Saturday, 30 June 2007

Following Jesus

Mark 1:14-20

I wonder who or what we follow?

Most of the time we are following things or ideas or people without realising it.

We follow the crowd. We do things in a particular way because that was how we were brought up or because ‘everybody’ lives this way. And if we start to be different, we begin to worry: ‘am I a freak’?

Sometimes we consciously follow something. It might be a team or a hobby or a career; fashion – the girl dressed up in the Goth gear is making a statement: she is saying – ‘I’m not following you - I’m following an alternative society’. Or we follow a cause: cats, the environment, anti-war. I had an eccentric uncle who waged a one man campaign against the putting of fluorine in water.
And sometimes we follow a person: a parent, an anti-parent (someone who is not like our parent), a celebrity, a boss, a friend, a religious leader or a political leader

A journalist, a man called William Allen White, wrote of his first meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1897:

“He sounded in my heart the first trumpet call of the new time that was to be.… I had never known such a man as he, and never shall again. He overcame me. And in the hour or two we spent that day at lunch, he poured into my heart such vision, such ideals, such hopes, such a new attitude toward life and patriotism and the meaning of things, as I had never dreamed men had.… After that, I was his man”.


In our reading Jesus comes up to Simon and Andrew and calls them to ‘follow me’. It is an invitation that comes to them, and it is an invitation that comes to each one of us

1. IT IS AN INVITATION TO FOLLOW A PERSON

The Christian life is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In verse 15, Jesus declares: "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

That is the theology. In verse 16 we come to the practice: Jesus comes to Simon and Andrew and says: "Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And later, he sees James and John. “Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him”.

In other words, Jesus is the good news.
Believing the good news is the same as following Jesus.
We can know all the stuff that we need to know, but if we are not willing to follow Jesus it counts for nothing.

For Peter, Andrew, James and John it really was a call to literally follow Jesus on a journey. To be his companions. It was not an unusual call: many rabbis would have their own travelling disciples.

But it was more than the call to become an itinerant rabbi’s companions.

The call to follow Jesus was and is a call to listen to him, to do what he does, to love the way he loves, to pray the way he prays, to go where he leads

It is the call to trust him.

“The story is told that a national magazine assigned a photographer to take pictures of a forest fire. They told him a small plane would be waiting at the airport to fly him over the fire.
The photographer arrived at the airstrip just an hour before sundown. Sure enough, a small Cessna airplane stood waiting. He jumped in with his equipment and shouted, "Let's go!" The pilot, a tense-looking man, turned the plane into the wind, and soon they were in the air, though flying erratically.
"Fly over the north side of the fire," said the photographer, "and make several low-level passes."
"Why?" asked the nervous pilot.
"Because I’m going to take pictures!" yelled the photographer. "I'm a photographer, and photographers take pictures."
The pilot replied, "You mean you’re not the flight instructor?"

The call to follow Jesus is not to go with a pilot who doesn’t know what he is doing. But it is the call to come on the most astonishing journey.

Following Jesus for the first Christians was awesome and gloriously unpredictable. One day he was wrecking a funeral: bringing the person back from the dead; the next he commands a storm to be still; he then takes them to meet a violent lunatic who nobody can control; he asks them to feed 5000 people with a few loaves and fishes, and provides wine out of water. He sends them out to preach the kingdom, heal the sick and cast out demons. He is overwhelmed by people wanting him to heal their sick, but is constantly on the move preaching the Kingdom of God. He resolutely sets out to go to Jerusalem even though they are going to kill him there. And when they thought he was dead and that the journey was over, he explodes back to life again and tells them that his Spirit will live in them.

The call to believe the Good News is the call to follow a person
It is not primarily about subscribing to a set of beliefs
It is not about obeying a moral code
It is not even about doing certain ‘religious’ things
It is about putting our trust in Jesus Christ and letting him lead us.

2. THERE IS A COST TO THIS CALL

Jesus says, “Repent and believe the Good News”.
Repentance is about a mental U-turn. It is about realising that the Kingdom of God, heaven, the ultimate, ‘the meaning of life, the universe and everything’ is not to be found by following the crowd, by pursuing money or career, or power. It is not to be found in seeking to satisfy our very human desires. It is not to be found in finding another person. It is to be found in Jesus

That meant for James and John that they left their father and their father’s business

And yes, following Jesus is about putting our hand in his hand. It is about intimacy and comfort and reassurance and hope. But it is more than that. If we follow Jesus he will lead us out of our comfort zones, he will take us through the hedges that we grow to separate us from other people, and there will be times when we need to risk everything to follow him.

But even though there was and is a cost, it is worth it.

There was something about Jesus Christ that was so magnetic, that Simon and Andrew stopped what they were doing and followed him.
There was something about his call that made James and John leave the family business and follow him. They wanted in on this.
There is something about his call that has made countless men and women, including people here, change the whole direction of their life and follow him.

Following Jesus is about following someone who loves us. It is about following someone who desires to lead us to our true identity, purpose and destiny. It is about living the God stuff: preaching the Kingdom, healing the sick, loving people; confronting, in Jesus name, the demons that trap us in order to destroy us and others. It is about following someone who desires that we find fulfilment and freedom: a life that can be controlled not by the crowd or by what others think I should be doing or by guilt or fear, but by love and by God.

It is worth it


3. IT IS A CALL TO BECOME

Jesus says to Simon and Andrew, ‘Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men’

If we respond to the call to follow Jesus then we are responding to a call to change, to be changed.

If you are not willing to be changed, then do not come to Jesus

Jesus is in effect saying to Simon and Andrew, ‘Come follow me and I will make you such attractive people that you will draw other people to me’.

Jesus is saying to them: ‘Let me make you beautiful – not on the outside (that will happen in heaven), but on the inside. Let me make you so loving, so gracious, so gentle, so peace-making, so giving, so full of life, so different – that people will see me in you’

And the call is not just to them. Jesus’ call comes to each one of us. It comes to us whatever we do, whoever we are. It is the call to let God change you, to become the person God would make you to be.

It is important to realise that. We think that we need to be perfect to follow Jesus. No, Simon Peter wasn’t perfect before Jesus called him. He wasn’t perfect after Jesus called him. And you won’t be perfect before Jesus calls you, and you won’t be perfect after he’s called you.

But Simon Peter was on a journey (we’re going to be looking at that over the next few weeks), and you will be on a journey. I do not know where he will take you: that really is between you and him.

But I do know that the one who calls us can be trusted and that the call to follow Jesus is exciting. It is liberating. It is about getting involved in God’s purposes for his world today; it is about living life the way God made it to be lived. It is about becoming the sort of people who God made us to be.

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