Let us pray: Dear Savior, as you once called the disciples to faith, so you have called us. As you once prompted them by the Spirit’s power to follow you, so you have prompted us. And as they often grew weary and frustrated—even falling asleep on you in Gethsemane—so we often let you down, as well. Today uplift our faith and re-energize us so that we may never again fall down on the job of letting our light shine! Amen GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING SAVIOR!
TEXT: Mark 1: 14-20
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Most modern movies are anything but memorable. However, occasionally a movie has a line or scene in it that becomes part of the fabric of our society. The old movie, “The Godfather” has one such line. Marlin Brando plays the lead role as the mafia “godfather” who wants to make another fellow “an offer that you can’t refuse.” The point is: “you’ll live longer if you follow me and accept my terms. To refuse me is to die.”
In today’s Gospel lesson, Mark lays out for us the marvelous story of Jesus calling 4 of His disciples. Since all things are written for our learning, this lesson lays before us:
AN OFFER YOU CAN REFUSE—AT YOUR PERIL!
At first blush, this text doesn’t seem to have much to it. John the Baptist is now in prison. Jesus has reached age 30 and is traveling around Galilee proclaiming: “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” So, He has begun His ministry and is starting to make a name for Himself. Then Mark reports how Jesus came to the Sea of Galilee and called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples and how they took Him up on the offer. When we read this we say to ourselves: “Wonderful!” And then we wonder a bit as to exactly why they responded so quickly. Would we do the same if someone appeared before us and said something similar? Would we immediately recognize Christ as the Savior, the Son of God? As with most stories, you need a little background to help comprehend exactly what’s going on here.
If you look at the parallel accounts of this calling of these disciples in Matthew, Luke, and John you quickly get a much fuller picture. Apparently these four men were disciples, followers, of John the Baptist. Christ had met them when He was baptized by St. John in the river Jordan. Also, He had called them to follow Him with a nod from John and they did for a time. But then Christ withdrew in Galilee for some solitary time and they went back to their vocation of being fisherman on the lake. We know that Jesus often withdrew from the crowds for times of seclusion. Like us, He apparently needed to recharge His batteries.
In any case, John the Baptist is now imprisoned by the evil King Herod. Christ finds Himself at the Sea of Galilee preaching to the crowds. He looks up and sees a boat beached on the shore with Peter and Andrew washing their nets after a night’s fishing in which they caught nothing. Christ tells them to launch their boat and cast down their nets a little way from shore. They obey—probably more to humor Him than expecting a miracle. But a miracle occurs! Their nets are filled with fish, so much so that the boat begins to sink from the weight. They call to others—their partners James and John in another boat–to help. At this turn of events, Peter runs up to Jesus, falls down at His feet and says: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” It is at that point that Jesus says to him, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And then we’re told by Mark: “At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Why doesn’t Mark record all these extra events while St. Luke does in his account? That’s a fascinating question. Mark was Peter’s protégé. Mark wrote down what Peter told him to. Since Peter chose not to record this miracle which hastened his discipleship, either Peter wished to downplay his own response, and/or he wished to emphasis the power of Christ’s words in calling him.
Andrew follows his brother. And their friends, James and John, just down the way from them in the company of their father Zebedee and the hired help also embrace their Lord, leave everything behind and give their lives over to our Savior. None of them second-guessed themselves. None of them made excuses. None of them waited. When God called them they responded. And as a result their lives were transformed. Nothing was ever the same again.
Could they have refused Christ’s offer to: “Come and follow me?” Yes. Sinners possess the power to say to no to God. And more often than not, that’s exactly what sinful human beings do. In Matthew, chapter 10 we run across another fascinating story. It is of the rich young man who sought Christ out and asked him, “Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?” Christ could read this fellow’s heart. He knew this man loved his wealth more than anything else in life. So, Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” And what happened there? The rich young man went away sorrowful because he loved his money more than the Lord.
Christ makes all of us this offer to “Come, follow Me.” And it’s an offer we can refuse—at our own peril. Some refuse it because they fear the unknown. They fear stepping out of their own little comfort zone. Others refuse Christ’s offer because it means they must totally reorder their priorities by putting Jesus first and themselves second, third, or fourth on the list. Elsewhere Jesus says: “Without Me, you can do nothing.” He says: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his own soul?” That’s the peril part of His offer to: “Come, follow Me.” Isn’t it? Without Christ leading us we have no idea of what self-sacrificing love means, we have no idea about what forgiveness really means, and we have no idea of how to attain eternal life. But when we do follow Him, He gives us all those blessings because He bought them for us on the cross.
People agree to be married because they anticipate that their future together will be more fulfilling than their single past. Couples have children because having them is more fulfilling than not. Yes, in both instances life changes totally. In both instances, people can say “No, I’m content with how things are right now.” In both instances, however, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Well, my friends, don’t deprive yourselves of God’s benefits! Don’t refuse His offer to “Come and follow Me!” He has extended that offer to you in baptism. He has repeated it each Sunday via His Word of truth. The disciples were filled with anticipatory excitement over having God’s eternal Son leading them through life. And their full, rich lives testify that Christ didn’t disappoint them. So, Follow the Savior! And reap the comfort, joy, and excitement of having God Almighty directing your life! Amen