Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC

Mark 1:14-20
…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 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.  And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 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. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (ESV) Mark 1:14-20

We won’t know for some time what the cultural disruption from social distancing, quarantines, and living “safer at home” will have on our way of life.  As we make our way through this challenging time and look ahead to an altered future, Jesus’ message to the Galileans anchors our daily perspective. His message is an invitation for us to enjoy the true peace and certainty found only in the coming Kingdom of God.

Jesus travels with purpose toward the Sea of Galilee.  The time is now to share his timeless and transforming message!  Like today, there were many false “gospels” being preached in the days of Jesus.  Mark is eager that we not miss the gospel (good news) that Jesus preached. We are wise to take a pause and make sure we know the true gospel – according to Jesus.

What is the good news according to Jesus?  1) The time is fulfilled 2) The Kingdom of God is at hand 3) Repent (of sin), Believe (in Christ’s death and resurrection), and Follow.   

With these words, Jesus made real a completely new possibility for all of humanity.  His message was so incredibly inviting that people literally stopped what they had been doing their whole lives – on, the, spot.  There was no hesitation, getting things in order, or long goodbyes. One minute they were doing such and such. The next minute they left it all behind.  What was so amazing about this news?  

Hundreds of years of messianic prophecy were fulfilled in the coming of Jesus! He was initiating the sovereign reign of God on earth, that will be fully consummated when Jesus returns to establish his 1,000 year reign.

People close to Jesus were watching, waiting, and ready to respond.  Jesus clarifies how we respond with these words, “Repent…believe…follow.”  We can join God’s Kingdom now by repenting of sin, believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and following Jesus as Lord of our lives.

Hearing Jesus’ invitation, Mark makes this stunning observation about the way Simon and his brother Andrew responded, “immediately they left their nets and followed him.”  About James and his brother John he says, “they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.” What could account for their radical response?

Fishing was how these men provided for their families and themselves.  They left it all behind to follow Jesus and become fishers of men. They didn’t consider the consequences, they just left it all behind.  I wonder how I would have responded in that moment.

We see what following meant to Jesus, Mark, Simon, Andrew, James, and John.  As we reflect on their responses, allow me to make an observation. I believe there’s some uncertainty among folks about what Jesus meant by ‘follow’ in today’s times.   

When Jesus said to follow him, he meant laying down our rebellious way in exchange for observing every command of Jesus with swift and total obedience.  Jesus said to “Seek first his (God’s) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) There is no form of Jesus following where he is an add-on to the plans we have to build our own kingdoms.  

The Army has an unofficial word that describes halfway following orders.  That word is half-stepping. Half-stepping military orders is, well, not good.  But, half-stepping Jesus’ command to follow has eternal consequences. We must let our Jesus-following motto be: all-or-nothing for the Kingdom of God by the grace of God. Let us consecrate ourselves by God’s grace to never settle for temporary, lesser, earthly kingdoms.

The news that Jesus shared and his invitation are no less incredible today than they were then.  We get to live under the sovereign rule of God the very moment we repent, believe, and follow Jesus.   Our future is then determined by God’s certain and awesome plan for our lives, not COVID-19.  

Today is our day.  The time is fulfilled for certainty to replace uncertainty.  Jesus invites us to repent, believe, and follow. When we see each other in heaven, let us sweetly remember that Jesus gave us all the invitation of a lifetime to join his coming Kingdom and to let him make us fishers of men.  A sure and certain invitation that we left everything to follow!

Lord Jesus, you are worthy of all praise.  I am thrilled for the opportunity to live under the rule of your Kingdom reign!  I need your grace each day to follow you faithfully and consistently. I lay down my rebellious, half-stepping ways right now.  I want to follow you fully, without excuse, and free from any double-mindedness. You and your Kingdom purposes are worthy of my whole life. I am completely yours.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Hosea 10:12
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.