This morning we pick up in the continuing Gospel reading of Mark. Our text begins with Mark bringing us to Jesus and showing us that Jesus’ message is a lot like the message of John the Baptists. John came proclaiming that the time had come, that the Kingdom of God was near, that it was time to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Mark tells us that John was arrested and now it is Jesus’ turn. Jesus comes proclaiming. He also says that the time has come. All the events of human history are at the specific place that they needed to be. The time has come for the fulfillment of the law and the promises of the Old Testament. It is time to repent and believe in the Gospel.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is near, which might be an understatement. The Kingdom of God is right there in the person of Jesus Christ Himself. He is ushering it in. Jesus is true God in human flesh. He is heaven come down to earth. He is the beginning of the end.
And, again, much like John’s message, Jesus also says to repent and believe the good news. We have talked about that word, repent before. To repent means to turn one hundred and eighty degrees. To turn away from going in the direction of sin and unbelief and instead, go in the direction away from sin and into the direction of believing. We are to believe, that is we are to have faith in the one who has come into the world to give His life. Our faith is not to be a blind faith. To make sure our faith is not a blind faith, not only did Jesus say to believe, He continually showed the people through the signs and wonders, the miracles, He performed, that He was the Messiah. Jesus gives us a reason to believe.
Moving on in our text, this morning Mark brings us to the call of the first four disciples. Notice right off that it is not an elaborate call. Jesus does not ask them to have an “inner burning.” He does not ask them to “feel” anything, to have an emotional experience. He does not work them into a frenzy. He does not ask them to raise their hands. He simply comes and says, “Come, follow me.” “Come, follow me,” simple enough. We are told by the Gospel writer John that Andrew and one of the other disciples, probably John, were at first disciples of John the Baptist. Remember, John the Baptist continually said that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. John the Baptist came only to get the world ready for Jesus and thus came only to point to Christ. And he did such a wonderful job that two of his own disciples left to be called by and to follow Jesus.
Jesus call was simple, “Come, follow me.” But His call did not come without a promise. The promise that Jesus gave was that, “I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus called the disciples for a purpose, to do the work that He had for them to do. Jesus did not just call and leave them alone. He called them to be His disciples, to be trained by Him, to be given all the gifts that they needed to do the work that He would be giving them to do. And the disciples response was that “at once they left their nets” and “without delay they left their father.” There was no hesitation. There was no question. There was no burning desire or great and grand feeling either, there was simply the calling and the following.
That is the Gospel lesson, but the Gospel lesson does not end there, for you see, not only did Jesus call His first disciples, He also calls each one of us to be His disciples. He calls us to faith and He calls us to be set apart to do the good works which He would have us to do. Yes, we are to do good works, not in order to earn salvation, but as a response of salvation.
Jesus’ call to us is that now is the time. We are living in the Kingdom of God. At our conception He called us to life. At our Baptism He called us to faith. Through His Word He continues to call us to be strengthened in our faith. Through confession and absolution He calls us to be given forgiveness of sins. Through His Holy Supper He continues to give us His good gifts and blessings.
Unfortunately, too often we tend to be like Jonah in our Old Testament reading. God called Jonah and his response was to run away. Interestingly enough, if you follow through the book of Jonah, one thing you will notice is that everything was going downhill until Jonah repented and agreed to obey God. Jonah went down to Joppa. He got down in the boat. He even went down into the bottom of the boat. He was thrown down into the sea and was swallowed down in the belly of the whale. It was while he was in the belly of the whale that he repented and things began to improve.
In our Epistle reading Paul urges us to take seriously our part in being members of the priesthood of all believers. We are to realize that the time of this world is short. Paul actually believed that Jesus was going to return during his lifetime, and he lived that way. Would that we would all believe that Jesus will return during our own life and live that way. The fact is, our own time on this earth is short, especially when compared to eternity. Thus, we are to live life in such a way that our whole lives show forth the faith that is in our hearts. We are to be ready, at all times, to give an answer for the hope that is in us. We are, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to do the work which God has for us to do.
Just as Jesus called His disciples, so He calls us. As we just said, through His Word and through the waters of Holy Baptism He calls us to faith. Yet, not only has He called us, He has also already redeemed us. He is the one who gave His life for ours. He is the one who lived for us in our place. I once read an illustration that made this point pretty well. It said that one Sunday a visitor came to church and when he drove into a certain parking spot he was told, “you are in my place.” When he went in to the church and went to sit down for worship he was told by someone else, “you are in my place.” When he went to Bible class, again he went to sit down and he was told, “you are in my place.” Finally, when Bible class was over someone looked at him and when they did they noticed that he was rather scared, that he had scars on his hands and feet (he was wearing sandals) and when they asked him who he was he answered, “I am the one who took your place.” The reference being to the cross. The Gospel is that Jesus took our place in all aspects of our life.
And so, Jesus comes calling us. He comes calling us to repent and believe. He calls us to make a one hundred and eighty degree turn in our lives. He calls us to turn away from sin to not sinning. And yet, He does not call without promising that He will help us to turn.
He comes to call us to “come and follow Him.” Jesus’ invitation is simple. His invitation is to us and is a wonderful example for us. When we are faced with the question of how are we to tell others about Jesus, we can follow His example. We can call others to “come.” We can call others to “come and follow Him.” Remember last weeks Gospel lesson. Last week we saw Philip using Jesus example in his witnessing to others. Last week, after Philip was called to discipleship by Jesus, he went out and called Nathanael and to Nathanael’s question of Jesus Messiahship, Philip simply says, “come and see.”
Jesus’ call is to us and His call is through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacrament. He comes to us through these means to give us faith, to give us forgiveness, to strengthen us in faith and to keep us in faith until He comes again.
Jesus call is to us and like His call to His first disciples, His call comes with a promise. He calls us and promises us that He will make us fishers of people. He will give us the training we need. He will give us all the gifts that we will need to do the work that He gives us to do. His promise is that He will be with us, even to the ends of the earth. Yes, His call is complete.
Today is Life Sunday, the Sunday we set aside especially to remind ourselves of and to lament the legalization of abortion and of all the innocent children who have been legally murdered since its passage. The Greek dualist philosophy taught that it is what is inside that affects the soul not what the body does, so, logically, self-indulgence is okay, because it does not affect the soul. We can easily compare this to today’s “if it feels good do it,” society. But it does not stop there. Since abortion has been legalized and to some extent accepted as being okay, does that mean it is okay? Do we realize that there are young adults today who have never known anything except that abortion was legal? Because we have become complacent about abortion, in a sense even we Christians have accepted it or are at least seen as having accepted it as okay. That is what our apathy toward this issue is, a low level of acceptance. Now we see our society moving to the next step, euthanasia, that is killing those society deems not fit to live, those with handicaps, those with mental disorders and the like. And let us not forget the right to die cases of people who want their doctor to help them to die. The next step in this parade will be to kill old people, especially those in a nursing home, and the mentally and even emotionally disturbed people. If we remain apathetic, where will this lead? Our response on this Life Sunday is to know that God gives life, all life, and life is precious to Him. He tells us that before we were in the womb He has known us. Each of us at conception receives a soul from God and from that time on are indeed precious in His sight.
Our response is to boldly profess to others how precious life is to God. We are precious to Jesus as He is the one who comes and finds us and calls us to faith. As we have seen and heard in our Gospel reading for this morning, we have been called to faith by Jesus, through the Gospel, through the sacraments, and through others sharing the Gospel with us, so we are to go out and find others, especially those who do not know Jesus, others who are suffering and in need, others who are pregnant and for whatever reason are struggling with that pregnancy, and share with them the invitation to come and follow Jesus and to help them in whatever way we can. For some of us our help may be simply to refer them to a Christian counselor. For some we may offer assistance to drive them to the hospital. For some our assistance may be just to offer a listening ear. But whatever our part may be we do issue to them Philip’s invitation to come and see Jesus and Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. And lest we forget, there may be those among us, or someone you know who has had an abortion, we must acknowledge that this too is a forgivable sin. We are not judgmental, and we do not forget that there is forgiveness for those who have had abortions and have repented.
Jesus has given us life. He has given us life at conception. He has given us faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, even eternal life. He calls us through His Gospel. He enlightens us with His gifts of Holy Baptism, confession and absolution, and His Holy Supper. He sanctifies us which means that He continually works in us to make us holy. He keeps us in the one true faith. He does all this, not because we are deserving, but because of His great love for us. And because of this great and grand thing, because this is such a big deal in our lives, we can hardly keep it to ourselves. We do not hide our faith and show it only in church on Sunday. No, we just cannot wait to go out and tell others how they too need to have a share in our Savior, that is how we follow Him without delay. And we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.