we will have to switch our loyalty. Jesus will now become the master, the most important person in life. When Jesus calls, we are to respond promptly and totally.
What does this mean to us? I still remember several years ago, on one Sunday morning in September, a lady who had just arrived from China came to this church for the first time. She heard the message and she responded to God's call immediately and accepted Christ. Last weekend, we had the privilege of seeing about 20 individuals respond to God's call to follow him and be his disciples.
As we follow Jesus, he will also take some of us down an unfamiliar path. When we follow him, he will change us into humble and gentle persons just like him. He will lead us to heal those broken relationships. He will enable us to forgive those whom have offended us.
As we follow him, he may lead us to quit our job because there are too many unethical dealing. Or as one person shared with me this past week, he felt God is leading him to go back to China and help those with troubled marital relationships.
He may call some of us to follow him into full time ministry. I think of one of our summer interns, Joe, who was here two summers ago. He felt the call while in high school and he started preparing himself in college with a major in Christian ministry, he is now studying at Trinity seminary. God called my brother while he was in college in Seattle , and he promptly went back to HK and began a ministry there. After Mou Tao became a Christian, he responded to God's call and entered full time ministry. Linh responded to God's call and completed her seminary training. Today, God has called Jason, Geoff and Conrad and they have all responded promptly and totally. They are also in the process of preparing themselves for full time ministry.
To some of us, to follow him may simply mean to follow him to come to church and attend Sunday school where you can learn more about him so that your lives will be changed by getting to know him.
I have observed a phenomenon in the Chinese churches in NA. Many mature Christians have heard of God's call into full time ministry. But we responded by saying, “I still have family responsibilities; I will serve you full time by taking early retirement 10 years later.” When Jesus calls, he expects a prompt and total response.
The Jesus we meet in the passage we studied this morning is a Jesus that clearly spelled out what his kingdom is all about. If we are to come into this kingdom, it has to be on his terms. We are to repent of our ways that are not compatible with his character. He is the standard by which we are to measure our words, thoughts and deeds. He is not seeking volunteers in his kingdom. Instead, he comes to us individually; and calls us to follow him. When he calls us, he wants us to follow him promptly and totally.
I have seen individuals when they become Christians, they expect Christ to do this and that for them. It is as if they have made a deal with Jesus that I will follow you, but you need to help me succeed in my personal agenda. When I follow you, I want you to help me with my green card, my job and family. We want him to come and assist us in our pursuit of success and happiness. This is quite foreign to the Jesus we meet here. He wants us to follow him according to his agenda. He wants us to follow him without reservation.
These past few days I have been thinking much about my life. I think of how, while in high school, I responded to him and became a Christian. In my early 30's, after 7 years of working in the life science field, he again called and I responded and entered into full time ministry. In my 40's he led me into different ministry opportunities: such as teaching at FuJian Seminary, preaching in a FuZhou church, ministering to a Oslo , Norway Chinese church for a few months. And in my 50's he led me to Houston to serve you and come to know the congregation at Almaty. During these years, he has certainly expanded my horizon, enabling me to minister to different people and churches in ways that I never could have imagined several years ago. If you know what I was like in my 20's, you could not have imagined that I am where I am today. As I follow Jesus, he constantly stretches me in ways beyond my understanding and imagination.
Why are we to follow Jesus according to his agenda, promptly and totally? In the opening verse of this gospel of Mark are these words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” Because he is the son of God, he is God; he alone can demand such total loyalty and obedience from those he calls.
Welcome to HCC's' Sermon archive directory. We are working to merge our archives to our current website @ hcchome.org
Please report any issues to the HCC main office or staff. Thank you.