“‘Follow Me’: The Call to Discipleship” (Mark 1:14-20)

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

“‘Follow Me’: The Call to Discipleship” (Mark 1:14-20)

Today we begin a series of four messages based on the four “Follow me” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. “Follow me”: In saying those words, Jesus was calling people back then to be his disciples. “Follow me”: Jesus is still saying those words to us today. He is calling us to be his disciples. So hear him now, as Jesus says to each one of us: “Follow Me.”

Our first entry in this midweek series has to do precisely with “The Call to Discipleship.” We hear it in our text today from Mark chapter 1. And I want us to consider three points about this call to discipleship: 1) The call comes from Jesus; 2) The call is surprisingly simple; and 3) The call is profoundly transformative.

First point: The call comes from Jesus. By that I mean, the initiative lies with him, not with us. Notice how the direction of the call goes: Jesus was walking alongside the Sea of Galilee, and he sees Simon and Andrew, and he says to them, “Follow me.” Then, going on a little father, Jesus sees James and John, and he calls them.

Notice, the direction is all from Jesus to the ones he calls. Jesus was walking along and he found them. He saw them when they were just going about their business, not looking for him. They didn’t do one darn thing to merit or earn his attention. There was nothing about them that was so special. They didn’t seek Jesus; he sought them. And he said to them, he called them, “Follow me.” It was all at his initiative.

The late theologian Martin Franzmann writes: “Jesus takes the initiative and calls the disciples. In many respects the circle of disciples gathered about Jesus was no startling novelty in first-century Palestine: in the terminology of ‘rabbi’ and ‘disciple,’ in the fact that they ‘followed’ their Master. . . . But in this point, in the genesis of the circle of disciples, there is a striking difference. In rabbinical circles the initiative in discipleship lay with the disciple. ‘Take to yourself a teacher,’ is the advice given to the aspiring disciple by a Jewish teacher. . . . We have no record of a call issued by a Jewish rabbi to a disciple in all rabbinic literature. . . . What in Judaism was the pious duty of the disciple is here the sovereign act of the Master. . . . Jesus reserves the initiative for Himself.”

As with those first disciples, so it is with us. We didn’t seek him. He sought us, he found us, and called us to be his own. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. That was us. We were lost, lost in sin and darkness, and we didn’t even know it. Like those first disciples, like all the lost people in the world today, we were just going about our everyday business, casting our nets, mending our nets. We could mend our nets, but we could not mend our relationship with God. That net was torn beyond repair, and we couldn’t fix it. That’s what it means to be lost, lost in sin and heading toward death, eternal death apart from God.

But then Jesus comes walking. He seeks us, he sees us, he finds us where we are. He says to each one of us, “Follow me.” And those are words of life and forgiveness, because that’s what we find when we follow him. Jesus calls us by the gospel. He called you in your baptism, when you didn’t do a darn thing to choose him. You were dead in sin, and he brought you to life. You didn’t decide to follow Jesus. He decided to call you.

The call comes from Jesus. The initiative lies all with him, not with us. Jesus chooses us, we don’t choose him. The disciples Jesus called in our text today–Jesus will tell these same disciples later on, in John 15: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” It’s like we sang in our opening hymn: “Lord, ’tis not that I did choose Thee; that, I know, could never be; for this heart would still refuse Thee had Thy grace not chosen me.

So the first point: The call comes from Jesus. The second point: The call is surprisingly simple. By that I mean, it is surprisingly simple in its content. It’s just Jesus saying, “Follow me.”

Suppose I wanted you to get from here to, say, the seminary in St. Louis. There are a couple of ways I could give you directions. Here is one way: “OK, leave the church and take the streets and the turns you need to get onto Highway 67. Take Highway 67 north till you get to I-55. Go north on I-55 x number of miles till you get to I-44 in St. Louis. Take I-44 west till you get to Hampton. Take Hampton north till you get to I-64 west (also known as Highway 40). Stay in the right line, because the next exit is for Clayton Rd. Go west on Clayton Road just a couple of stoplights till you get to Seminary Place. Take a right and straight ahead of you is Concordia Seminary. You got all that?”

OK, that’s one way to do it. But here’s another way: Get in your car and follow me. That’s it. Just, follow me and you’ll get there. No complicated formulas. Pretty simple. Follow me. Well, that’s kind of what Jesus does when he calls us to be his disciples. The call is surprisingly simple in its content: “Follow me.” That’s it. Follow Jesus, come after him. Not a lot of complicated directions to remember. Just one person to follow. Follow Jesus, keep on following him, and you will get to where you need to go.

To be sure, the disciples will find out more, a whole lot more, along the way. They will grow in their understanding of what all is involved in being Christ’s disciples. But at its heart, at its core, the call is essentially and surprisingly simple: Follow Jesus. Stick close to him. He is the way. And he’ll show you the way, as you follow him.

The call is to follow Jesus. To follow him in faith, to stick close to him. It means being where he continues to speak to us. That’s in the church. Through Word and Sacrament, Jesus is here, speaking to us, leading us onward. We follow Jesus through the church year: from his birth; through his public ministry; to his suffering, death, and resurrection; and to his return at the last day.

Discipleship is very personal. It means being attached to Jesus. He leads, and we follow. Jesus takes us where he is going. He will lead us through our daily lives. He will lead us to our neighbor in need. He will lead us all the way to our home in heaven.

Which leads us to our third point: The call to discipleship is profoundly transformative. By that I mean, it is transformative in its effects. The call changes things, profoundly. It changes us, profoundly. It changes the direction of our life.

Look at what happened with the disciples. Simon and Andrew, James and John, were fishermen. Then Jesus comes and calls them: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and their boats behind, and they follow Jesus. Now not all of us are called to be “fishers of men” like those guys were. We’re not all called into the pastoral ministry. But we all are called to be disciples, to follow Jesus. And that will indeed change things for us.

It changes things for us, in that it gives us life! We were dead, but now we are alive, in Christ! For to follow Jesus is to go with him to the cross, where he suffers and dies for us poor sinners. By his holy precious blood, all our sins are forgiven, and we are washed clean. The net is mended, that torn net of our relationship with God. Jesus mended it for us, he made it right. Now we have life, we have everlasting life. This is the most profound change that comes with following Jesus. It changes the course of our eternity.

And it changes things now in our daily life. Now we are disciples of Jesus. Our life takes a new direction. Now we have something more to do in our lives than just fishing. The call to discipleship transforms our daily life, even if we stay in our current occupation. Our vocation, our calling, is transformed. It “changes,” even if it doesn’t “change.” What I mean is, oh, you may still be a commercial fisherman, or an auto mechanic, or a retiree, or a mom, but now your life is different, even if outwardly it looks the same.

Now you know you can serve God and serve your neighbor as a mechanic or a mom, and your work is accepted as good work before God. That’s because it is cleansed by Christ and serves as a channel of God’s love and blessing toward others. That’s the new and different direction our lives take as Jesus’ disciples. We don’t need our works to climb our way up to God. No, Christ’s completed work gets us there. Now we are free to give away our good works to our neighbor who needs them. God’s love flows through us to others.

My friends, today we have heard “The Call to Discipleship.” Three points: 1) The call comes from Jesus. The initiative lies with him. 2) The call is surprisingly simple in its content. It’s simply Jesus calling us to follow him. 3) And that call is profoundly transformative in its effects. It changes our lives now and gives us a life that will last forever. So, my fellow disciples, keep on listening during this Lenten season, as Jesus continues to call us, day after day, saying, “Follow me.”

Published in: on February 24, 2021 at 10:44 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This is great sermon. God bless you Pastor.

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