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Come, Follow Me

Date: May. 5, 2019

Author: Michael Mark

Mark 1:16-34

Key Verse: Mark 1:17

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

I recently just got a Spotify account, and learned about how it works.  You can follow people who have playlists similar to your tastes, and you can listen to the music you like to your heart’s content.  That made me think about how ubiquitous this idea of “following others” is today on social media.  You can follow someone on Instagram.  You can follow someone on Twitter.  You can even follow someone on Facebook.  There is a Jesus Christ on Facebook, but he’s not the real Jesus. There is even a Jesus Christ on YouTube, but I don’t recommend following him.  Well, it’s mostly just for fun.  When you follow someone, you get the latest update on whatever that person wanted to share.  But far more important, and far more essential is to follow the real Jesus Christ of the Bible if you really want to have life, and have it to the full.

Last week we started with the beginning of the gospel, which means good news.  That is something you really ought to subscribe to.  The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ.  He came to bring the kingdom of heaven near to us. He came to show us the way to heaven. He was revealed to be the Son of God through his baptism, when God himself declared in a voice heard from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  Jesus’ ministry began in the region of Galilee, in the northern part of Israel, calling all people everywhere to repent, and follow him.  Through this passage we will see what it means to follow Jesus, and what impact it has on our lives and the lives of others.

In order to follow Jesus, we first must be called. Look at v.16-17, “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.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’”  Verse 20 also says without delay, Jesus called James and John.  Before they followed, they were called.  Have you been called by God?  How do you know you have been called?  The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 31 tells us the answer: when you are called, the Spirit works in you to convince you of your sin and misery, give you a knowledge of Christ, and renews your will to enable you to embrace Jesus.  You can see this in Luke’s account of the calling of Peter, in Chapter 5.  In this same scene, Jesus is in the fishing boat with Simon Peter, and he says, let down your nets for a catch.  Peter says, “Master, we haven’t caught anything all night, but because you say so, we’ll do it.”  When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish, and hauled it onto the boat that the boat started to sink.  Upon seeing this Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!”  That’s when Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will fish for people.” Has the Holy Spirit convinced you of your sin?  Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  If so, these are evidence that you’ve been called.  I’m also going to teach you some Spanish. Who knows how to say “church” in Spanish?  It’s Iglesia. Like Enrique Iglesias (just kidding). Do you know where that comes from? It comes from the Greek “ekklesia,” which means “called-out ones.”  In Bible times, the church identified themselves as those who are called by God.

Jesus has called us to follow him, but there is a cost to following him. Verse 18 says about Simon and Andrew, “At once they left their nets and followed him.”  Verse 20 shows us James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.  Zebedee must have been like “Hey, where you guys goin?”  I’m kidding – Jesus gave many proofs that he was powerful in word and deed, and to be called to follow such a Rabbi (or teacher) must have been considered an honor.  But what was the cost?  They all had changed their life direction.  This is the essence of repentance.  They were once fishermen, but now they were disciples of Jesus.  Now their specific calling was to become the Twelve Apostles who would form the pillars of the church.  Specifically, your personal calling may be different – it can be in administration, teaching, preaching, music, encouraging, evangelism, artistic, medical, technical, architectural, culinary, whatever interests and talents God has given you.  Those you might not be specifically called to leave, if they can be used to benefit the church.  But there is a cost in terms of your time, your talents, and sometimes your friends and family.  As university students, some of you may know this cost – you have left home in order to study here.  As married people, you may know this cost – you have left your parent’s household to make a new family.  You give your Sundays to worship God, you give your weekends to prepare for music, students offer their time to lead the Bible Club, at home you might give up some time to pray or read the Bible.  Our missionaries have left their homelands to serve here, and some have left here to serve in Africa.  Some have given up meeting with worldly friends.  Jesus said to his disciples in Mark 10:29 “no one who has left brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age … and in the age to come – enteral life.”  Mark was writing to Gentile converts in a time of increasing Roman persecution, where in some cases people had to leave these things for the sake of the Jesus and the gospel, but this promise seems to apply generally to all faithful Christians. Whatever it may cost you, and following Jesus will cost everybody something, be encouraged that your labor in the Lord is never in vain, and will be richly rewarded and recompensed when he comes again.

Following Jesus means to learn from him.  It is the same to say that you become his disciple, his student.  One of the primary activities Jesus engaged in while he was here on earth was teaching.  He spent much if not most of his time teaching.  Look at v.21 “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.”  The people were so amazed at his teaching, that Mark mentions this twice!  They were blown away; you could say their minds were blown.  The feedback was “A new teaching – and with authority, not as the teachers of the law.”  Jesus’ words had power, and they were stirring.  I was watching a series of Youtube videos that come out every Sunday, and a host interviews people of different spiritual backgrounds weekly. In one of the interviews, on guest presented the history of the Jews, the history of Christianity, the gospel message, and answers to life’s questions as the Bible would answer them, and to me the answers carried a lot of weight.  In a different interview, another guest answered all of the questions quoting various Christian, but wise, smart and philosophical people.  He would say Francis of so and so said this, and Thomas said this, and Kierkegaard said this, and Barth said this, but they didn’t have that same directness, that same clarity, that same power.  They sounded smart, and intellectual but didn’t seem to answer any questions.  Human words can go so far, but God’s words penetrate through the bone, even down to your soul.  Remember at our Easter Conference, how Ms. Sharma did nothing but recite Romans 8? How many got chills just from hearing the plain word of God, read with Spirit?  That’s the power.  Heb 4:12 says “For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Jesus’ words have such power and authority because they are the very words of God himself.  And so we each hold a treasure in our hands.  If you want to know the words of God, the will of God, the acts of God, the thoughts of God, open your Bible and study it,and you will find treasure upon treasure of truth between every word and every verse. If you want to follow Jesus, the Bible is your guide.

It is one thing to know the word, it is quite another to know it and do it.  Following Jesus requires obedience to God.  We are all subject to higher powers.  Students are accountable to their professors for their homework and study.  Employees are accountable to their bosses.  My CEO is accountable to the board of owners. The owners are accountable to their customers.  We are all accountable to the law, instituted by our civil governments.  They have the authority to require taxes from us, and if we don’t pay, they have the authority to throw us in jail.  But there is one authority above all authorities, and that is Jesus.  In the synagogue where he was teaching, a demon cried out through a possessed man in v.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!”  This humble Jesus, born a baby in a manger.  He was a carpenter’s son from the small unknown town of Nazareth.  This humble, unassuming man is the King of kings, God in the flesh, standing amongst the members of this synagogue.  Though everyone else could not see, the demons saw it clearly, and they were terrified. This man, with the snap of his finger, could destroy them and send them into torment forever.  He looked the demon straight in the eye, and said sternly, “Be quiet!”  And he said “Come out of him!”  The man convulsed, and let out a loud shriek.  The demon’s mouth was muzzled, he could not say a word back, and he left. Even the demons obey him.  That’s how powerful he is.  These impure spirits are constantly causing trouble on earth, sowing deception, darkness and death.  They know the truth, but reject it.  We must know the truth, but also obey and do what is good.  James 2:19 says “You believe that there is one God. Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”  His point is that faith and deeds go hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other, otherwise that faith is actually dead faith. 1 John 5:3-4a says, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.”To follow Christ means to obey God.  Just like we sang in the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus – no turning back, no turning back.”

One brief final point about following God, also requires us to be holy.  The demon called Jesus “the Holy One of God.”  This is a reference to Psalm 16:10, prophesying of the Messiah who is also called God’s Holy One – testifying that Jesus is the Messiah.  Just as He is holy, so we should be holy in everything we do.

When Jesus told his disciples, “Come, follow me,” he also said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  Put another way, and most other translations say “and I will make you become fishers of [people].”  When we follow Jesus, it is he who will then make us fishers of men.  He calls people from every walk of life – rich, poor, smart, not so smart.  Consider the 2 here: Peter and John were fisherman.  Peter was the author of 2 epistles in the Bible, the source of Mark’s gospel, and we saw his powerful preaching in the book of Acts.  John also wrote a gospel, wrote 3 of the epistles included in the Bible and the book of revelation.  He made these people from fishermen to fishers of men!  Jesus had in mind to call Peter and these disciples to be apostles, sending them out to preach the gospel to bring people into the kingdom of God.  Jesus used this metaphor because they were actual fishermen, but it is an appropriate one. The gospel is the net that we cast out into the world.  There’s good fish, and there’s bad fish in the sea, but we don’t know who or what we will catch.  Still, we cast out the net of the gospel, and it will catch people, and lift them out of the dark waters, and into Jesus’ ship, which represents his kingdom.  No one can make the fish swim into the net, so there is an element of faith and trusting in God for the catch.  Peter, Andrew, James and John were called specifically to be apostles, but sharing the gospel is something that all followers of Christ are able to and are obligated to do.  In general, if you had good news, you would usually want to share it.  Now sharing the gospel is a not as easy to share because some people already have certain views on it, but there are other people who are willing and receptive to hear it.

We can see in some examples of how to share Jesus in the rest of this passage.  Let’s look at v.29-30, as we continue the story.  “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother in law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her.”  The time is probably after 3pm, after the third time of prayer and after the synagogue meeting on the Sabbath, and they were all going to have the main Sabbath meal together.  It’s kind of like how we walk over to the Bible House after worship service and have lunch together.  They went to Simon Peter and Andrew’s house.  We find out that Simon’s mother in law is in bed with a fever.  First, I just wanted to point out the fact that Simon Peter is married.  You heard it here.  And 1 Cor 9:5 also suggests that she accompanied Peter on his evangelistic travels. Now look at what they did. Immediately they told Jesus about her. One way we can share Jesus with others is to tell Jesus about them.  Prayer is an important element of evangelism.  The apostle Paul frequently asked the church to pray for him to have boldness to proclaim the gospel.  Sometimes we can pray for someone before we approach them.  In v.31, Jesus took Simon’s mother in law by he hand and helped her up.  The fever left her and she began to wait on them.  This was a miraculous healing.  Usually fevers take days and heal slowly.  The mother in law was so sick she had to lay in bed, but immediately after Jesus touched her, she immediately began to wait on, or serve Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus took her by the hand to heal her.  He could have just told the fever to go away, but he reached out his hand and led her up. This shows the compassion and gentleness Jesus has for us, that he would make contact with us, and touch us, to heal us.  Simon’s mother in law also set a good example in her response to Jesus’ healing.  She served, and this is another way to share Jesus with others: to serve them.

The last part of this passage shows the whole town getting involved in sharing Christ.  Actually, they heard the news that Jesus was driving out demons and healing the sick, but they believed and brought those they knew who were also sick and had demons. They heard the good news, and shared it, and at the center of the good news was Jesus.  He drove out many demons, and did not let them speak because they knew who he was.  Jesus was the Messiah, but he shut the demons up and made sure they didn’t keep saying this. The Jews were expecting a Messiah who would rise up politically, defeat Rome and establish the Jewish kingdom. Jesus still had a lot to teach the people, so they weren’t ready for this news yet.  Jesus was not the Messiah most people were expecting.  But he was the Messiah that everyone needed.  Jesus did not come to destroy Rome, instead he came to suffer and die on the cross to take away the sins of the world, to take away your sin, and mine, to bring healing to the nations through peace and reconciliation with God, and offer us a hope to live forever in an eternal kingdom of righteousness.  No more death.  This is the good news.

Jesus healed all who came to him; he turned no one away.  He has authority to remove sickness and even authority over demons, because he is the Son of the Living God.  He is the king who has brought the kingdom of heaven near, and he gives us a glimpse of his kingdom through his teaching, healing and driving out demons.  1 John 3:8 tells us “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  The devil likes to work in secret, and not be known.  Even though we might not see or be aware of demons in people, you can see the result of their work everywhere.  Their influence is spreading, even in our country as you see the culture descending into increasing wickedness, violence and hatred, in sexual immorality and drug use, in the decreasing value over human life and increasing boldness to sin.  Jesus not only lifts us out of this, but begins the work of healing in our souls immediately.  He also provides for us the armor of God (Eph 6), so we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes.  Jesus teaches us in John 10:10, “The thief (the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus calls us to follow him, that we may have life to the full, and he will make us fishers of people – to cast out the nets of the gospel and share the good news to all those around us.  First come, follow Jesus, and he will make you become fishers of men.

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