Do you wonder what God’s desire for your life is? Do you wonder what it means to be a follower of Jesus, or how you might be a follower of Jesus? Read on to find out more!
(A) Who we follow: The promised king now reigns, proclaiming good news that demands a response (Mark 1:14-15)
In our previous studies, we've read and learn about how John prepared the way for Christ by preparing hearts to receive Christ. But Mark 1:14 shows us that this preparation was not unopposed - John is arrested. Instead of waiting for the heat to die down, Mark emphasises that Christ entered Galilee to proclaim the gospel of God immediately. There is an urgency to Jesus’ actions, where Jesus carries with Himself a deep sense of purpose. So what did Jesus proclaim?
There are 3 parts to Jesus’s proclamation (Mark 1:15):
- The time is fulfilled: The prophesied time has come to pass, and the preparation is over! We are on the cusp of something new. The question is, “What time is this?"Either lying, or who He says He is. The preparation is over and a new era has begun. It’s different. But what time is this?
- The Kingdom of God is at hand: What is this Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God, is not referring to a place, but a Kingship. The focus is not where we are, but whose we are. The inauguration of this Kingdom signals Christ’s reign, and God is now walking amongst men to more fully carry out God’s purposes. This Kingdom is also at hand, as opposed to being far away - all of this because Christ has come.
- Repent and believe in the Gospel: Jesus tells us that what you believe in matters, and we are to have belief in the Gospel. Belief is neither just mental acceptance, nor just an intellectual belief. But believing in something, crucially involves how we embrace it in our daily lives. Believing in the Gospel requires believing in the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ and the good news he proclaims. If we are to put our faith and belief in it, it has to be trustworthy, for it is real and happening. Therefore, we are to repent by turning away from our old ways. This idea of repentance also assumes that everyone in their own ways are not right before God, and these two imperatives are to be held together - Jesus does not speak of them as separate things that you can do at different times.
This announcement says something important. It's not just religious enthusiasm or deep personal intuition. Some may see Christ as a wise man or a moral influence, but this passage tells us that such perceptions miss the point. Jesus came to fulfill the prophecy that He might reign as King. This means repentance and faith, not just learning and emulation. For those of you that are hearing this for the first time, know that Jesus’ proclamation of this good news was also sad news for Himself, because it sealed the fact that He would have to eventually give up His life for undeserving sinners. Believing in Jesus Christ entails what He will do to save us from sin.
For Christians, do we live our lives in light of this Kingship of Jesus? Do we hear his proclamation and do we respond in repentance and belief in the gospel each and every day.
(B) How we follow: Leave distractions and make disciples after him (Mark 1:16-20)
There’s something really strange about Jesus’s actions in Mark 1:16 - He goes out to compel people to follow Him! This is not something typical of the role, but Jesus draws close to them and calls out to them. If his act of going to them to call on them is seen as humble, His words to them are very different, as they are marked by authority (Mark 1:17). His call to them is not generic like a WhatsApp broadcast. It is specific, direct and addresses them personally. How do we respond to a personal and humble Christ who speaks with great authority with truth?
But what does it mean to follow? We often find ourselves asking what’s God’s will for our lives are. Are we asking the right questions? Maybe you are a student wondering whether you should pursue higher education. Or perhaps you are vexed over job offers and job prospects. You might even be wondering what God’s will is for you in marriage. These aren't bad questions, our passages points us back to the direct and fundamental call on our lives - to follow Jesus and make disciples for Him. Following Jesus means striving to be like Him and obeying his commands. That's what it means to make Jesus Lord of our lives
See what Andrew and Simon did? They accepted Jesus’ demands whatever the cost! If Jesus is in fact our maker, Saviour, and reigning King, we must take these words seriously. Friends, have you lost sight of Christ’s fundamental call on your lives?
Let us next consider the first disciples’ responses (Mark 1:18-20). How did they first respond to the call (Mark 1:18, 20a)? They left their nets. A journey always begins by leaving where you are. Just like how Christ announcing his new reign necessitates our repentance and change. We are called to turn from what our hearts were previously set on. As a Christian there’s always this aspect of leaving behind what you are about, there’s always an element of self denial but it is never self denial to detach oneself from the world, but it is a self denial to pursue someone much better. Freeing yourself is not the tough bit, but it’s what you do when you are free that is harder. This is not just absolute self-denial and separating oneself from everything else. It is leaving to pursue something greater - This Christ who shows such humility and authority.
From the way Mark wrote this passage, it seems strange that Andrew and Simon left immediately after 1 sentence from Jesus. Mark doesn’t fill us in with more detail, but the writer’s purpose here is to convey the clarity and content of the call, and the immediate and complete response from the two.This is not the first time that they would have heard Jesus's preaching. John 1:35 talks about how Andrew and Simon where disciples of John the Baptist. They knew Jesus’s teachings and knew who Jesus was. They would have had time to think and decide.
But there was also a cost to this response (Mark 1:20b). If you are reading these words right now, and thinking, "Wow, this is costly.” You’ve got the point. The Bible doesn’t try to downplay what it’s going to cost us. It is unapologetically upfront. Mark 1:19-20 tell us about another set of brothers James and John. More details here underscore the full weight of the verb [to leave]: not just nets are left behind, but a named father, a boat and indeed an entire enterprise. For these disciples to follow Jesus, they have to demonstrate a willingness to allow their identity, status, and worth to primarily be determined in relation to him.
Leaving to follow Jesus isn’t just leaving everything to work in the church. Rather, it is a primary vocational shift. It isn’t about dropping your pursuits, but having the reason for your pursuits fundamentally changed. How you handle your time? What worries you? What delights you the most? Answering these questions will help us be clear about whom we follow.
In Mark 1:17, Jesus promises to make them fishers of men. What does that look like? Let’s consider the ministry of Peter and John many years later, as recorded in Acts 4:1-20. Peter and John are now arrested for proclaiming Christ, and Peter declares two important things: that the crippled man was healed “by the power of Jesus of Nazareth” , and that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-11). Do you see Peter’s fervent desire that the gospel is proclaimed even to those who have judged Christ, and are judging Peter and John. Peter is one who continually points to Christ. He shows us that fishers of men are people who pull those drowning out of the water, saving them from God’s judgment. What does it mean for us to be fishers of men today at school, at work, at home? Do we feel the same sense of urgency for gospel proclamation? What are our primary concerns? If this is a new vocational shift, how should that consume our thoughts?
From Acts 4, we read of how the council forbids them from proclaiming Christ, but Peter and John effectually say (Acts 4:19-20) , "We’re willing to be judged, but we cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Friends, these are people that have been changed by what they have seen and heard. This is a picture of men who truly believe in the Christ who walked with them, and then walked the lonely road to the Cross to die a sinner's death that sinners might be saved. This is what followers of Jesus do!
But was it that they were really mature, great, special? No! Acts 4:8 tells us that their actions were only possible because of the Holy Spirit. This is a great encouragement to us who feel that being fishers of men and following Christ is hard, costly, and painful. God provides His Holy Spirit that equips Peter to say what he needs to say, that God might be glorified, and God provides us with the very same Spirit today! As we consider and contemplate what it means to be fishers of men, we find comfort that God is the One who provides us with the strength and the means to do so.
So it is Christ who calls, tells, and shows us what to do. And then He gives us His Holy Spirit who empowers us to do it. We are not left out cold, striving, and having to be whipped into shape. But it is out of joy and love - fishers of men who herald and spread good news.
Have you met Christ? Do you hear His call?