“When Jesus Calls, We Follow” (Mark 1:14-20)

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 24, 2021

“When Jesus Calls, We Follow” (Mark 1:14-20)

“Hark, the voice of Jesus calling, ‘Who will go and work today?’” Yes, true, Jesus calls us “to work for God’s kingdom and answer his call.” But first things first. Before our Lord calls us to go and work, he first calls us to come and receive. Jesus calls us to repent and believe. He calls us to come and follow him. Then we take up the tasks he gives us. And so our theme this morning: “When Jesus Calls, We Follow.”

Our text today is the Holy Gospel from Mark 1. Jesus is just beginning his public ministry. “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,” it says. Jesus had good news from God to proclaim. And this is the gospel he was proclaiming: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

“The time is fulfilled.” The appointed time has arrived. Now the Scriptures are fulfilled in the coming of the Christ. All the promises of God, his eternal plan for the ages–now they are being brought to realization as Jesus appears on the scene. As it says in Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” At just the right time in human history, here comes Jesus, striding onto the stage.

And he’s got a tremendous message to deliver: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Listen up, folks! This is the moment the whole world has been waiting for! God’s kingdom is breaking into this world in a new and seismologically shifting way. The kingdom of God is the active reign and rule of God, and it comes from heaven to earth in the person of Jesus. The kingdom of God is at hand, because now Jesus is at hand, right here among us.

God’s kingdom brings both judgment and salvation. God’s kingdom brings both doom and blessing, wrath and grace, upon sinful mankind. Jesus announces its arrival: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” It’s the moment of truth. Which will it be for you, judgment or salvation? “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Do you hear Jesus calling you today?

And this is what Jesus is calling: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Repent. Turn from walking in the ways of the world. That’s a dead end. Do a U-turn. You turn to God in repentance, in sorrow over your sins and your sinfulness. You turn to God for forgiveness and restoration. In repentance, there is both a turning from and a turning to: turning from sin and turning to God.

To repent means to change your whole way of thinking. It’s a change of your mindset. It’s letting God rearrange your thinking. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” That’s what happens in repentance. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to transform your mind. You will begin making different decisions than before. You will reevaluate what the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh have been telling you. That’s how repentance works.

“Repent and believe in the gospel.” Repenting means giving up on yourself to be your own God. Believing in the gospel means to rely on God to be your God. He’s the only one who can save you. He’s the only one who can cleanse you from your sins. He’s the only one who can give you life that overcomes death. This is what you need. And this is what God gives you. The gospel is the fountain of forgiveness. The gospel is the only source of eternal life.

And this gospel is focused and centered in the person of Christ. To believe in the gospel is to believe in Christ. Not just that you acknowledge that Jesus is the holy Son of God. Even the demons know that much. But to believe in Christ is to trust in him, to look to him alone for your salvation, to cling to him as your one and only lifesaver. This is what faith is. This is what believing in the gospel means.

And what has Christ done, that you should believe in him? He gave his life for you. He fulfilled the law on your behalf. You broke God’s commandments. Jesus kept them, perfectly. You have sinned. Jesus took the burden of your sins and carried them to the cross. The Son of God suffered the judgment and the wrath that you and I deserve, so that the punishment for sinners would be served and you and I would be saved. Jesus did it. He did it all, for all people, including you, dear friend. This is why Jesus Christ is the sole source of salvation for all mankind. He is the way and the truth and the life. His victorious resurrection demonstrates that his death on the cross has destroyed death. The victory remains with life, the life Jesus freely gives to all who trust in him.

So when Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the gospel, we will gladly follow. To follow Jesus is to follow him in faith, to continue to listen to his voice, and to learn from him as his disciple. It is to follow him through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, because we know that he, our Good Shepherd will bring us safely through to the other side. When Jesus calls, we follow.

Once we have heeded his call and come to him for life, now Jesus may have some things for us to do. That was the case for those fishermen back then at the Sea of Galilee, Simon and Andrew, James and John. They were commercial fisherman, busy with boats and nets and the like. But Jesus had a special calling for those fellows, a new vocation. Instead of hauling in fish, now they will begin training to haul in people. Hauling them in alive, by means of the net of the gospel, bringing people into the boat that is the church. Like Noah’s ark, this boat will be the place of safety and rescue, the church will be. And we get brought into the boat when the gospel net brings us on board.

There are some guys who need to be casting the net for the fish to be brought to safety. Peter and Andrew, James and John–that was the new vocation Jesus was calling them to take up. They were going to be preachers, proclaimers, issuing the same life-giving call that Jesus himself had announced: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” That’s what preachers do. We simply give a voice to what Jesus himself is continuing to proclaim.

OK, but maybe you’re not called to be a preacher. Is there nothing you can do? No, we’re all part of a team here in the church. Together we work in harmony here in the body of Christ to accomplish what God would have us to do. The preacher may be the public mouthpiece at the pulpit, but all of us can speak here and there as we have opportunity. “You can tell the love of Jesus, you can say he died for all.” Your personal witness, to the people you know–your friends, your relatives, your coworkers, your neighbors–you can say, “We have found the Savior, the one who gives us life! We have found the true meaning of life, and I want you to know this joy also. Come with me and see.” And you bring that person with you here to church, where they will find Jesus giving out his gifts.

And then there are a multitude of tasks we can work on together to keep the congregation functioning well. Putting your tithe into the offering plate on a regular basis–this is one way you can help. Putting your self into the pew–this is in itself an encouragement to your brothers and sisters (and to your pastor, I might add), as we see your body adding to the number of the faithful, as we hear your voice confessing the Creed, singing the hymns, and giving your hearty “Amen!” to the prayers.

There are lots of ways you can help. Ask your pastor or ask your congregational officers how you might help, and I bet they might come up with a few. There are candles to light, bells to ring, bulletins to pass out, plates to pass around. There are repairs to be made. There are ideas to be “ideaed.” There are members who could be visited or called, shut-ins and prospects and people you haven’t seen here in a while. Maybe you know them, or would like to. We all can play a part.

You elected congregational officers–today we are installing you into your offices. Thank you for your service! It is much appreciated. Keep in mind with your various tasks: You don’t have to do them all yourself, but you do want to see that they get done. Think about recruiting others to help in what needs to be done. God bless you in your efforts this year.

When Jesus calls, we follow. And it’s not just in churchy stuff. Even more so, it’s in your daily life, in all your various vocations in life: husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, butcher, baker, and candlestick maker. In all these spheres of life, you are God’s person, his channel of blessing to others. To follow Jesus is to be a servant, actively showing God’s love through your life of love and good works, giving glory to the one who has called you.

When Jesus calls, we follow. That’s what life is all about. He calls us to a life of repentance and faith, to receive from him. And he calls us into lives of love and service. When Jesus calls, where Jesus calls, we will gladly follow.

Published in: on January 23, 2021 at 7:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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