Jesus Is the Authoritative Leader

September 24, 2017

Norwalk First United Methodist Church

Gospel of Mark

16th Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Is the Authoritative Leader

Mark 1:14-20

          As our scripture opens today, we read that Jesus begins his ministry. Right from the start, Mark establishes the Son of God as an authoritative leader. The first words out of his mouth in this account are, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” and “follow me.”

This is an unusual call for a man who was described as a rabbi. You see, in Jewish tradition, pupils chose rabbis. Rabbis did not choose pupils. A rabbi did not travel around. Students sought out the rabbi. You would choose the rabbi and come and make the initiation and say, “I want to study with you.” But Jesus is different. Jesus is showing us, and Mark is showing us, you cannot have a relationship with Jesus unless he calls you.

When Jesus calls these men in our scripture, not only are their lives totally changed, but the history of the world is totally changed. It is the same for us. When Jesus calls us, our lives are totally changed forever.

General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during WWII and thirty-fourth President of the United States, would often demonstrate the art of leadership with a simple piece of string. He’d put it on a table and say: “Pull it and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it and it will go nowhere at all. It’s just that way when it comes to leading people. They need to follow a person who is leading by example.”

So, it is with Jesus. We follow Jesus because of the example he set for us in our relationships with people. His teaching, his example, his authoritative leadership was about the good news and the kingdom. This is what made him different from all the other self-proclaimed Messiahs of that time. We, like Jesus, are to be messengers of the good news of the kingdom of God.

That’s what a gospel is, good news. A gospel is something that happened in history and has been done for you that changes your status forever. That is the difference between Christianity and all other religions, or no religion. Other religions are basically advice. Christianity is basically gospel. Other religions say, “This is what you have to do, this is what you must accomplish, this is how you have to live, in order to be saved.” The Christian gospel says, “This is what has been done in history. This is what has been accomplished. This is the life Jesus lived and died for you, that you may be saved.” Jesus’ ministry begins with this gospel message. A message of joy and good news, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Would you pray with me?

Prayer

First, we are going to look at verses 14 and 15 and in particular three great dominant messages of the Christian faith: “good news,” “repent,” and “believe.” Gospel means “good news.” If we follow the good news throughout the New Testament we learn six things about it. First, it is good news of truth. Paul writes in Galatians 2 when defending truth against the false prophets, “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.”

Until Jesus came, it was possible only to guess and grope after God. But with the coming of Jesus we see clearly what God is like. No longer do we need to guess and grope; we know.

Second, it is good news of hope. The ancient world was a pessimistic world. People felt hopeless with the occupation of Rome. In the struggle for goodness, humanity was defeated. The coming of Jesus brings hope to the hopeless heart. Paul wrote to the Colossian church that we cannot be moved from the hope held out in the gospel when we keep our faith in Christ.

Third, it is good news of peace. In our human nature, we are constantly struggling between sin and goodness. With faith in Christ, we find victory over our warring selves as Jesus integrates that struggle between sin and goodness.

Fourth, it is good news of God’s promise. So many times, we think of a God of threats rather than a God of promises. But we don’t have to look very far to see that our God is more ready to give than we are to ask. He is a God who keeps his promises throughout all eternity.

Fifth, it is good news of immortality. Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy that grace has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. To the pagans of Jesus’ time, life was the road to death; but Jesus came with the good news that we are on the way to life rather than death. A life that is eternal with him.

And lastly, it is good news of salvation. Salvation is not freedom from penalty and escape from past sin; it is the power to live life victoriously and to conquer sin. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. As we look at all these things, truth, hope, peace, promise, immortality, and salvation, we can surely say the message that Jesus brings is good news indeed.

And then there is the word “repent.” Jesus said, The kingdom of God is near. Repent. Repent is not a word most people like. It means to turn around or literally “a change of mind.” Many people are sorry because of the mess that sin has got them into. But if truth be told, they would sin again if they didn’t have to suffer the consequences of that sin. You see, for the most part, it is not the sin that they hate; it is its consequences.

But real repentance comes when we not only hate the consequences of sin, but we hate sin itself. True repentance means that anyone who was in love with sin comes to hate sin because of its exceeding sinfulness.

Finally, there is the word “believe.” Jesus wants us to believe the good news. William Barclay in his commentary on Mark writes, “To believe in the good news that Jesus brings is simply to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus has told us about, to believe that God so loves the world that he will make any sacrifice to bring us back to himself, to believe that what sounds too good to be true is really true.” “The time has come,” [Jesus] said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Jesus is the authoritative leader that brings us the good news of the kingdom of God. Folks, the good news has lasted for 2,000 years and it will continue until the Second Coming of Christ.

After Jesus has been commissioned for ministry through his baptism, and after he has decided his message, it is now time for him to build his staff, if you will. If he is going to lead, he must begin somewhere. So, Mark shows us in our scripture of Jesus literally laying the foundations of his kingdom and calling his first followers.

Jesus is walking down the shoreline and he comes upon two guys who are getting ready to go and do what they do every single day of their lives. It says they are fishermen. That’s their career. That’s how they make a living. As they are about to go out and do what they do every single day, Jesus walks by, he looks at them and utters two simple words, “follow me.” He further says, “I will make you fishers of men.”

And then look what happens. They literally drop their nets, they don’t have a committee meeting; they don’t go home and discuss it for a couple of weeks. “At once they left their nets and followed him.” The same thing happens when Jesus comes upon James and John preparing their nets. Just like that, they drop everything they are doing, their jobs, their lifestyles, their identities, and became disciples.

What they learn in the weeks, months, and years ahead is that there is much to learn, and a lot of stumbling, backsliding, and misunderstanding along the way. But isn’t that like us as well as we go on our journey with Jesus? Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ takes both a moment and a lifetime! Becoming a fisher of people is a process that takes time and that takes teaching. Many people get mad or upset with Christ-followers. But folks, just because we are saved does not mean we have arrived. The Christian journey is just that, a journey. And we often learn most from awful and painful mistakes. The disciples certainly did and so do we.

Fishing for men and women means bringing people to Jesus. Jesus wants us to use whatever we already know to bring people into a relationship with him. For instance, here is what Jesus might say to you according to your profession. If you’re a banker or investment advisor he might say, “Follow me and you can tell people about the best eternal investment they’ll ever make.” If you’re an educator, he might say, “Follow me and you’ll teach eternal truth.” If you are a CPA, he might say, “Follow me and I’ll show you how to help people balance their lives.” If you’re a physician, “Follow me and I’ll show you how to practice spiritual healing.” If you’re a builder, “Follow me and you’ll show people how to build stable lives.” Whatever it is that you do, Jesus wants you to use what you know to bring people into a relationship with him. So, what would Jesus say to you?

We must use what we know to bring people to Jesus. We can’t wait for other people to do it. We must all actively fish for men and women to know Jesus. And we do that by building a relationship with them, just as Jesus did with his disciples. The great radio commentator Paul Harvey once said, “Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men, but the keepers of the aquarium.” Are you a keeper or a fisher?

Jesus, the Word, seeks out Simon and Andrew, James and John not because they are especially qualified, but simply because God desires them. It is a human encounter. So, what do we notice about these followers.

First, we must notice what they were. They were simple folk. They did not come from the schools and colleges; they were not drawn from the religious elite or the aristocracy; they were neither learned nor wealthy. They were fishermen. They were ordinary people. No one ever believed in ordinary men and women as Jesus did. Abraham Lincoln said, “God must love the common people – he made so many of them.” It was as if Jesus said, “Give me twelve ordinary men and with them, if they will give themselves to me, I will change the world.” Becoming a disciple of Jesus is not so much about what we are as it is about what Jesus Christ can make us.

Second, we must notice what they were doing when Jesus called them. They were doing their day’s work catching the fish and mending the nets. The call of God can come to any one of us, not only in the house of God, not only in the secret place, but in the middle of the day’s work.

Third, we must notice how Jesus called them. Jesus’ summons was, “Follow me!” I’m sure these men had heard Jesus preaching his message of good news along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I’m sure their hearts were being tugged by the message he had to give. I’m sure they began to fall in love with not only the message Jesus had to offer but with Jesus himself. Many times, people follow Jesus Christ not because of anything that Jesus said but because of everything that Jesus is.

And lastly, we must notice what Jesus offered them. He offered them a task. He called them not to ease but to service. Barclay writes, “What we all need is something in which to invest our lives. Jesus called his disciples to a task in which they would have to spend themselves and burn themselves up, and, in the end, die for his sake and for the sake of others. He called them to a task wherein they could win something for themselves only by giving their all to him and to others.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the life of the church is the life of discipleship. And the meaning of discipleship is dramatically portrayed in the ministry of Jesus. Rev. Van Bogard Dunn writes, “The church in all its membership is called to follow Jesus in dying to all worldly power and in rising to ministry empowered by the Spirit of God…. ‘Fishers of men’ is a symbol of the power of God to bring to consummation the full potential of human existence.”

So, what about you? Where are you today? Are you an authentic follower of Christ or are you just an aquarium keeper? The call that started on the beach 2,000 years ago with a few fishermen is still the call today. Jesus, with outstretched arms, is looking you right in the eye, speaking to you right now and he’s saying, “Follow me. Follow me.” We need to spread the good news. Jesus is our authoritative leader. He is our Savior. He is our hope for salvation.

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