July 5, 2009

Follow the Leader!

#4 The first followers

Mark 1:16-20



          How many of you have heard fish stories?  The one that got away…it was this big! 

A Wisconsin fishing guide once said, “The only thing that casts doubt on the miracles of Jesus is that they were all witnessed by fishermen.”

          Today, we’re going to read about Jesus’ first followers, and they were all fishermen.  Jesus called them to follow and promised to make them fishers of men.  We’re going to see what we can learn from these fishermen.


Offering and announcements:

Music Drama Day Camp—this week over 300 children and 100 leaders will be filling our building and grounds.  Please pray that children’s hearts will be touched for Jesus, and for the parents of all these children!

Nicaragua Missions Team (back of tear-off)—for those who would care to help with material goods, please pick up a list at the Info Center.

Men’s events (item #3 and 4)—Saturday men’s breakfast moved to July 18, because the Hacker’s Classic is next Saturday (still openings to golf, sign up at Info Center).

Family Camp (item #5)—July 17-19 at Riverview, details at the Info Center or Life Center website.




Introduction: What does it mean to follow Jesus?

          A day in the life of the disciples.  Following Jesus was one adventure after another!  Pastor Noel likes to say, “expect the unexpected.”    And the adventure started in the story we’re going to read today.

Mark 1:16-20 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. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus calls His first followers: Simon (later known as Peter) and Andrew, James and John.  They were fisherman.  They had formed a small but successful business partnership, and were running their own fishing business.  These guys were hard-working, successful small businessmen.  They were ordinary guys: not particularly religious; they certainly weren’t rich, powerful, well-connected or highly educated.  They were ordinary guys who followed Jesus and ended up changing the world.  Jesus loves to do extraordinary things with ordinary people!   One of the most encouraging things in the gospel story is that you realize what a bunch of  boneheads the disciples were.  I’ve often thought, “If Jesus could use a guy like this, there’s hope for me!”  Jesus loves to do extraordinary things with ordinary people.  Turn to your neighbor and say, “there’s hope for you!”

Because Mark’s account is so brief, some people read it and think this was Jesus’ first encounter with these men.  They imagine that Jesus was a total stranger when He called the fishermen, but He was so compelling, they dropped everything and followed Him.  Possible, but unlikely.  In fact, this wasn’t their first encounter with Jesus.  Mark tells us that this happened after John the Baptist was arrested, but John 1 tells us that before his arrest, John the Baptist introduced Andrew to Jesus, and then Andrew introduced his brother Simon to Jesus.  It’s reasonable to assume that these four men had all heard Jesus speak, and had some personal interaction with Him as well.  So it was no stranger who called them; it was someone they’d been checking out for awhile. 

          Some people decide to follow Jesus after their first meeting—I did.  One exposure and I believed.  But most people need more time, more exposures before they decide.  I read some research several years ago that said those who decide to follow Jesus after multiple exposures, after spending some time investigating and checking Him out, are much more likely to stick.  And those who make snap decisions are more likely to drop out before long.  The point: encourage people to check out Jesus.  Investigate; nose around; ask questions.  I encourage people to read the gospels just to get acquainted with Jesus.  Invite people to check out Jesus.  Andrew and Simon, James and John did, and when Jesus came calling, they were ready.  Which leads to the first point:


1. The call: come, follow me. 17

          The Sea of Galilee is a large lake, 13 miles long and 7 miles across, and 150 feet deep.  It’s most interesting feature is that it lies almost 700 feet below sea level.  The lake was surrounded by 30 towns whose economies depended on fishing.   The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that as many as 330 fishing boats worked the lake most days.

          Mark says, “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew…”  It sounds like a chance encounter.  As I said, Simon and Andrew had already met Jesus and checked him out.  Rather than a chance encounter, it’s more likely that Jesus was walking this beach looking for these men.  He sought them out and called them to join His team. 

          Jesus took the initiative and called them.  They weren’t volunteers; they were called.  There is a difference. 

ILL: How many of you have seen the movie, “Invincible”?  It is based on the true story of Vince Papale.  In 1976, the Philadelphia Eagles were so bad that new head coach Dick Vermeil decided to hold open try-outs.  Hundreds of guys showed up for their shot to play pro football.  Of course, no one expected any of these volunteers to make the team; coach Vermeil was just trying to fire up his overpaid, underachieving pro players.  But one guy surprised them all and beat the odds and made the team: Vince Papale.  It’s a great story!

          Of course, what makes it such a great story is that usually you don’t volunteer for a pro football team; you are called.

ILL: Lots of us watched the pro basketball draft a couple weeks ago; four Zags were waiting in the wings.  Only one got called: Austin Daye was picked 15th by the Detroit Pistons.  The other three all got calls later and are playing on pro summer league teams, hoping to make it on a pro roster as a free agent.  I’ve been working on my game and I volunteered, but no one called me.

          You don’t volunteer for a pro basketball team; you are called.

There is a difference between volunteering and being called.  A volunteer takes the initiative—he or she volunteers.  But in a calling, it’s the caller who takes the initiative—he calls and the called one must respond one way or the other. 

There are lots of things you can volunteer for—and I hope you do!  I volunteer to make the bed and help with the dishes—although Laina might say it’s a calling.  I offer my time and talents to help others, and all of you do too.  We couldn’t operate around here for one week without hundreds of you who volunteer, who take the initiative to say, “I’ll help!”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  I love volunteers!  Volunteering is awesome!

But it fascinates me that when Jesus starting putting His team together, He didn’t ask for volunteers.  He called people.  He didn’t speak to a crowd and say, “All right, everyone who wants to follow me, raise your hand!”  He didn’t ask for volunteers, but sought out specific individuals and called them.  “You—Simon, Andrew, James and John—you follow me.” 

Here’s something to think about and talk over in your Life Groups.  It seems to me that we don’t volunteer to be Christians—we are called.  We don’t volunteer to enter God’s Kingdom; the King calls us.  In other words, God takes the initiative and we respond. 

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

We don’t take the initiative; God does.  We are saved by grace through faith.  Grace is God’s loving initiative towards us; faith is our trusting response.  Who initiates?  God does—and we respond by trusting Him and following. 

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you.

These first followers of Jesus knew that they had been chosen.  They didn’t volunteer; they were chosen; they were called.  They all knew, “I’m here because Jesus called me; Jesus chose me.” 

It’s not that they didn’t have any choice—when Jesus called, they had the choice to follow or not, and some chose not.  Remember the rich young ruler? 

Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

And what does it say next? 

Mark 10:22 At this the man’s face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus called him to follow, but he decided not to.  It’s God’s initiative, but you still have to choose to respond.

          But it is God’s initiative.  The church isn’t a volunteer community; it’s a called community.  I’m here because He called me.  You’re here because He called you.  Listen to these verses from the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Romans 1:1, 5-7 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—

Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the four uses of “call”:

  • Paul was called to be an apostle—he didn’t volunteer, he was called.  It was God’s initiative.  (slide for Rom 1:1)
  • Paul’s call was to call people—specifically Gentiles—to follow Jesus (the obedience that comes from faith).  (slide for Rom 1:5)
  • The Roman Christians were called to belong to Jesus, and… (slide for Rom 1:6)
  • They were called to be saints.  (slide for Rom 1:7)

The early church didn’t see itself as a volunteer community—a bunch of people who volunteered to follow Jesus—but as a called community.  God called us, and we responded.  Why is this important?

          If I volunteer, I take the initiative and I do someone else a favor by offering myself.  And if it doesn’t work out as I hoped, I can “un-volunteer”—I can quit.

          But if I’m called, someone else has taken the initiative to call me, and they have done me the favor of choosing me.  I respond to that favor by giving my best, and if things don’t work out as I hoped, I can’t “un-call” myself, because I didn’t call myself in the first place.

          How do you see yourself?  As a volunteer Christian or a called Christian?  I’m not a volunteer follower of Jesus.  I’m called.  So are you.  Just like those first followers, we’re here because He called us, because He took the initiative, because He chose us.  “You didn’t choose me; I chose you.”

ILL: Bob Kilpatrick, a Christian singer and songwriter who has performed here at Life Center, tells this story about his dad. 

Bob’s dad was named August Christian Kilpatrick; everyone called him Auggie.  When Auggie was only 5, his father died, and his mother, unable to care for her children, placed them in the Charleston Orphan House, in Charleston, S.C.  Every Saturday, prospective parents would come, and the boys would scramble for the best clothes, wanting to look good, hoping they would be chosen.  The parents would look over the freshly scrubbed boys, and would call one out by name, “Rickie, I choose you.”  And every Saturday, Auggie would hope to hear his name called, “Auggie, I choose you”, but it never was.  Week after week, year after year, from the time he was 5 until he was 12, Auggie watched other boys come and go, but he was never chosen.  Finally when he was 12, his mother had scraped up enough money to take all the children out of the orphanage–except for Auggie.  He begged her to please take him home too, but for reasons no one ever knew, she left Auggie there.  He didn’t get out until he was 14, and by then, he was an angry young man, a fighter, and as you can imagine, he didn’t feel very good about himself.  He was the boy nobody wanted. 

Auggie went on to fight in World War 2, and after he got home, went to college on the GI Bill.  And then Jesus got a hold of Auggie.  He felt a call into the ministry, went to seminary, pastored churches, and in 1961 became the first chaplain in Viet Nam. 

On Christmas Day, 1969, Auggie had one of those spiritual experiences that are hard to explain or define.  He saw something.  He saw a vision of a little 5 year-old boy named Auggie Kilpatrick, standing in line like he had stood so many times before at the orphan house.  And he saw a father, Father God, reach down and scoop him up, and put him in His lap, and wrap His arms around him, and say, “Auggie, I choose you.  I choose you.”  It changed his life.  For the first time, Auggie Kilpatrick knew that he was chosen, and believed that God loved him, that he really mattered to God.

I want you to hear Jesus saying to you, “I choose you.  Come, follow me.”  God is calling you.  Think of yourself as a called Christian.

          What did Jesus call them to?  “Come, follow me.”  All through the gospels, Jesus called people to follow.  I’ve listed some verses on your outline—in every one, Jesus calls people to follow.  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  For them, following Jesus meant going wherever He went, being with Him 24-7.  It was a call to relationship, and it was a clearly defined relationship.

  • He was the leader—they were followers.
  • He was the teacher—they were the disciples, the learners.
  • He was the Lord—they were the servants.

They were to be with Jesus and learn from Him—this is what the word “disciple” means—a learner. 

          What does it mean to follow Jesus?  Like these first followers, we too are called to follow Jesus.  It is different for us since we can’t physically follow Jesus around all day.  But we too are called to a relationship; we are called to be with Jesus, to live in relationship with Him, to learn from Him, to follow His lead and His example. 

          Jesus is not a dead historical figure whose teaching we follow; Jesus is a living person whose lead we follow each day.  Being a Christian is following Jesus; it’s having a relationship with Jesus. 

          This is the call.  Then Jesus gives the promise.


2. The promise: I will make you fishers of men. 17

          “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 

          Jesus promised to make them fishers of men: men who would fish for and catch people for God.  Since Jesus was calling fishermen, He used their language, their imagery to speak to them.  “You’ve been catching fish.  Now you’re going to catch people for God.” 

          This is a commission—Jesus is describing their new purpose or mission.  But it is also a promise, for Jesus says, “I will make you…fishers of men.”  As they followed Jesus, as they hung out with Jesus, He would transform them and make them something new.  “I will make you…” 

          Jesus changes us and makes us new and different.  We don’t transform ourselves.  We’re called to follow and He promises to make us new, to change us. 

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

We are new creations, new creatures, new people—and all this is from God.  He is the one who transforms us.  Jesus didn’t say, “Clean up your act, get your life together, make yourself into better men…then follow me.”  This is how so many people approach God.  They have to change themselves to be acceptable to God.  Religion is self-improvement.  But the gospel—the good news—is the opposite.  “Come as you are and follow me, and I will make you new.”

ILL: When I was doing youth ministry in Eugene, we did summer camp at a primitive Forest Service campground called Clark Creek.  There was no electricity, we slept in three sided shelters with wooden plank bunks, and there were no bathrooms—just Forest Service out-houses. 

          One year, three girls were sent to our camp by their parents in Reno, Nevada.  They didn’t want to be there, so they brought some marijuana and were getting high.  But they were also coming to the chapels and hearing the gospel.

          Midway through the week, these three girls sought me out after lunch.  “We want to be Christians, but we don’t think we can change.  We don’t think we can give up our dope or stop sleeping with our boyfriends.” 

          I told them that they had it backwards.  “You’re trying to change yourself so you can come to Jesus.  You need to come to Jesus as you are and He will change you.”  And then I asked them if they had winter coats.  Yes they did.  “When summer comes, how hard is it to take off your winter coat?”  Not hard at all.  When Jesus comes into your life, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to give up your dope and sleeping around—just like a winter coat in summer, you won’t need it any more.

          So we prayed together and they gave themselves to Jesus just as they were.  An hour later, someone said, “Joe, you’ve got to come see this.”  These three girls were at the out-house throwing their marijuana down the hole—and you don’t get it back from there!  And they were laughing and crying all at once. 

This is the gospel: “Come as you are and follow me, and I will make you new.”  My calling is to follow Jesus.  His promise is to make me different.

Specifically, Jesus promised to make them fishers of men.  Their new job was to catch people for God.  I know that this was Jesus’ promise to them, and we have to be careful about taking Jesus’ words to an individual and applying them to everyone.  But in this case, I do think that Jesus makes every follower into a fisher of men.  I’ve listed some verses on your outline—these verses indicate that our mission is to make disciples.  It’s called “the Great Commission” and Jesus commissioned all of us to be disciple-makers, to catch people for God.  I think Jesus changes us so that our lives become contagious, and we become agents of the Kingdom.  Following the King makes you contagious—everywhere you go, you bring an aroma of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

The aroma of Christ.

ILL: My daughter Amy wears a lotion that smells like cream-sicle—remember those?  Half orange-half vanilla.  Have you ever hugged someone who wears a certain fragrance, and then you’re with someone else and they say, “What’s that I smell?  You smell like Amy—like a cream-sicle!”   I have the aroma of Amy.

When you follow Jesus, you begin to think like Him, talk like Him, act like Him; you start to smell like Jesus.  You have the aroma of Christ, and you spread that everywhere. 

Let me say it another way.  The gospel makes all of us missionaries.  We are all fishers of men; we spread the aroma of Jesus; we catch people for God.  We are all missionaries, sent by Jesus to catch people for God.  You might think, “I’m not a missionary; I’m a school teacher, or a police officer, or a businessman, or a stay at home mom.”  Yes.  You are a missionary disguised as a school teacher.  You are a missionary disguised as a police officer, or a businessman or a stay at home mom.  You are a missionary sent by Jesus into your world, whatever that may be, to catch people for God, to spread the aroma of Christ.

This is why we beat the drum for find-tell-bring.  Find someone you love; tell them what you know; bring them to church with you.  We’re all missionaries.  Who do you know that is far from God?  Be the aroma of Christ to them.  Love them until they ask you why, and then tell them about Jesus and bring them with you. 

          The call to follow; the promise to make them fishers of men; and finally, the response.


3. The response: they left everything and followed Him. 18, 20

          What was their response?  They left everything and followed Him.  They left their boats and nets, and their families and crews, and followed Jesus.  Let me qualify this a little.  In the next passage in Mark, Jesus visits Simon and Andrew’s home and heals Simon’s mother-in-law. 

Mark 1:29-30 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.

So they still had a home, and Simon had a wife.  And three years later, all four of them came back to the lake and fished again, so they still owned their boats and nets.  I don’t think they abandoned their homes, families and businesses and just walked away—whatever!—never to return.  Years later, Peter’s wife was traveling with him.

1 Corinthians 9:5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?

And it is reasonable to assume that they left Zebedee, James and John’s father, in charge of the business, and he continued to fish and provide for their families.  So don’t think of this as a sudden and irresponsible abandonment of their duties. 

          But it was a leaving.  They left behind good-paying jobs, a lucrative business to follow Jesus.  How do we know it was lucrative?  It says that they left Zebedee and the hired men with the boats.  The presence of hired men indicates that their business was doing well—well enough to hire help.  And they left all this to follow Jesus.  I believe they did it because that was how they understood Jesus’ call: He had a new job for them—catching people instead of fish.

          When Jesus called people, it always required a response, and it usually involved leaving something.

Mark 2:14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

Levi (Matthew) left his very lucrative job as a tax collector.

Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Jesus called the rich young ruler to leave his wealth, give it away to the poor, and follow—but he couldn’t do it.  He couldn’t leave it all behind.

Luke 9:59-62 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”   

Most likely, this man was waiting for his father to die, perhaps to receive his inheritance.  Jesus said, “Leave it.  Someone else can take care of that; you go and proclaim the Kingdom.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is saying that nothing is a higher priority than following Him; nothing is a higher priority than the kingdom of God.  And if something else is keeping you from following, leave it behind. 

For these men to follow Jesus, they had to leave their business behind.  They couldn’t drag their boats and nets across Israel!  What do you need to leave behind to follow Jesus?  Is there something holding you back from full devotion to Christ?