The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
(Mt 4:12–17; Lk 4:14–15)
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
(Mt 4:18–22; Lk 5:1–11)
16 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. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
There are times that I seem to be a bit hard on the church, and I know that last week might have been one of those days where that was the tone. I am hard only because I love the church. I love this community and this Meeting so deeply that it is really quite hard to explain. Yesterday during the discipleship training session that we hosted here at willow creek, we were actually challenged quite deeply about many things. There is the challenge because of the great love that our area and yearly meeting have for the local meetings. But right along with the challenges comes encouragement. Someone asked me yesterday about how we came to this church, and I actually surprised myself with the answer that I gave. I said that ever since I felt the call to become a pastor, this Meeting was at the center. I knew early on that eventually I would come to Kansas City to minister among each of you. They looked at me in shock so I went on to explain a bit about why.
When I first attended this Meeting, there were people that immediately welcomed me, there were people that encouraged me, people that encouraged me to explore the calling that I felt God was leading in my mind this Meeting was exactly the type of meeting I wanted to work with. This Meeting took a broken, discouraged young man that thought he was no longer really welcome in a church and you showed him that not only was a broken person welcome, but that that very same broken person was important and necessary for the kingdom of God. In the relatively short amount of time I have been associated with this Meeting I watched a small church encourage and guide two pastors while they explored their callings. So in my mind in my heart this Meeting is home, this is where God spoke the loudest to me, this is where I really fell in love not only with my wife, but with the people of God. I may be hard but I am hard because I know what can be done through each of you and I do not want us to forget the most important aspect of why we are here.
Why are we here? Why do we meet together every first day of the week in this place at this time? We are here because the kingdom of God is near.
The passage we read today is often consider the calling of the first disciples, but it could also be called the first message of Jesus, at least first message recorded by Mark. What I mean by that is that this was the first message that Jesus presented that caught the attention of this particular Gospel writer. It was the first message that attracted his attention and changed the course of history as he knew it. Was it the literal first, we will never truly know but what we do know is that this simple message lays the foundation for every other message that Jesus gave. A simple message, an introduction and invitation to a journey that changed the perspective of faith.
“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” One sentence, one brief statement that is simple and complex at the same time. This one statement tells us why we are here, where we came from and where we are going. So much in nineteen words.
The time is fulfilled. One could also say just as easily that a new era is being defined, and the next chapter is starting to be written. Change is one the horizon and through this change that everything that had gone one up to this point, is clarified more fully. The time is fulfilled. Jesus says this just after John the Baptizer is arrested, which most likely caused a stir in the community. John was seen as a prophet, the beginning of the next era, but John himself said no, that there is one coming that will be greater than he, one whose sandals he was not qualified to untie. John stood in the gap, a voice crying in the wilderness to repent.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. The idea of a kingdom is a scope of influence. It is not necessarily a nation or state, but a way of life. It is the realm in which the king provides protection and encouragement. Picture in your mind a kingdom, for most of us when we visualize a kingdom we see a great walled fortress with high towers. It is within those wall that the king would sit, and the scope of influence would be the area seen from the tower. An ancient king could only influence the areas watched from the towers, at times they may gain more towers to extend the kingdom out but whoever controls the tower rules the land. I make mention because that is what near suggests. The term we translate as near means close, or all around. The towers are secured and the kingdom stretches from within the walls out across the hills and plains from horizon to horizon. It is everywhere all around us.
One era is closing, opening into the next, into which the influence of God stretches from horizon to horizon. Building on everything in the past but looking toward the future. The influence of God is all around us, but only if the towers are occupied by ones under the influenced and directed by God. Think about that for a moment. Picture that scene in your mind. Now we will get into the heart of the message, repent.
Repent is more than just turning around, but it is a complete change of thought and attitude. Repentance is not a onetime event but it is a fluid and flexible concept. Our minds, our thoughts, and our attitudes can often take different paths, at times they can change countless times throughout a day. When Jesus says repent at this moment he is saying let your mind be flexible and open to change, allow your life to be molded into a vessel that can meet the situations at hand.
Believe. The message presented by John the Baptist and the message of Jesus are very similar. Both state the closing of one era and the beginning of another. Both call people to repent or change their thoughts and attitudes, but John cries to repent and be baptized, where Jesus calls us to repent and believe. How often have we thought about the difference between the two messages?
A few months ago I mentioned that there are different levels of belief. The first is knowledge, then trust and then entrust. There is a vast difference between each of these stages of belief. The first, knowledge, is basic understanding where we have thought about it and find it to be true. Trust is a step on down the path. To believe in a trusting way, we have knowledge that we find to be true, and we act on that knowledge, we find it trust worthy, but we still have some hesitations. Entrusting belief takes us well beyond knowledge and into a life fully immersed in God. We find Him trustworthy and are willing to put our very existence into the hands of God. Very few move to this level of belief because it requires that we let the other direct our paths, and trust that our wellbeing will be taken care of. Belief is relational.
But what are we to believe, what are we to entrust our wellbeing to? The good news. This is a cycle, which takes us back to the beginning of the statement. The good news is that the kingdom of God is near, it is at hand it is all around us as far as we can see, and we should repent change our thoughts and attitudes to allow ourselves to entrust our wellbeing to the good news. Which takes us back to the beginning again and again, deeper and deeper, drilling down into the very core of who we are until every aspect of our life is totally and completely entrusted to God.
Jesus speaks this simple message and he walks along the shores of the sea and he comes across Simon and his brother throwing out their nets. Simon and Andrew made their living casting nets, their entire day is spent tossing the net into the water, pulling it back, and repeating. It is a cyclical job. Throwing the net, pulling it in, emptying and repeating. It is hard work, never really knowing what lies beneath the surface but hoping that something of value is pulled in so that you can support and feed the family. Jesus watches them perform their cyclical task, and then invites them to something different, a change in their thoughts and attitudes. He invites them to follow Him and instead of casting nets and pulling in fish they could then participate in the cycles or holy rhythm of Christ. “I will make you fish for people.”
The group then walks a bit and they come across James and John. He again make the same invitation to walk with him in this cyclical relationship that will continuously drill down until every aspect of their life is fully entrusted to God their true King.
Why are we here? We are here because the kingdom of God is near. It is all around us and Jesus is calling us to repent and believe. He is calling us to ever deeper aspect of our relationship with him so that we move from knowledge to trust, until we can entrust every aspect of our life and wellbeing to Him. And when we do that He says we will bring others in. It is a cycle that drills deeper but at the same time grows and expands gathering more and more strength which turns the cycle again and again and with each turn we are conformed just a bit more to the image of Christ. We are here because when we meet with each other the spinning of the cycle in each of our lives begins to encourage those around us giving more energy to continue the cycle. We meet together to help each other adjust attitudes and change our minds so we can dig just a bit deeper, entrusting just a bit more of our lives to the king. With each turn our life goes deeper, wider, and we are then stretched upward toward glory as if we are atop a strong tower looking out over the plains and hills seeing those around you so we can cast out the nets and encourage another into the very same cycle.
We are here to continue the cycle, to entrust just a bit more, and to encourage each other and those outside to Repent and draw them into friendships so we can encourage again. It is a simple message but one that is incredibly hard to live out, because each of us have areas that are filled with hardness that threaten to stop the cycle in at any moment. I had one of those hard places several years ago. A place in my life that was hard and not entrusted to the king, yet there was someone here that help. And encouraged me just a little bit at a time.
I am often hard on the church because I want us to push through those hard rocky areas together, to turn those cycles and entrust more of our lives to God. I want us to follow him in that holy rhythm of Prayer, Worship, and service. So that we can repent, change our attitudes so we can conform to the spirit and become a people totally immersed in loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit and living the love of Christ with others.
As we enter into this time of open worship and holy expectancy consider the message that Jesus presented, consider the message that we are giving. Is it continuing the cycles or stopping the drill. Is the cycle going deeper and wider or has the cycle stopped in a place short of total belief?