But Where Are You Going (Mark 1:16-31)
Topic: Mark Passage: Mark 1:16–1:31
I. Following Involves Seeing
Let me confess to you something I don't do very well. I am good at saying, "Oh, yeah, I know where that is. Forget about a map. Just get in your car, and follow me." What I struggle with is actually remembering that someone else IS following me, someone else is trying to keep their eyes on my car.
Typically, once I get on the road, I just start going. I start changing lanes and passing cars, without much regard for the person trying to stay behind me. Usually, it's my wife who has to warn me about getting too far ahead.
What I seem to forget so easily is that following involves seeing. It involves watching what someone does in order to see where they are going.
This morning, I want us to consider that same call, "follow me". But the call we're going to talk about has nothing to do with changing lanes. Instead, it's all about changing lives.
Turn with me to Mark 1:16-20.
II. "Follow me..." (1:16-20)
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. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 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. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
If we had a chance to look at the first 15 verses of Mark's Gospel, we would see how Jesus began His public ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Verses 14 and 15 summarize the focus, the central theme of Jesus' ministry. God's reign as the king of all creation is breaking into our world. One day it will come fully and finally, bringing transformation, but also judgment. But now, through Jesus, the door of mercy has been opened wide. God is calling us to, verse 15, to repent and believe this good news.
But as you continue on in Mark, as we see in these verses, 16-20, Jesus is not simply preaching to crowds, he is also reaching out and inviting individuals to God's path.
In verses 16-20, we read that Jesus finds some fisherman out plying their trade close to the water's edge in the Sea of Galilee. At almost 700 feet below sea level, the Sea or Lake of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world. It is about 13 miles long and seven miles wide, and is still the home to plenty of fish; so fishing was a pretty secure industry on the lake.
So we read that Jesus ends up calling up two sets of brothers, all involved in the fishing industry. His invitation is simple: he says "follow me" or literally, "come after me". And were told that without hesitation, these brothers came. They dropped what they were doing and they followed him.
Now, there is some indication that Jesus had previous contact with these men, at least Simon and his brother Andrew. But Mark simply wants to describe for us here, the real beginning of their radical new relationship with Jesus.
But notice that Jesus adds a little bit more to His invitation; he adds something about the purpose of following Him. He tells them that he even though he is calling them to leave their trade, He still wants them to fish...only this time, for people and not pike.
All of this is so important because of the reality Peter described in I Peter 2:21- For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. Just like these men, if are a Christian, then you have been called to follow Jesus.
That's one way to describe a Christian, as "a follower of Jesus". And that following means obedience to both the words of Jesus (not only the words He spoke in the Gospels, but in fact, the whole Bible...so obedience to the words of Jesus) and the example of Jesus. The two go hand in hand. The example of Jesus in suffering is the very thing Peter goes on to describe in I Peter 2.
So just like following a car, if these men wanted to follow Jesus, they would need to keep their eyes on what He was doing in order to see where He was going. And if we want to follow "in His steps", and follow what's happening in these verses, we need to pay careful attention to where Jesus goes from here. Look at verse 21.
III. "...and I will make you fishers of men." (1:21-31)
A. Fishing with Truth (1:21, 22)
21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
So they leave the shores of the lake and head back into Capernaum, the town where all of them, including Jesus, are living.
So look at the first place where Mark tells us Jesus goes. On the next Sabbath, they go with Jesus into the synagogue.
Now, of course, going to the synagogue would be a common thing for Jews to do on the Sabbath. It would also be common for Jesus as a teacher to be given time to share. What we are told is uncommon is the way in which Jesus taught, for "he taught them as one who had authority".
Not only did Jesus not cite other rabbis as other Jewish teachers, like the scribes, did, but apparently, he also taught with a unique conviction and personal power. What was he teaching? Well, we're not told specifically, but if we look back to 1:15, undoubtedly Jesus was still proclaiming the kingdom of God.
So when Jesus invites these men to follow him and become fishers of men, the first thing we're told He does is go and teach.
Now if the disciples we're keeping their eyes on Him, they would see what Jesus was really up to. He was fishing with truth. If men and women are to be brought into God's kingdom, to find God's open door of mercy, they must be taught.
Just as Peter, Andrew, James, and John were used to casting their nets out in order to draw in fish, here Jesus is spreading the truth in order to draw in those who are lost.
How and when did you believe? If you are a follower of Christ, then at some point, through some means, Jesus taught you the truth and drew you in.
But look at what else we see here about where Jesus is going:
B. Fishing through Resistance (1:23-28)
23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God." 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
Now I'm not sure what is more disturbing about this passage: that there was a man possessed by a demon, or that this demon possessed was apparently just sitting in the synagogue listening.
The teaching of Christ, indeed the very presence of Jesus must have set this evil spirit off. Notice, one, the demonic spirit knows who Jesus is ("..of Nazareth...the Holy One of God), and two, this creature even alludes to Jesus' mission. The question here could very well be translated as simply a statement, "You have come to destroy us!"
But as will be made clear in v. 34 of this chapter, Jesus did not want this spirit revealing His true identity. And so we quickly see, and the people in the synagogue quickly saw, an even greater demonstration of Jesus' authority.
In ancient Judaism, the casting out of an evil spirit or spirits usually involved a long process of repeating certain formulas and performing certain rituals. But Jesus simply tells the spirit to be silent (or literally to "muzzle his mouth") and then orders the demon to leave the man.
This display is not lost on the crowd. They are all amazed and word quickly spreads throughout the area.
So not only do these former fisherman who are following Jesus see Him drawing people in with the truth, but they also witness how He is fishing through resistance. Jesus resists this evil spirit; He confronts it, and the victory of the Holy One over the unholy or unclean spirit becomes a witness to Jesus' unique ministry.
If these Galilean fishermen were to fish for people, they would also need to take a stand against the powers of evil. They would have to demonstrate in their words and actions a resistance to the influence of darkness. They would have to show, in their very lives, that the way of God triumphs over the evil of this world.
When people who are so used to the pervasive power of evil, in this world and in their own hearts, see the wrong radically challenged and overcome, that is an incredible testimony.
But Jesus' journey here in Mark 1 doesn't stop there. Look at 1:29-31.
C. Fishing with Mercy (1:29-31)
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Here we Jesus see going, I'm sure by invitation, back to Simon and Andrew's family home in Capernaum. They probably go home in order to eat together, but once there, Jesus learns that the mother of Peter's wife is lying in another room, sick with a fever.
While some might have seen this as a time to relax, Jesus goes straight to work. He goes to the mother-in-law's side, takes here by the hand, and without even uttering so much as a word, she is perfectly well.
Jesus' concern here, even the way He takes this woman by the hand, all convey the genuineness of His compassion. Again, what we see here is Jesus fishing; this time He is fishing with mercy.
And look at the result of His compassionate ministry to this woman? She is drawn in, isn't she? She gets up and begins to help with preparing and serving the food. She wants to minister to Jesus and His followers. She has been drawn in with mercy.
As Jesus demonstrated, the kingdom of God is a kingdom of compassion. Isn't that a wonderful truth? And people are drawn to compassion, to mercy. Maybe because our world is so jaded; maybe because we struggle so much with selfishness. Whatever the reason, when people see real compassion, it can have an amazing effect.
Watching Jesus, these brothers, even though they spent their whole live casting nets, watching Jesus, they were once again learning how to fish.
IV. How Are We Following?
The obvious question for us this morning is "how are we following?" We might say that we're Christians, but are we really following Christ? Are we going with Jesus where He's going? (WoG: a disciple is a "sent one" for Jesus, part of God's "One Mission")
What's so fascinating here is where Jesus goes after He invites these men to follow Him:
He doesn't go to the temple or a school and begin to train them in the Law as other rabbis, other Jewish teachers did.
He doesn't go out into the desert to live away from the problems and corruption of the world. (in fact, He's just come out of the desert!)
He doesn't go and spend all His time sitting in a circle with these guys building better friendships. He is building a relationship with them, but not like this.
He doesn't go and use His newly recruited manpower to strong-arm the social or political powers.
He doesn't look for someplace comfortable to set up His ministry headquarters.
No, Jesus is going to people. People who need to hear. People who need freedom. People who need compassion. He is going to their side. And guess where these disciples, these followers are going if their following Jesus? They're going to the same place.
But where are you going? Where am I going? One of our biggest temptations in this thing called the Christian life is to lose sight of the fact that God wants each of us to be workers with Christ for the kingdom of God. And our work is always about people.
Are you ready to fish with truth? Are you ready to speak about the gospel, about the grace of God for needy people, needy sinners like us; are you ready to "speak the truth in love" as Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians?
Do you believe that God wants to draw others in through you? He does!
Notice that Mark begins with the truth. He begins with Jesus proclaiming in verse 15 and teaching in v. 21. It is the message that is key! The message is the foundation!
Paul said in Romans 1: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16) He also said, Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (I Corinthians 9:16c)
The miracles were not meant as ends in themselves; they were meant to direct attention to Jesus' message. Jesus healed our physical hurts in order to point us toward the spiritual healing that God wants to bring to our lives through His Son.
You mighty say, "Well, I just don't have the words to say." You might not now, but pray that God would first give you the opportunities to speak and then the words.
Remember, the only right words are words that point faithfully to Christ.
Are you ready to fish through resistance? Are you willing to stand against the tide of evil in this world? Well, we can't stand against the wrong in this world until we stand against the wrong in our own hearts. Do you believe that Jesus is greater than any other power in this world? That He has triumphed over evil?
People need to see that we resist the decay of this world through God's righteousness. Paul said this in Philippians 2: Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life...
Is there some kind of sin that is holding you back this morning; are their sinful habits that are hindering God's work through you? Why would people believe our words about new life in Christ, if our so-called new life looks pretty much like their old one? To work through us, God does not require a sin-free life. But He does call us to a sin-resisting, a life that is vigorously battling sin.
Submit yourself to what God wants to do in you, and then watch what God will do through you.
Are you ready to fish with mercy? Can you think of someone this morning who, like Peter's mother-in-law, needs a merciful touch? All of us know people. It may be someone who has suffered loss or is physically ill, or maybe someone who simply needs a listening ear.
You'd be surprised how God uses our gracious acts of service. How might God want to use you?
Like Peter's mother-in-law, the goal of our mercy is that those we bless might see the mercy of Christ; that they would know His power and love.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said ...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (5:16) That's a picture of God working through us to draw others in through His mercy!
I'm not calling any of us simply to do good deeds. No. Jesus' example is encouraging us to do good deeds, to do good works, in order to reveal the Good News. Despite what the bumper stickers say, random acts of kindness alone will never accomplish God's agenda of transformation.
Only the real heart change that comes through the gospel and the power of God's Spirit can do that.
V. Follow Me
Where are we going? Where are you going this morning? Are we going in the same direction as Jesus?
Don't let the fishing metaphor throw you. Jesus was simply individualizing His call to these men. He was using a picture they knew well to point them to something greater.
He might use different images with each of us:
To the investor, he might call him to invest spiritually in the lives of others.
To the doctor, he might call her to be a healer of the soul.
To the mechanic, he might offer to make him a repairer of that broken relationship between human beings and God.
To the housewife, he might invite her to be a nurturer of souls to spiritual maturity.
To the real estate agent, he might call him or her to lead others to God's heavenly home.
Wherever you are, if you have yourself responded to God's work through Jesus, then God wants to work through you to be a blessing just as you've been blessed. The more that we can see that our spiritual lives do not make sense without our ministry to others, the more we will grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Remember, Jesus made it a point to connect the great commandment to love God with our all with the second commandment to love our neighbor as ourself. The two cannot be separated.
Will this be easy? No. There is a cost to this kind of life, just as there was a cost for those first followers, those fishermen who responded to Jesus' invitation. These men dropped their nets. They put down their means to financial security. They left their father; they left everything they knew to follow Jesus into an uncertain future. How uncomfortable do you think that was?
Following Jesus into this life of reaching others is not easy. It will mean that, in many instances, we will be uncomfortable. But it's the best life.
Why were these men willing to trade the safe and the secure for the uncomfortable and unknown? Because they knew something about the One who called them.
It is so important that we do not miss Jesus' and Mark's emphasis here. Jesus said "follow ME and I will make you become fishers of men."
Jesus is not trying to train these guys in some kind of methodology of service. He is not trying to make them ministers and them just cut them loose to do their own thing.
Unlike other rabbis, Jesus goal is not to help us become THE teacher someday. His goal is to keep us followers. There is no graduation. Jesus is inviting you this morning: "Follow ME"
He says, "Don't get distracted by the work. Keep your eyes on me and the work will happen." You see, Jesus does more than just provide us with a picture of loving service; he provides us with the power and the passion for loving service.
If you have responded in humility and faith, then keep your eyes on Jesus. If you do, you will see not only Him, but you will see all those who so desperately need to see Jesus in us.