Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 14, 2018
If you are able, please stand and read with me our passage for this morning from Mark 1:14-20.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.
This is Isaak Komisarchik - age 82 - who was last seen alive on July 5th of last year. Mr. Komisarchik suffered from dementia. When he went missing his family went to great lengths to try and find him.
Nearly 1 month later, Mr. Komisarchik’s decomposing body was found in an inoperable elevator at the Woodstream Village apartments in Denver. Tenants had complained to the management about an awful smell coming from the elevator. Which led to the investigation of the smell which led to the discovery of Mr. Komisarchik’s body.
During the investigation into “how could that that happen” - the elevator management company checked their records and discovered that Mr. Komisarchik had repeatedly pressed the elevator’s emergency button - which worked. The Woodstream Village Apartments staff had checked the other two elevators. But not the inoperable elevator in the section of the garage being renovated.
How sad is that? Dying alone in an elevator repeatedly pressing the button for help. But Mr. Komisarchik is not alone.
One of the great struggles of life today is knowing who we are and understanding what purpose keeps us living on this planet. So many people are struggling with aimlessness and hopelessness and loneliness and depression.
It is a great irony that the more we fill our lives with experiences and things the more empty we become.
Last Sunday we began to study through the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s gospel begins at a time when God’s people had endured 400 plus years of political and religious and cultural and economic oppression and persecution and turmoil and uncertainty.
After all that, first century Israel was a new low point in the long history of God’s people. Corrupt politician priests had turned the Temple into what was in many ways a Roman outpost - appeasing their Roman occupiers. While schools of Pharisees argued endlessly over minute details of a “God helps those who help themselves” kind of self-focused religion. The powerful lined their pockets. The rich consolidated their power. And hopeless masses of God’s people wandered around in spiritual darkness.
The more things change…
Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov - Ivan the middle brother struggling with the concept of God in a world overrun by evil. Ivan offers this insight:
“The secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance.” (1)
In chapter 1 verse 1 - as Mark begins his gospel account - Mark invites us into what God is doing about all that: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Gospel - same Greek word translated different - same meaning - “good news.”
The Gospel - the good news is about Jesus. The good news is Jesus. The “Christ” - the Greek word for the long waited for Hebrew “Messiah”. The Son of God - meaning the eternal God - God the Son - second person of the Triune God.
Meaning that the good news isn’t some new philosophy to try to comprehend or some new religious insight to grab onto. The good news is the person - the long awaited Messiah - God in human flesh - whose name is Jesus.
Which is Mark’s theme. Why Mark writes Mark. Good news that’s crucial for all of us - even today. The good news of Who Jesus is and what it means to believe in Him.
This morning we are picking up Mark’s “good news” account at verse 14 - which introduces us to Jesus’ Message.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
We know - because we looked at this last Sunday - we know that Jesus has already been baptized by John. Jesus’ ministry and Who He is - has been identified - by God - at His baptism. Then Jesus has been 40 days in the wilderness being tempted.
Timing is important to Mark.
Mark picks up the account with John being arrested. That’s Mark’s brief and to the point way of writing telling us that John’s ministry as the forerunner - the messenger voice crying in the wilderness - “prepare ye the way of the Lord” - all that is done. John has completed his God–appointed task. The stage is set. The focus is now on Jesus. Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ message.
Looking at the map - Jerusalem is in the south. Galilee is in the north. That’s probably pretty familiar. Yes?
Timing is important to Mark. So is location.
Mark makes sure we understand that Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee not in Jerusalem. Jesus may have been doing ministry around Jerusalem. But the introduction of His ministry and message is in Galilee.
Galilee is 3 days journey north of Jerusalem. What is only about 70 miles. But worlds apart.
Jerusalem is the capital with all of the politics and culture and wealth - home of the sophisticated movers and shakers and shapers. The center of everything Jewish and anything Roman in Judea.
Galilee was unimportant. Culturally it was rural and backward. A place that the elite of Jerusalem looked down on. In Galilee they spoke with a distinct accent that identified them as hicks. They were farmers and fishermen. They didn’t travel a whole lot outside of Galilee. Maybe once in a great while to Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals.
Galilee is to Jerusalem what Merced is to San Francisco. A few miles between and realities apart. Please don’t send me emails. I get that Merced isn’t as bad as all that. We’re making comparisons to help us get Mark’s point.
Jesus didn’t come into humanity to play politics - to be politically correct - or to be entertained by the rich and elite. He came as a slave to serve and to sacrifice Himself for those He created - to redeem them from their depravity and bondage in sin.
Jesus choosing to go to Galilee is Jesus being intentional in who He chooses to first reach out to. If there was anywhere where people were hopeless - cast down - in spiritual poverty and desperate for the Messiah - it was Galilee.
And in that atmosphere of despair - where 82 year old men can die alone in an elevator hopelessly pushing the emergency button - or we may wonder what in God’s universe we’re doing here - in Galilee Jesus came preaching the gospel.
Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Notice three things in Jesus’ message.
First: “The time is fulfilled.” Which is more than just what time of day is showing on the sundial. It’s a different word in Greek than the word for chronological time. The word here has the idea of the decisive time of God’s acting.
Fulfilled meaning that everything up to this time - everything we’ve studied last year since Genesis - everything leading up to this moment - is done. There’s nothing left to do. However long God chose for it to take in order for God to accomplish what God chose to accomplish in order to prepare for what God is about to do has been completely fulfilled according to how God choose to do it.
The Gospel of God is from God and is about God. With the coming of Jesus - Who is the good news - Jesus Who is the Gospel of God in the flesh and blood of our humanity - with the coming of Jesus, God is doing something special - unique at this time like no other time.
Second: “The kingdom of God is at hand.”
The kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world. It’s not about some geographic area over which some monarch reigns. It’s not about the economics and politics and philosophies of man.
God’s kingdom describes God’s reign over the people of this world. The exercise of His rule where He is present.
God gave His people -
and us - a foretaste of His kingdom when we looked at
David and the monarchy.
A foreshadowing that one day God would personally
establish His reign.
At hand meaning as close as our hand. Which is pretty close.
Mark’s readers - who had come to repentance and believing - they would have understood that the kingdom would come in a theological sense when the Holy Spirit would fill believers - the church and the indwelling of believers by the Holy Spirit.
But Jesus is also referring to Himself. God’s kingdom has come near in the reality that He - Jesus the King - is standing right there in front of the people.
The third part of Jesus’ message is a call to “repent and believe” the good news.
The message demands a response. If the time is now. If the Kingdom has come. If the King Himself is standing right here - right now. Then life must change. In God’s kingdom there is only one King. Either God is sovereign over our lives or we are.
Repent and believe - to turn and have faith - means to turn away - to abandon - our old self-centered sinful way of living life in order to turn to God and trust in the Messiah. Jesus, Who’s come to save us from our sin - to live in the new redeemed life as His royal subject.
We either reject or receive the good news of the King - His message of forgiveness and redeemed God given life - lived not by our efforts but by His royal power. There’s no in between riding the fence.
Jesus comes north to Galilee - to ordinary people like us - to proclaim the Gospel of God. To know Jesus is to know God’s love and grace and mercy in our broken lives. To know God’s power and healing and forgiveness. Jesus says - repent - turn from your sin - and believe - turn to God - the Kingdom of God and all God offers you its right here - receive it from Him. You need nothing else.
Coming to verse 16 brings us to Jesus’ Invitation.
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon [Peter] and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.
The Sea of Galilee is about 3 times area of Merced. It’s surrounded by mountains which puts it deep in a valley. The Sea of Galilee is the second lowest lake in the world. 686 feet below sea level. The lowest fresh water lake in the world.
Anyone know what the deepest lake in the world is? The Dead Sea. 87 miles south of the Sea of Galilee and 1,412 feet below sea level.
The Sea of Galilee is not a very deep lake - about 160 feet deep at its deepest. But it is full of fish.
Simon and Andrew and James and John were fisherman. We’re told that James and John were part of their father’s business than included servants and at least one boat that they owned. Point being: They knew fish and fishing and they were good at it.
Mark, in his way of cutting to the chase - brief and to the point - Mark bypasses some of the details that are in the other gospels - gives us the setting - Sea of Galilee and fishing - and brings us straight to Jesus invitation. The message of Jesus comes with an invitation.
First: Jesus’ message comes with invitation to choice. “Follow Me... or not.”
Near a highway bridge several boats were scattered about in the lake as there was the Annual Bass Catchers Classic fishing tournament in progress - when a funeral procession came by on the bridge. Everybody just kept on fishing except for one fisherman - who put his fishing pole down - stood up - removed his hat and remained like that - until the funeral procession had passed by.
A nearby fisherman happened to see this and was impressed at how respectful the man had been. So he cranked up his boat and pulled up beside the other man’s boat.
He called out, “Howdy. I saw how considerate you were toward that funeral procession - pausing and standing like that. I wish I’d been as thoughtful.”
The other man replied, “I reckon it’s the least I could do. After all, we’d been married for nearly 30 years.”
The choice here is to commit to follow or not. Are we all in - or not?
“Follow Me” in Greek is actually 3 words that come across a whole more intense than what this sounds like in English. There is an immediacy to the wording. It’s an exclamation. Something like: “NOW - this is it. Now is the time to come after Me - to follow Me.”
According to John’s gospel account this isn’t the first time Peter and the others had come across Jesus. They were aware of His message and His claim to be the long waited for Messiah. By this time there were a number of people had heard Jesus’ message - knew who He was - and in one sense they’d believed. (John 1:35-42)
But “now” - what Jesus is inviting them to requires a deeper commitment - a challenge to be “all in” to what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Setting aside other priorities - family and business - whatever was a part of their lifestyle that would keep them from following - from being committed to being “all in” - “following.”
Or not. Stay and keep fishing for fish. Hey, it’s a living.
Which is a challenge for us. The decision “to follow” may not mean some great dramatic lifestyle change. It might, depending on where you are this morning. But following the King does require some different choices in our approach to our families and occupations and retirement and how live our lives. Is all that at the disposal of Jesus?
Jesus’ message comes with an invitation to choose.
Who or what are we following? Either we’re “all in” or we’re not. Either we’re following Jesus or we’re not.
Second, Jesus’ message comes with an invitation to choose to follow Jesus. “Follow Me.” - emphasis “Me.”
Which isn’t about Jesus founding some school to train disciples. Jesus wasn’t talking about starting a seminary for formal education in theology and doctrine - some rabbinic school.
And Jesus didn’t offer a whole lot of explanation. What that “following” would look like. All that gets clearer as they spend 3 years together tromping and camping around Palestine and watching Jesus being crucified and resurrected and at their final commissioning as Jesus ascends into heaven.
Meaning that Jesus isn’t inviting these men to choose to join an institution or a program but to choose to follow a person - Jesus.
Discipleship - in the New Testament sense of what it means to be a disciple - is that we so closely “follow” our disciple-er - that we actually become like the one we’re “following.” We take on his characteristics - behavior - mannerisms. We think like he thinks. Respond like he responds. When people look at us they see the one we’re following.
Sometimes when we talk about discipleship we get tripped up with the idea that we should hold classes and memorize lists of verses and organize some sort of ministry. And there’s a place for all that. But only if that helps us to become more committed - more passionate - more faithful and obedient followers of Jesus.
Back in the days of the early church the word “christian” was a derogatory term. People - who weren’t Christians - would call someone a “christian” as an insult. (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16)
Like today - sometimes people use the word “christian” and they're not using that word like they’ve got great respect for what it means bot a Christian. They’re actually mocking Christians - followers of Jesus Christ. Some of which - sadly - is self-inflicted and maybe deserved.
The word “christian” means “little Christ” - literally, “little anointed one.” Jesus was anointed by God - set apart for ministry by God. The baptism of Jesus - the Holy Spirit descending as a dove - the voice of God the Father from heaven declaring who Jesus is. That’s anointing - Jesus being set apart for ministry.
We’re to so closely follow Jesus that we become a “little Christ” - someone called by Jesus - anointed to follow Him in His ministry - a disciple who is a replica of our Master.
Jesus bottom lined what He was about - talking to Zacchaeus - the seen by those around him as a deformed collaborator with the Romans ostracized by his people tax collector - Jesus told Zacchaeus flat out: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10).
That’s what Jesus is about. The Christ we’re following. Jesus starts His ministry with the people in Galilee - the center of hopelessness.
Paul challenges the believers in Corinth: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Literally: “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
That’s a challenge. That we follow Jesus - pursue Jesus - yield to Jesus - so closely - so intently - so purposefully - that over time when people see us they see Jesus coming through us.
The trust and submission Jesus had before the Father - is the trust and submission we have to our Father. The reliance on the Holy Spirit - is how we have come to rely on the Holy Spirit. The mindset that Jesus has - we have. The attitudes and actions. What He weeps over we weep over. What brings Him joy brings us joy. What Jesus was passionate about - we’re passionate about. What moved Jesus - moves us.
People living in the desperateness of Merced. People in our families. People where we work. Where we go to school. Where we shop and eat and hang out and do the stuff of life. Are feeling Jesus? Are we following Jesus into all of that?
To follow Jesus means we are so yielded to Jesus that we perceive and feel and respond to the world around us as if Jesus were perceiving and feeling and responding to the world through us.
Third: Jesus’ message comes with an invitation to choose to follow Jesus and become… to be transformed. To become fishers of men.
Two guys go on a fishing trip. They rent all the equipment - the reels - the rods - the wading suits - the rowboat - the car - even a cabin in the woods. They spend a fortune.
The first day they go fishing. But they don’t catch anything. The same thing happens on the second day - and on the third day. It goes on like this until finally - on the last day of their vacation - one of the men catches fish.
As they’re driving home they’re really depressed. One guy turns to the other and says, “Do you realize that this one lousy fish we caught cost us fifteen hundred dollars?”
The other guy says, “Wow! It’s a good thing we didn’t catch any more!”
Sometimes I watch people fish. I watch because the only fish I ever caught out of a stream was already dead. I’ve come to agree with the conclusion that, “There’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot.”
Choosing to follow Jesus means becoming who God has created and called us to be. Not just occupying space on a river bank. Or sucking up oxygen and resources on planet earth. But actually having God given - it makes a difference now and for eternity - purpose and meaning for our lives.
To “make” His followers has the idea of causing them - of producing in them - creating in them what it means to be a fisher of men - a transformation of their lives from the inside out. God’s reorientating their lives to God’s purposes and will for them.
Notice what Jesus commits Himself to. If we will choose to follow Jesus - where following Jesus really is the priority of our lives - He will make us to become… meaning transformation.
These disciples were simple Galilean fishermen - rough - unschooled men - governed by Jewish passions and prejudices - narrow in their outlook. Not the sophisticated elite of Jerusalem.
Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea - that’s what they knew how to do and what their abilities were. Jesus teaches them to cast nets for men.
We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Andrew becomes the disciple who brings people to Jesus - even as he’s brought his brother Peter to Christ. In Acts chapter 2 - Peter becomes the great evangelist - on the day of Pentecost he preaches the gospel to three thousand people.
James and John were doing something else - they were mending their nets. That was their skill and ability.
The Greek word for “mending” has the idea of equipping - preparing. Just as James and John were equipping their nets when Jesus called them - Jesus teaches them to mend nets as fishers of men. Later they would become teachers - equipping and mending the saints.
Which is hugely comforting when we stop to think about the implications of that for ourselves.
When Jesus calls us to follow Him - to faithfully and obediently serve Him. And Jesus assumes the responsibility to teach us everything we need to learn in order to fulfill that calling. What becoming “fishers of men” looks like in our own lives.
In my office I’ve got a pencil sharpener and a lamp and a computer all plugged into the same wall socket. They draw power from the same source but they do different things. That’s the way it is with God and us.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I the way I am?” Usually when we ask that question we’re looking at what we don’t like - or what we’re ashamed of - or we’re comparing ourselves to someone else. We do “I feel inadequate” real easy. Just saying.
But, with Almighty Sovereign God it’s not an accident that we are the way we are and that we are where we are. It’s not just dumb luck - random chance - that we’re here together as the Body of Christ or we have the families we do or the jobs or schools or whatever.
We may have done our best to mess up our lives. But God knows that. And God may move us or change us. There could be some really serious issues in our lives that God wants to work through with us and bring us out of. And that process may come with some pain. Usually does.
But that all comes with our willingness to rely on Him - to yield our lives to Him - to empower us and transform us and equip us and use us - and all that He’s given us - what makes us uniquely us - to serve Him - to fulfill His calling and great purposes for our lives.
That’s what Jesus did in the lives of these men and many others as they followed Him.
The message of Jesus comes with an invitation to choose to follow Jesus and become who God has created and called us to be.
Processing All That…
Max Lucado tells a story about Jake - a game warden. Maybe you’ve heard this?
Jake - the game warden - was always amazed that Sam - a fisherman - showed up at the end of the day with a two or three stringers full of fish. This happened even when all the other fishermen came back with only two or three fish. The lake was loaded with fish. But they seemed to elude the average fisherman. But not Sam.
The game warden - Jake - his curiosity finally got the better of him. So one day he said to Sam, “I’d like to know your secret.” Sam - a man of few words - said, “Show up tomorrow morning.”
The next morning - before dawn - Jake was there when Sam showed up. They got into the boat. About 40 minutes later - after motoring across the lake - they arrived in a secluded part of the lake with no one else around. When they stopped the motor it was as still as it could be. Jake decided to sit back - fold his arms - and watch Sam do his thing.
Sam reached into his tackle box and pulled out a slender stick of dynamite - lit it - tossed it in the air. When it hit the level of the lake there was an enormous explosion. In a matter of seconds, fish of all sizes began to float up on the top of the lake. Without a word Sam just began to row his way around and with his net pick up the largest fish and string them.
Jake screamed. “Wait! You can’t do that. You’ve broken every rule in the book. I’m gonna have to stick you in jail!”
About that time Sam reached in his box - pulled out another stick of dynamite - lit it - tossed it in Jake’s lap and said, “Are you gonna sit there watchin’ all day or are you gonna fish?” (2)
Simon and Andrew responded immediately. Emphasis "immediately." They left their nets and followed. James and John responded immediately. They left their father in the boat with hired servants and followed.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. Now! Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
1. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karmazov (New York: Barnes & Noble Book, 1995), page 235 - quoted by Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark, page 24.
2. Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him Savior
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.