Follow The Leader 9/1/19

“Follow the Leader”

Mark 1:14-20

Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning
For
Calvary Baptist Church
Lexington, Kentucky

September 1, 2019

Printable Document Video Will Be Posted Here


Our attention is drawn this morning to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. This, by the way, is where Mark’s account of Jesus’ life begins.

            If you are looking for the birth narratives in Mark’s gospel, you will be disappointed. There is no manger in Bethlehem, and there are no angels singing, shepherds bowing or Wise Men traveling from afar to see the baby Jesus. You will find these details in Matthew and Luke.

            There is a two-fold purpose in the opening paragraphs of this gospel. The first is to introduce Jesus to the readers. The story then moves to introduce Jesus’ ministry to Mark’s audience. 

            Mark used the words of the prophet, Isaiah, and the bold proclamations of the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist, to introduce Jesus. Mark clearly identifies John as the forerunner of Jesus, the one designated to prepare the way for Jesus and his ministry.

            The readers are then informed that Jesus was baptized by John, a move that was affirmed by the presence and words of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, according to Mark, immediately led Jesus to the wilderness where he, through a series of temptations, came to grips with what was important to him and how he would conduct his ministry.

            It appears Jesus returned to Nazareth after this period of testing and waited until the time was right for him to leave home and embark on the divine mission assigned to him. This is where we pick up today’s text.

            From my perspective, Mark used this passage to answer three questions: When did Jesus begin his ministry? What was to be the focus of his ministry? Who would be included on his ministry team?

            Let’s spend a few minutes with each of these questions.

            When did Jesus begin his ministry?  

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ Jesus said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ ” (1:14-15)

When John was arrested and his prophetic voice was silenced, Jesus knew it was time to hang up his tools for a final time and to leave Nazareth. I believe there were two reasons he knew this.

John was not going to be released from prison. He had offended too many powerful people with his stinging criticism of their selfish, greedy, immoral lifestyles and their corrupt style of leadership. As a result, John would pay the ultimate price for speaking truth to power. He would be executed.

This meant John’s voice would never be heard again, and the silence would be deafening.

Who would take the microphone from John to preach good news of hope and to point the way to a better life for all people?

Who would tell the stories of those who had been neglected and were struggling to survive in a world that did not acknowledge their value and worth?

Who would courageously speak truth to power and hold leaders accountable for their actions and decisions?

Who would pursue justice for those who had no seat at the table where decisions were made?

Who would teach people about the Golden Rule and model a life of integrity, decency, compassion, generosity and respect?

Who would challenge all people, leaders and followers alike, to be honest, fair, trustworthy, reliable, dependable, disciplined, responsible, strong, courageous, kind, compassionate, loyal, faithful and humble?

Who would tell people of God’s unconditional love for them and of God’s longing to have a personal relationship with them?

Who would describe God’s amazing grace that takes away shame and guilt and helps sinful people rebuild their shattered lives?

Who would talk about God’s ability to heal broken hearts and to make hope visible again?

Who would show people a better way to arrange their values and priorities, relate to their neighbors, settle disagreements, handle adversity and deal with temptation?

Who would encourage people to reach for the stars and to follow their dreams?

Jesus knew he was that person, and this was his time. It was now up to him to respond to the changes around him by making changes in his life.

So what did Jesus do? He walked out of the carpentry shop and began walking into the homes and hearts of everyday people who needed to know the true heart and nature of God and to hear the good news God had for them.

What is it time for you to do?

One way to answer this question is to do what Jesus did. Take note of the changes occurring around you.

Who is missing? What is missing? What needs are going unmet?

What do you have to offer? What role can you play in meeting those needs?

What does God think about this? What does God want? What is God saying to you?

Every change that occurs around us, big or small, presents us with new needs to be met and fresh opportunities to serve. These changes also provide ways for us to grow and tap into potential that has been dormant.

Hopes and dreams are born out of change and often chaos. This is a time God does his best work and with God’s help, we can, too.

Always remember that change is not our enemy; fear is, along indifference. When our faith is in a God who promises never to leave or to forsake us, the changes that occur around us can lead to new possibilities.

When changes occur in your family, at your school, in your neighborhood, in your civic club, among your friends and in our church, listen for the still, small voice of the God who not only sees what’s missing but knows what you can do to fill that gap.

Allow God to lead you in a direction that will restore hope to those who may be confused, bewildered, lonely, frightened and depressed. Speak words they need to hear. Be the role model they need to see. Give voice to a vision of a better tomorrow.

Who is waiting for you to fill a gap and step up to the plate? I know someone who will help you to respond to that need and to rise to the occasion.

What was to be the focus of Jesus’ ministry?

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ Jesus said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ ” (1:14-15)

What is the kingdom of God? Why the call to repent? What is the good news Mark alluded to in this portion of our text?

The kingdom of God is any time, place, situation or encounter where people seek to do what God wants. Repentance is necessary because people have a tendency to pursue their selfish desires instead of God’s will. The good news Mark referred to is the grace of God that provides forgiveness for misplaced priorities and God’s help to all as they seek to align their values with those Jesus taught and modeled.

Jesus’ message was a vital part of his ministry. People needed to know God’s hopes and dreams for them as much as they needed God’s help with their daily struggles. Jesus understood this and shared this good news everywhere he went.

Is the kingdom of God near when you come around? Isn’t this what it means to be the presence of Christ in a broken and bruised world?

Who would be included on Jesus’ ministry team?

 “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother, Andrew, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men’.

At once, they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother, John, in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay, he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” (1:16-20)

This is where the story gets interesting. Jesus did not go to Jerusalem to select his disciples form the religious elite. He walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee and chose ordinary people who had no special training or impressive pedigree. Why?

These rough and rugged laborers knew how tough life was. They would understand the average person’s struggles and urgency of Jesus’ mission.

In addition, their hearts and minds would also be open to Jesus’ message and method. Unlike many of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, these disciples would not defensive and resistant to change.

 “Follow me,” Jesus succinctly said to them, and they did. Together they changed the course of history.

I don’t think this was the last time Jesus issued this compelling invitation to them. 

Every time the disciples encountered the need to make changes in their lives and were overcome with doubt and fear, I believe Jesus said ‘follow me’.

Every time the disciples lost their way, made mistakes, came to a crossroads, faced a crisis or felt like quitting, I believe Jesus said, ‘follow me’.

Every time the disciples felt intimidated by their challenges and offered excuses for not accepting them, I believe Jesus said, ‘follow me’.

Every time they felt overwhelmed by the burdens they were carrying and said they could go no further, I believe Jesus said, ‘follow me’.

Every time they were angry and upset and wanted to retaliate against those who hurt them, I believe Jesus said, ‘follow me’.

And each time they did, they found Jesus one step ahead of them leading the way to courage and confidence and an incomparable sense of meaning and purpose.

And so will we.

Give it a try.