Mark 1: 14-20, page 35
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
A word that is used a lot in the Gospel of Mark is “immediately,” whereas a phrase I use a lot is “now wait just a minute.”
I’ve read that the subconscious mind can make decisions very quickly – the subconscious of a person well versed in art can look at a sculpture and tell whether or not it is a fake in seconds, but may not be able to tell you why. There are people in the world who are hired by chicken farms who can immediately look at new born chicks and tell whether they are male or female chickens, but who have no idea how they are able to do so, and yet some are reported to judge the gender of these chicks with 99% accuracy. Also amazing to me, something that I remembered after reading on Friday’s front page about Dolly Parton’s new theme park to be built near Nashville, is how some Columbia residents were immediately able to smell a rat when a man came to town, seemingly out of nowhere, claiming he would build a convention center and theme park in Spring Hill. It was going to be called “Festival Tennessee” and was to attract an NBA team, a water park, and over 80 restaurants.
No one knew him or where he came from, so without being able to say why exactly, immediately many knew that he would never be able to do what he said he would. At the Liar’s Contest during Mule Day weekend Sheila Hickman who hosted the event told the crowd, “it’s a shame no one here is claiming they’re going to build a convention center in Spring Hill – then there’d be no reason for a contest.” While others, the mayor of Spring Hill included, went along with him and believed, following a man who disappeared just as suddenly as he showed up.
Jesus came to Galilee, seemingly out of nowhere. He started preaching, and while most didn’t, four men followed him immediately. I believe it is most important to wonder whether you would have done the same.
It might be that unlike you, they just didn’t have anything better to do. That would make sense – I once drove to Vancouver with three of my high school friends because we didn’t really have anything better to do.
Or was it that they were naive, having never been made a fool out of before?
Or, was it that they had taken inventory of their lives, decided that they could do better, so once the opportunity came they dropped everything and left?
That’s often the case with people who follow Jesus – it’s not that they’re particularly holy but that they’re particularly desperate. Bob Duncan, Maury County Historian and member of this church, once told me that farming tobacco was such difficult work, especially in the heat, that there were more than a few who heard God calling them to the ministry for no other reason than anything had to be better than farming tobacco.
The Gospel of Mark doesn’t explain their decision making process; you might even say that the author of this gospel goes to some length to keep their rationale a mystery – “As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired hands.”
They left their father Zebedee in the boat. They didn’t help him finish up for the day, selling the day’s catch, mending and cleaning the nets, but left their father in the boat with the hired hands.
I doubt Zebedee was impressed, as it’s one thing to run off to the movies with friends after the babies are fed and asleep, it’s one thing to slip off to go fishing after the big meeting, there’s time to retire and there’s a time to keep working – and you can’t just go leaving your father in the boat with the hired hands.
There’s a time for things, and now is just not the time.
That’s what people say anyway.
That there’s a time to quit smoking, but now is just not the time.
Victims of domestic abuse say the same thing, “I want to leave, but now is just not the time, the rent’s due, the kids are still young, and in times like this any man is better than no man at all.”
Addicts aren’t any different – “I know I need to quit, but not today. I just can’t do it today.”
And that’s exactly what they said to Dr. Martin Luther King – we know that segregation is wrong, but be patient, now is just not the right time to end it.
Those who are happy with the way things are have no trouble postponing change. But those who aren’t? King, having been bold enough to imagine that things could be different couldn’t wait any longer. He had been up on the mountain top and seen over to the other side, to a new society free from the evils of racism, and out of intolerance for the way things were and a desire for how they could be, he pushed on.
I believe that this is the quality that all followers of Jesus must possess.
Christ doesn’t ask that anyone possess anything more. He doesn’t ask that his followers be particularly well versed or knowledgeable, no skills are more important than another, experience isn’t necessary – the only thing that is necessary is a willingness to give up life as you know it for life as it could be.
Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
They gave up life as fishermen to become fishers of men.
It’s as though they gave up life with drugs, with alcohol, for the life they might have without them.
They gave up life with abuse for the idea of a life in safety.
They gave up what is for what could be.
The great Christian author, C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, that humans are often like children who are invited to go spend the day at the beach, but who settle instead to play in a puddle in an alleyway, because what is known is more attractive always than what isn’t.
I pray that the same will not be true for you.
In your misery, be willing to give up on what you have for what could be.
Should you bear grudges, be willing to give up the anger that you have and have grown used to for the forgiveness that could be.
And out of a desire for justice, give up on the idea that things as they are will never change for the truth – that the Kingdom of God has come near. The hungry cry out for food, the homeless long for shelter, the oppressed call for justice, and who will hear them? Only those not so tied to the way things that they fail to believe there could be a better world.
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Immediately four followed him – now go and do the same.