The Call is Stronger…
A sermon based on Mark 1:14-20
Sunday, January 22, 2017 – Epiphany 3B
Growing up in the Seattle area, I'd often go fishing in the Puget Sound with my brother and my dad. Armed with rods and reels, fish finders, and especially plenty of drinks and snacks, we went out in pursuit of the elusive King Salmon. And even if we didn't catch any fish, it wasn't that big of a deal. We could always stop at Safeway on the way home and request a fish with the head still on before we went home to show mom our "catch." :)
But that wasn't the case the disciples. They were hobby fishermen, but professionals. That meant that if they got skunked, they went hungry. They had nothing to sell at market and so they had no coin to buy even a loaf of bread.
So one particular morning, when they came back in from fishing all night with no fish to show for it, how thrilled they must have been at their change of fortune! With a divine tip from Jesus, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. That's in Luke's version of the events that day.
But this morning, as we look at Mark's take on that day, we see their greater change in fortune those disciples had. In fact, Mark doesn't even mention the catch of fish. Instead, all he talks about is how Jesus caught them. Jesus called them to leave their careers, to abandon their business, and to enter full time ministry. And more miraculous than the catch of fish is the disciples response. They left it all behind to follow Jesus. But how could they do anything else?! Jesus call was powerful. It was more powerful than their fears. It was more powerful than their inadequacies. And, you know what? It still is… Jesus call is more powerful than your fears. It's more powerful than your inadequacies. What else can we do, but answer the call and follow him, doing all we can to catch more people for him.
Our text for this morning is recorded for us in Mark 1:14-20…
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 is 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 make you fishers of men." 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.
I. …Than Our Fears
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful." So began the advertisement Ernest Shackleton put in the paper to recruit men for one of his expeditions to the South Pole.
But what could possibly possess a man to respond to such an advertisement? Who in their right mind would want such a job? Well, apparently 56 men did respond, particularly to the last line of the ad which promised, "Honor and recognition in case of success."
Those words, "Come follow me," might have seemed something like Shackleton's ad to Simon, Andrew, James, and John. They had all been disciples of John the Baptist. But they couldn't follow him anymore. Why not? Verse 14 says, "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God." And, of course, you know how John was released from prison: one head shorter than when he went in.
"Come follow me," Jesus invited, "and sign on for a hazardous journey. Small wages. Persecution guaranteed. Imprisonment likely. Death by torture probable."
So what could possibly possess these men to leave behind a thriving family business (after all they had "hired men;" business must have been doing pretty well)? What could bring them to leave their dad behind, sitting there in the boat with the hired men confused? What would make them risk life and limb to follow this Rabbi to become preachers?
Was it the, "Honor and recognition in case of success"? No. It was Jesus. Jesus left an impact on them—a deep and lasting impact on them. And the more time they spent with him, they more dedicated they were. So that near the end of Jesus ministry when Jesus was ready to go to Jerusalem, they declared, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16) That's the power of Jesus and the power of his call. It overcomes fear. It makes his followers bold to act.
And it's no different today. We too enter a hazardous journey when we answer Jesus' call to follow him. We will suffer for following Jesus. We will have less time for ourselves, less money for ourselves, more enemies for ourselves, more challenges for ourselves. And, truth be told, we may die for our faith. We might go through this life miserable and hurting… carrying a cross—an instrument of torture—all to follow Jesus.
Sound like fun? No. It doesn't. It sounds terrible! So who in their right mind would answer his call and follow him? Sadly, too often we don't. We face a choice to follow Jesus and do what we know he would have us do—leave behind this world with it's sinful ways, leave behind our friends and family when we're asked to choose between them and him, leave behind our selfish desires to take up our cross and follow Jesus. But we choose the world. We choose our friends. We choose our families. We choose ourselves—all over Jesus. And we deserve to have Jesus leave us behind when others go on to the exciting expedition of heaven. But we don't get what we deserve!
Who in their right mind would answer his call and follow him? Well, we would. Not because of, "Honor and recognition in case of success." But because of the way he succeeded for us on the cross to give us honor and recognition that we don't deserve in the sight of God. He took the most hazardous journey—one that ended not just in death, or torture then death, but in hell itself! And he willingly walked every step of the way knowing that it was the only way he could save you and me from our sins of cowardice.
And he succeeded in his journey without a doubt. The proof? His resurrection. For Jesus, safe return wasn't doubtful, but certain. And the same is true of those who follow him. That was the content of Jesus' preaching: "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
Who in their right mind would answer his call and follow him? We would. Because, even if we will suffer, even if we will go through this life miserable and hurting, carrying a cross to follow Jesus, we will still follow him, because, as someone once said, "The retirement benefits are out of this world!"
We know Christ's death and resurrection. We know his death paid for our sin! We know his resurrection guarantees ours! So we don't fear even death anymore! We repent and believe the good news! And then we're eager to get to work for him! We say with the apostle Paul, "When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16)
That's the impact of Jesus. That's the power of his call. The call is stronger than our fear! And the more time we spend with Jesus, the more dedicated to him we will become. We'll even be willing to declare, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16)
But, still, to follow Jesus is a big job. Do we have what it takes? Well, did the disciples?!
II. …Than Our Inadequacies
Humanly speaking, Jesus chose a pretty miserable group of guys to be the first pastors of the New Testament church. After all, these four that he called that day in Galilee, were fishermen. They weren't prophets. They weren't rabbis. They weren't experts in the law—that is the Old Testament Scriptures. They probably weren't very well educated, they weren't that influential, and, let's face it: they weren't even particularly brave. (Remember how they all scattered and ran away when Jesus was arrested and needed them most?)
So why did Jesus call these schmucks? After all would you make a teenager the CEO of a multi-million dollar company? Only if you wanted to see that company ruined in record time, right? So why did Jesus pick uneducated, unexperienced, fishermen to be his apostles?
It's because Jesus doesn't need education or experience to make people his apostles. As it's been said, "Jesus doesn't call the equipped. Rather, Jesus equips the called." He said as much in their call. He didn't say, "become fishers of men!" He said "I will make you fishers of men." He would do the work. He would teach them and shape them and mold them. He would gift them and equip them and give them all that they would need to carry out the task.
You see, that is the power of Jesus. And that's the power of his call. God's call is stronger human inadequacies. And that too is no different today! Think of what Paul said to the Corinthians:
"Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:26-30)
And it works the same in Kenai as in Corinth, in Nikiski as in Galilee. God still calls fishermen, and oil workers, and teachers, and retirees, and stay-at-home moms, and whatever other callings you have… He calls you to be a part of the mission and carry out the work of the church! And you can do it—because Jesus has made you fishers of men. He has taught you and shaped you and molded you. He has gifted you and equipped you and given you all that you need to carry out the task.
So let's get to work, friends! There are lots of "fish" out there: Neighbors, friends, co-workers, family members, Facebook acquaintances, and complete strangers who all need to hear Jesus' call to them that, "The time has come… The kingdom of God is near." They need to hear the call to, "Repent and believe the good news!"
So let's go fishing! Let's get as many lines in the water that we can. Let's host more events that invite friends and school families and members of our community to come to Grace. Let's invite co-workers and neighbors into our home to get to know them better so we can share the hope we have with them.
I remember going fishing with my dad once as a kid and seeing his T-shirt that said, "God's Fishers of Men. We Catch 'Em. God Cleans 'Em." J God does clean them—of all their sins through Jesus work for them. But really, God catches 'em too. We just get as many lines in the water that we can. Some will bite. Some won't. And some days it might feel like we got skunked.
But it doesn't matter. Just as those first disciples were willing to leave everything behind to follow Jesus and do the work he had for them to do, so too it is for us that the call is stronger. It's stronger than our fears. It's stronger than our inadequacies. And it makes us eager to put Jesus first in our lives. It makes us eager to do anything for him. It makes us eager to catch more people for him.
For even if it's a hazardous journey, the wages are small, the suffering is harsh… even if we're in constant danger, and safe return is doubtful, we know that honor and recognition are ours because of all that Jesus did for us. And that makes the call more powerful than anything else. So let's get to work for him! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen!