K.I.S.S.! Keep it Short and Simple is one version of this acronym. You may be familiar with others. Sometimes we just want to know what we have to do and we don't need to know all the details or specifics of why or how it works. For example, when I drive my car, I know that if I put it in D, it goes forward and when I put it in R it goes in reverse. My car has a very complex transmission and engine and I don't really want or need to understand how it all works. Just tell me what to do is enough for me. Keep it short and simple. If you like keep it simple sermons, this is for you! We are looking at the life of Jesus in the gospels of Mark and Luke and now we look at Mark's description of the beginning of Jesus' ministry. How we are to live as disciples of Jesus is quite simple. Let's read Mark 1:14-20.
I. Let's look at the initial call: repent and believe!
First notice that Jesus does not begin his ministry until after John has been arrested. When John is arrested, Jesus knows that now is the time for Jesus to act. In fact, Jesus says, "The time has come;" the critical moment has arrived. Jesus is declaring that God is now beginning to act in a new and decisive way. In the past, God had elected and redeemed Israel but now there will be a change. Jesus proclaims that now is the time of God's full salvation for all in his kingdom. The term "kingdom of God" continues a theme from the Old Testament. Previously, God worked with the kingdom of Israel. But now it is the kingdom of God, which radically changes the focus to something much bigger than what anyone in Jesus' day could have imagined. And Jesus says that this kingdom is now near. The coming of the kingdom remains future, but it is certain because of Jesus. And finally Jesus says, "Repent and believe the good news." This is a fresh restatement of the word the Old Testament prophets brought. But there is even more urgency now for now the nature of the gospel is clearer than ever before; there is no time for delay.
There had been many warnings from the prophets in the Old Testament and yet the people continued to ignore God's warnings and rebel. But now there is something very unique and special about Jesus' call to repent and that is also seen in Jesus' call to his first disciples.
II. Let's look at the call to discipleship which is captured in the word "follow!"
First, take note of the authority of Jesus' call. Jesus doesn’t ask these men if they would not maybe like to follow Him. Now we all know that this is the right way to recruit people for volunteer service. You ask them nicely and you point out all their qualifications for the job so that they will be inclined to accept the responsibility you would like them to shoulder. You certainly don=t just go up to them and say: "You, Abigail, you are in nursery today;" or "Henry, you go and paint the church." But Jesus does not ask these men; he commands them: "Come, follow me!" This is more clearly understood when we look at what it means to follow Jesus.
There is a lot more to the word "follow" than what we might ordinarily think. When we think of following, we may think of going to someone else's house and following them in our car so we won't get lost. To "follow" then means to go behind them for a while and then go on our way. When Jesus said that these men should follow Him, it was more than just saying, "just tag along for a while." The call to follow meant a radical change in their lives in that they must leave everything else behind. If they are to follow Jesus, then they must be loyal and devoted to the Lord Jesus alone.
The point for us to remember as well is that this means we follow Jesus alone! You see, if we believe that Jesus is our Savior and Lord, then we have heard that call from Jesus to follow him in our lives and decided to follow the Lord. The problem that we often face is that we tend to fudge on the exclusiveness factor. We say, "Lord, I will follow you, but only as far as it is convenient for me." Or we say, "Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but remember that I have a family and a job and other responsibilities as well." Let's remember constantly that if Jesus calls us, he does not call us only on Sundays. He doesn’t want 10% of our time or 75 or 90% of our time and energy. He wants US to yield to him in everything we do and everything we are. A disciple must follow the Lord Jesus, which means living in a dynamic relationship with the living, risen Lord Jesus.
III. Now let’s look at the task of discipleship, which is to fish!
There is often a common misunderstanding about Jesus' call to be fishers of men. Many assume that Jesus is simply making an interesting pun or play on words. As Jesus called them, they were working as fishermen on the lake shore. "You are fishing for fish now, follow me and you can fish for men." But Jesus does not simply use these words in his call because that is what these men happened to be doing at that moment. Rather Jesus is picking up on something that has a rich Old Testament background.
In the Old Testament, it is God who is the fisher of men. However, the passages in the Old Testament in which this is developed are distinctly ominous in tone, for they stress God's judgment. For example, Jeremiah 16:16 says, "'But now I will send for many fishermen,' declares the Lord, 'and they will catch them.'" God as the great fisher of men will catch the people in order to judge them. This thought is found later on as well in the Qumran community. This Jewish community existed about 100 years before Christ was born. This community had a leader who saw his role as the representative of God, the great fisher of men, who fishes for men in the world in order to judge them.
With this background in mind, Jesus is calling these men to a very specific task. In the past, a fisher of men was one who gathered people for God so that God could judge them for their sins. Now the disciples are called to be fishers of men, the representatives of God who are to go out and proclaim God's judgment to the world. They will have to proclaim the need for repentance to everyone. But because of the coming of Jesus Christ now, they will also be the ones who will proclaim that there is a way of salvation from the judgment of God against sin. Fishing is the sign of the coming of the kingdom of Christ into the world. The time is now fulfilled, the judgment of God is coming very soon and now fishers are being gathered to help in this process of establishing God's new kingdom of grace. Jesus' call is one that invites these men to be agents of God's judgment in the world.
Fishing then is the main task of discipleship for us as well. In all we do, we must be witnesses to the reality of the rule of Christ in this world. We must let others know that the kingdom of God is real. We must also let others know that this demands that they make a choice for or against the kingdom of God. Our task as disciples, as fishers of men, is to boldly proclaim in our words and actions the way of salvation to the world around us; we must tell the world what God has done.
IV. Now let's look at the response of discipleship, which is to obey!
In verse 18 we see how Simon and Andrew responded: "At once they left their nets and followed him." These two sensed the urgency and the importance of what Jesus had just commanded them to do and they instantly responded to the call. They immediately exchanged their livelihood for life with the master. Their immediate decision reflects the greatness of the person and the call of Jesus for they cannot help but respond to His call. Remember that Jesus does not invite, but commands them to follow. The possibility of catching men for the kingdom is more pressing than the task they are now doing. And it required a great deal of courage to become Christ's followers and face the hardships that they would encounter. Still they did not hesitate to leave everything and obey their new master.
We see a very similar thing in verse 20 with James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus called them to follow Him and be his witnesses and proclaimers as well. Notice here as well what they do when they are confronted by the call to follow Jesus. They exchange their family relationships for the new family of God. They had to leave everything behind in order to follow the Lord. They gave up all earthly prospects of wealth and prosperity. We must remember again, however, that the primary focus is not on the disciples, but on the sovereign authority and finality of the call Jesus brings. The emphasis is not on all that the disciples gave up to follow Jesus. The emphasis is on the irresistibility of Jesus' call to us and the authority which he can claim on our lives.
Jesus calls us to follow him and be his disciples. The cost is very high but the reward is amazing both now and for eternity.