September 3, 2023

Answering the Radical Call of Christ (Mark 1:14-20)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: The Work of Ministry Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Scripture: Mark 1:14–20

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Children's Lesson (click here) 

I. “The Work of Ministry”

In this message, and in the following three messages, I'm excited to share with you thoughts on something the Apostle Paul called “the work of ministry”. What is “the work of ministry”? Well, that's precisely the question I hope to answer directly from God's word in these four studies. In short, “the work of ministry” is the church's vocation. It isn't what saves us, but it does explain why God doesn't snatch us up to himself the moment we are saved. It represents our marching orders as God's people; not only what we are called to give for the good of others, but equally important, what we are called to receive, for our own good. Given the foundational nature of this work, I think it's fair to say that the degree to which a church rightly understands and engages in “the work of ministry”, directly affects whether it will grow in biblically healthy ways.


II. The Passage: “Fishers of Men” (1:14-20)

So where should we begin when trying to understand this “work of ministry”? We must begin with “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (as Heb. 12:2 describes him). We must begin with the One who issued our marching orders. We must begin with Jesus. Look with me at Mark 1, verses 14 to 20, and let's consider how Jesus explains and embodies “the work of ministry”...

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, [15] and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” [16] 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.

To better understand this passage, and how it contributes to our understanding of “the work of ministry”, let me share three brief explanations and three brief observations. The explanations we'll begin with are definitely connected to the whole passage, but they're built around the central verse here, v. 17. So for example, consider this explanation: when Jesus issues the call we find in v. 17 (“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men”), we need to see that...


1. “Follow me” is a call concerning lordship.

I don't want you to miss the fact that the call of verse 17 is an expression of the proclamation in verse 15. What verse 15 confirms is that “the work of ministry” always begins with the gospel. And central to the gospel message is this idea/theme of “kingdom”. As we will go on to see, the call of Christ in verse 17 was not only issued by Jesus the Teacher, but even more so, by Jesus the King; God's king! What a good reminder that the call to “follow” Christ is ultimately a gospel call. As Jesus explained in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” That's gospel language! But how can we call it a 'gospel call' if the cross and resurrection are not being preached? Well, one obvious answer is that the cross and resurrection had not happened yet. So what we have here is an early stage of the gospel, the same gospel that will eventually be fully realized through Jesus' full ministry.

It's important to note that Jesus preached repentance here in light of this “kingdom” theme. Sin is a coup. It's rebellion. It is every one of us setting up a rival kingdom to God's. We follow our own desires rather than God's will, and thus, we are guilty before God. But the gospel is “good news” of mercy from the true King. It is His gracious invitation to turn from sin and self and trust in the loving leadership of Christ. But going back to verse 17, it's critical we also recognize that...


2. “I will make you become” is a call concerning discipleship.

As I alluded to a few minutes ago, Jesus is not only the promised King, he's also the perfect Teacher; and his call to follow results in a radically new relationship of transformation. Jesus talked about this gospel call to discipleship in these well known words from Matthew 11:28–29... “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

What is discipleship? In the words of writer Dallas Willard, “Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he were you.” This call of Christ therefore was a call, not simply to divine forgiveness and reconciliation, but also to transformation through Jesus; even more specifically, transformation into the likeness of Jesus. As Jesus declared about a disciple, “...everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40) That truth leads us to...


3. “Fishers of men” is a call concerning partnership.

If a disciple or apprentice to a woodworker trains to become like their teacher in that he or she becomes a skilled craftsman, in what way do disciples of Jesus become like him? Well, in many, many ways. But I think we can summarize those ways by using the same summary Jesus gave us in regard to God's design for humanity: “ And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [and] ...‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30–31) It is those commandments that stand behind this idea of 'fishing for men'. You see, there is no higher love for others than that which helps them love God above everything else. That is “the work of ministry” to which Jesus called these men; a call to partner with him, to become like him (!), in laboring to extend the kingdom of God; in drawing others in. Think about that: Jesus made disciples of these men by calling them to join him in making disciples.

Now in light of those three explanations, also think with me through three, related observations:

First, the call of Christ here is an absolute call; that is, there is and can be no call on a human being's life higher than this call. The call to make money (livelihood), the call to vocational satisfaction or legacy, even the call of family obligations, this passage makes it clear that all of these must be secondary to the call of Christ. What did we just read? In answering the radical call of Christ, these men leave behind their nets, their boats, their coworkers, even their father. As Mark will go on to describe, this doesn't mean they abandoned fishing and family altogether. While some things did have to be abandoned for the sake of Christ's call, this passage is ultimately about priorities; about what comes first. The account here simply demonstrates how these men recognized who it was that called them (i.e., the Lord Jesus), and that the work to which he called them, the “work of ministry”, is the most important work in all the world. To be clear, it was and is a work of both receiving and giving; of becoming and fishing.

A second observation: this call of Christ is a fundamental call. There's a reason we find this episode at the very outset of Jesus' ministry.

There's a reason it's set in the context of gospel and kingdom proclamation. There's a reason this call is the next thing out of his mouth (after verse 15). It's because this call concerning lordship, discipleship, and partnership is fundamental to genuine Christianity. Where it is lacking you will find either a weak church or a counterfeit faith.

But it's that fundamental aspect that leads to a third point: the call of Christ here is a relevant call (i.e., it's relevant for you and me). Have you asked yourself yet, “How does this story relate to my life; what bearing does it have on me? Isn't this just an apostolic 'origin story'? It is that. But in this passage Jesus is doing what he will go on to do. He is calling disciples, not appointing apostles. While these men did go on to become apostles (chap. 3), they're hardly ever called “apostles” in these books. Why might that be? I think it's because these men were first disciples, and their experiences with Jesus (recorded in these books called Gospels) were meant to teach every subsequent disciple about what it means to truly follow Christ.

If you're a genuine Christian this morning, if you've responded to the gospel call of Jesus Christ, then you are one of those “subsequent disciples”. Did you know in the early church, specifically in the book of Acts, after the term “the brothers” (or the brethren) the most common name for Christian believers was “disciples” (almost 30x). So I believe this story has always had something important to say to every disciple of Jesus about lordship, discipleship, and partnership.


III. The Call of Christ on Your Life

Brothers and sisters, the call of Jesus was and is a radical call. Consider this definition of that word, radical: “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.” So by using that word in light of this passage, and many related passages, I believe God's word teaches us that the call of Christ speaks to the “fundamental nature” of your life in this world and has “far-reaching” implications for how you live that life. Do you believe that?

Think about it: lordship, discipleship, partnership. This call is radical because the lordship of Jesus makes your allegiance to him the highest priority and the most important relationship in your life. This call is radical because discipleship to Jesus makes you utterly and joyfully dependent on his unrivaled word and example in all things. And this call is radical because partnership with Jesus Christ gloriously hijacks your agenda, your efforts, your goals, your hands, your feet, your ears, your mouth, your life's work, then resets your trajectory according to the radical reality of the kingdom of God. Remember, becoming “fishers of men” simply meant these men would become partners with Jesus in the work of kingdom extension... “the work of ministry.”

Faith family, here's the main takeaway: a right understanding of “the work of ministry” must be founded upon and fueled by a right understanding of the call of Christ on your life. This is not a church program to try out. This is not the pastor's latest ministry emphasis. This is not a 'next level' commitment that you may someday pursue. This is not the simply a call to the gifted or mature. This is not someone else's lane. Brother, sister, this is the fundamental and absolute call, the radical call, of Jesus on your life. And... not only did he leave us divine explanations and a divine example to follow, he gave us divine power as well; divine power through redemption from and resurrection in and restoration to God himself. Lordship, discipleship, and partnership describe the whole of the Christian life for which Jesus died and defeated death. Here's the question for each one of us: with a radical faith, have I (as His disciple) answered, or will I answer, the call of Christ on my life, by surrendering everything for the lordship of, discipleship to, and partnership with Jesus in “the work of ministry”? Will I pour out my life here and now for the One who was poured out for me, then and there? Listen to his call again... “Follow me..”



That you would hear, or hear again, or hear more clearly the call of Jesus Christ on your life.

That you would hear that call as absolute and reject or reshuffle everything else in your life in light of His voice.

That you would remember and regularly meditate on what the price the King paid, in love, to bring you into his kingdom.

That that you would desire, above everything, to glorify God by becoming more and more like Jesus.

That you, like Jesus, would commit yourself again to “the work of ministry”; that you would long for the kingdom to extend, and others to be gathered in and built up.


other sermons in this series

Sep 17


To Equip the Saints (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Scripture: Ephesians 4:11–16 Series: The Work of Ministry

Sep 10


How Jesus Made Disciples (Mark 3:13-15)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Scripture: Mark 3:13–15 Series: The Work of Ministry