The Call of the Servant King – Mark 1:14-20
There are two games that most children love to play and for some of us – we love to play as well. The first game is the King of the Hill or the King of the Mountain– where the object the game is that a you need to be on top of the hill as long as you can and the others that are playing are attempting to knock you off the hill – so there is this competition because you would anything to be on top – this attempt is basically letting others know who is the KING- who is left standing in the center. The other game that most children love to play is Follow the Leader– and that is where you have a leader that is already chosen for you and all the rest are to line up behind that leader, so wherever the leader moves or goes, the rest follows. Whatever the leader does, the rest of them do as well. And if you fail in following the leader you are out of the game. And the passage that is before us, today, confronts us- it hits us with those of us who wants to be the KING of THE HILL. And astonishingly, it actually proclaims good news to those who have those kinds of hearts- those who are in competition to be the king and eager to knock others off to get what you want, to control our lives and to order our lives on our terms. But at the same time, it also confronts us with grace directly to those of us who want to be the King by becoming a follower of a True and Better KING, A Better Leader; and therefore whatever this True Leader has done – we are now enabled to do as well. And this passage will unpack that for us, so there are two things that I believe that the text is addressing:
I. The Heart of Being Called a Follower of Christ [1: 14-15]
This is the foundation – the basis, the core element of being CALLED a follower of Christ. This would sum up the very core, the very heart-beat of Christianity in one sentence. Which is…
Because God’s gospel is for you and His reign is over you, he invites (welcomes) us to follow HIM—(to be follower of Christ means) to believe in the gospel and be changed- it means that you repent and believe the gospel
Let’s unpack that! But first, hear me on this: No matter where you are at, right at this moment, at this time, in this season of your life, what you are experiencing, God’s gospel is for you and HE rules over you- he reigns, the one true monarch, the sovereign one is ruling over you and HE lovingly invites us to believe in Him and be changed, renewed- that is the heart of Christianity. No matter where you might be right now – or what you are experiencing – depression, struggling with that sin, martial issues, parenting struggles or life in general that takes you in a whirlwind, or trying to find a purpose or identity – take great comfort in this: – the gospel of God is for you. It’s for you and me- and that is the amazing thing about it- it’s for us. And that he rules, reigns over us. And HE invites you and I to experience gospel-saturating, Christ-bearing renewal in each of our hearts. That’s what we read in Mark 1:14-15: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of GOD and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
In C.S. Lewis book, “Mere Christianity” he writes about the heart of being a follower of Christ- take a listen to what he says, “I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at the first to be all about morality, all about duties, rules, guilt, virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things. Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness…but they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the SOURCE from which it all comes.” They are too busy at looking at the source from which it ALL comes. Lewis captures the main idea for this story that is before us. The heart of being a Christian is not about duties, morality, rules, our guilt or our virtue but it goes into something beyond- the heart of being a Christian, the basis of discipleship at LH, the foundational core of being a follower of Christ is that we need to be busy by looking at the Source.
And Mark lets his readers know who exactly this Source is and that we should be so busy in looking at Him. In fact, all up to this point, John the Baptist has been preparing people to have them be busy looking at the source- telling people that he is NOT the source, he pointed to another, “after me comes he who is mightier than I”…- he’s the source, he is the point- HE is the KING, I’m not. And John’s ministry has been preparing people for the arrival of this person Jesus and this person finally arrived to the scene and he speaks. It is a decisive time for God to act. The preparation time is now over. And Mark signals it by saying in v. 14: And after John was arrested, Jesus comes into Galilee- he goes to the people proclaiming the message; he is proclaiming the gospel of God. Time is fulfilled. Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe.
And Mark is confronting us with Jesus as he makes a radical announcement, that is-
1) God’s gospel is for you. The source that you are looking at actually touched earth with his two feet. And what he announces is an account of history. All of the promises in the past, all of what is written in history, in the OT, from Genesis to Malachi are all coming together to this one awesome moment. Jesus is rooting his ministry in the history of redemption. From Genesis 3:15 to now, all of those were a shadow, everything you find in the OT, and all of it is coming together to this MOMENT. Jesus is saying – everything that has happened, all of the rebellion since Adam, the idolatry, the prophets who have prophesized that He will come and he will rule, he will sit on the throne and nothing will stand against it. Not the corruption of the judges, or the failure of the kings or the Israelites, or sinners like Abraham, Moses, David, or even our own rebellion – nothing will stand against it. ALL of that was preparation time culminated into this historic moment as Jesus inaugurates himself with the gospel of God and begins his pursuit of individuals to call to Himself; Mark is informing us that- it is God who is acting – he is intervening; he is taking the initiative in bringing the gospel to you with his own hands and feet; to bring the message of hope and renewal to you.
Maybe this might be tough to swallow for some of us. I know that God acts, I know he intervenes but I feel so far away from God. Where is the break-through in my life? I feel God is so distant from me. Nothing in my life is being answered and I am just burdened with sin. Maybe some of us are having heavy hearts with things that weigh you down; and you hate the fact that you are just totally incapable of changing the dire condition of your hearts. Left to ourselves – it’s hopeless. But hear this, loved ones – this announcement- this proclamation of the gospel of God- it is astonishingly for you. No matter what the condition of your heart is right now; no matter how you are relating with God at this moment- the good news is for you. Remember: this announcement came- right after John the Baptist was arrested. And that is a very important detail because before John the Baptist- from the writings of Malachi to the Gospels in the NT- it was about 400 years of God’s silence. The people of God were weighing down by His silence for such a long time – and they were wondering –did He leave me- does He not care–how come He is not answering me- where is He—but when the right time came, God sent his SON. Why? Because, he wanted to adopt us as his very own children (Galatians 4). He wants to hug, embrace, kiss, hold, he wants to love you in a new way- he’s making all things new. This gospel is for you, because He can touch you now, because He touched your sin by becoming sin- and HE truly experienced God’s silence when he uttered – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34) so that we could never ever lose touch from Him; to experience God’s forgiveness like never before, to experience healing like never before, to experience renewal like never before, and to call you His own child so that you can never ever lose that in all eternity- you have a Father-and He says to you– it’s sealed my son & daughter. TK says: The silence of God is not absence. A sense of His absence is evidence that He has touched you. Do you believe that? Do you believe in His timing? Do you believe in this gospel- good news- that this is for you? The Gospel is for you!
2) Not only that– He rules/reigns over us-Jesus says- the Kingdom of God is near. Mark 10:45: He came not to be served- who gets to be served- the KING gets to be served from his subjects but HE, the true King, came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom- he will serve Himself to you- he will serve by absorbing all of our sin at the cross and wrath from His Father to serve us. Why? Because in our sin, we actually want His position; we are position seeking people – we want to be an influence, we want to be important, we want a voice, we want titles, we want to be king, we want to be served. We want to reign, rule and be in control. That is what we want. There is Simba, from the Lion King, in all of us – “we just can’t wait to be King. I’m going to be the mane event. I’m brushing up on looking down. No one is saying do this, be there, or stop that…I am free to do it all my way…everywhere you look I’m standing in the spotlight. I just can’t wait to be King.” I don’t want you disagree with my opinions. I don’t want to be told what to do. I want to do whatever pleases me. But Jesus is announcing that the Kingdom is at hand- What Kingdom He is talking about? What is Jesus referring to? I believe that the Kingdom that Jesus is referring to is not a place or a time or an event or a situation but to a person (R.T. France); it’s not a kingdom but a kingship; not referring so much as where you are but whose you are. It is the reign/rule of Christ.
Now, listen: you cannot welcome or accept His Kingship without accepting how that kingship defines you. You cannot embrace His identity without humbling yourself and having His identity define you. You cannot embrace the beauty of Christ, the glory of the good news of Jesus until we understand our deep need-our sin, our tendency to be GOD, our tendency to be the center of it all. Our tendency is to be the “mane event”; what makes sin sin? What makes sin so sinful? What makes sin so heinous? What makes sin “a cosmic treason”? It dethrones God from being the MAIN event of your life. It’s when you replace God with something or someone. That’s why Tim Keller says: “If God is not the SOURCE of your meaning in life, your own worth, your own security, then you are in bed with something else. Sin is the refusal to find our deepest identity in our relationship with God.” Any time we define our lives with our successes or our failures or our reputation, our intelligence, our abilities, our careers, our relationships, – we can use those things to define our lives, those things will become the center of our lives, and we can refuse our deepest identity found in the Kingship of Christ. But the awesome thing is –that we have a God who graciously acts, initiates and calls us to be in His Kingdom. That’s why there is no such thing as faith without repentance. There is no such thing as faith without your humble state of your deep personal need. You need both. If you are repenting without believing the truth of the gospel then that leads to despair- hopelessness, you try, and try and try, repenting, repenting and not mixing with faith, you can get disheartened/discouraged/disappointed. On the other hand, if you believe the gospel, believing the truth of the gospel without repenting, without humbling yourself then that leads to total arrogance, you can get prideful exponentially faster, judgmental, and disrespectful. You need both. Repent and believe the gospel. Both are critical to experience joy. And he invites us to believe and be changed, moment-by-moment, conforming us into the image and likeness of HIS SON.
And you know what the kingship of Christ is allowing me to see, by God’s grace- that the way down (humility) is really the way up. That being a follower of Christ- it is the race to the bottom. The kingship of Christ is rescuing me from –me– my desire to be King, my desire to be exalted, my desire to be important. Who wants to be the greatest in the kingdom – well you got to become the LEAST of all. That’s why the gospel of grace is exactly for people who can’t wait to be king. It’s for us. That’s why it is always an invitation; it’s the call of faith and repentance. This is not something that we do once in a while or occasionally whenever we feel really guilty- no, loved ones, repenting and believing the gospel is a lifestyle- it’s ongoing. His Kingship in my life is the most important and meaningful thing about me. And keeping that as my Source of identity is essential; Mark 2:17- Jesus came not to call on the righteous – meaning the people who wants to rule themselves, people who can’t wait to be king, he came not to call them but sinners- people who admit that they are trying to be King and need help. Jesus came for these people –He came to do for us that which we were incapable of doing for ourselves; the message of Jesus is that we should believe and receive what has already been DONE for us. A gracious call, a gracious invitation from the one whom we have rebelled against-to give up the King of the Hill and follow the Leader Jesus Christ; And you will see what happens to a person who follows Christ; in v. 16-20, the radical results of being a follower of Christ.
II. The Radical Result of Being Called as a Follower of Christ
In these verses v.16-20- what we find Jesus, after proclaiming the gospel of God – notice how Mark transitions to the next slide on the slideshow. He moves quickly to a scene of Jesus’ action in the context of his ministry. We are immediately bombarded by the call of these disciples. And what we find in this section is the result of being a follower of Christ. What are these results that the passage is trying to communicate to us:
a) For you to be a follower, it’s always Jesus who initiates the call
[1:16 & 2:13-14]
The caller’s initiative is everything. Notice in v. 16- that passing alongside the sea, HE SAW Simon and Andrew and says, Follow me. Verse 19- He SAW James and John. In 2:13-14- he’s by the sea again and in the midst of the crowd- He SAW Levi. Follow me. You need understand the background- the rabbis during Jesus’ time, never ever called students to follow them, a teacher never called the student to follow them. This approach that Jesus takes was so foreign to the people and culture of the time. It was always the student that was looking for the teacher. If you needed a mentor, you need to seek after a mentor. It was always the disciples or students seeking a rabbi. But Jesus did everything different. For you to enter and continue into a relationship with Christ, it is depended upon on the initiative of Jesus, all the time. These disciples were not searching for Him. They were at work. They were busy in their occupation. But who was seeking? Who is searching? Who was pursuing? They certainly were not pursuing Him because later on Jesus will say to these disciples and remind them (John 15:16) that – wait a minute- you did not choose me. I chose you. Before even the world began, I had you in mind. He is the one who called them. HE is the ONE who SAW THEM. Jesus is taking center stage. Jesus tells Simon, Andrew, James, John, Levi- FOLLOW ME. It was a call with authority – You will never find a rabbi who calls his students to themselves- it would be to the Torah. Or even the prophets in the OT, they would never call the follower to themselves- but it would be to God’s Word but Mark is emphatically highlighting that Jesus is the unique SON OF GOD. It’s a call to HIMSELF. FOLLOW ME. Mark is going to constantly show us Christ’s identity all throughout the first 8 chapters – as He was bringing out demons, healing the sick, calming the storm- WHO IS THIS THAT EVEN THE SEA AND WIND OBEY (4:41) to finally Jesus asking Peter himself- WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? (Mark 8:29)- His answer was: you are the Christ– It is the unique SON OF GOD who called them, who chose them, who pursued them, who saw them even when they were NOT EVEN LOOKING at HIM, to HIMSELF- to the Savior.
See, if you are a Christian, a Christ follower – it is because God called you through the proclamation of the gospel of God just like these guys, Jesus preached the gospel to you – the good news. You didn’t find God. You were not pursuing God. You didn’t discover God. NO. NO. NO. He pursued you. He came after you! He revealed Himself to you. He loved you first. See the more you become aware of His initiative – the more you will be in awe of His grace. The more you see HIS pursuit after you- the more you will become secure in His love for you. The more you will be assured that HE who began a good work in you will bring it into completion until the day of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, (when you read the Bible one day – it became alive to you, or when your friend who was pestering you of your sin, you were convinced that Jesus is my Savior), it was all HIM. If you are a follower of Christ, you were pursued, run down, tackled by undeserving grace. You are not the starting point. IT doesn’t start with you. It doesn’t start with man, it starts with God – relationship with God begins by GOD, this calling is from God (Eph 1;4) and calls us to God (Rom 1).
The second result:
b) Following Christ becomes your priority [1:v15b, 18-20]
As soon as Jesus said follow me- to Simon and Andrew- we read in v. 18- immediately they left their nets, their occupation. And again in v.20- James and John, immediately they left their father & others & followed Him. You can see the immediacy of their response to the gospel. They left everything to follow Him. Simon and Andrew left their occupation; they leave their career in order to follow Jesus. James and John leave their father in order to follow Jesus. But Mark doesn’t give any other details in this story – we do not know what is going on in their minds, the conversation that they might have had- we don’t know any of that- but the only thing that we do know is that they have left everything to follow Christ.
Now, you’ll find out as you read through Mark or the Gospels– it is not talking about a total renunciation – we see in John 21:3 – that someone owns a boat. We also find that in the same chapter that Simon and Andrew are still available for their family. So it’s not saying a total renunciation – but what it’s saying is that — to drop something, or to let go of something or someone; it means that there has to be a change in the way you prioritize – what is your priority or who is your priority – if Jesus is the priority then everything else has to come second.
But let me tell you – in so many ways, I do not prioritize Jesus in every aspect of my life- the way that I should – that everything else comes first and Jesus comes second but I am so glad to read through the pages of Scripture and find Simon Peter, (in Mark 14:54 & John 18:18), he is the one who confessed that Jesus is the Messiah – who followed Jesus right before when he met with the council –he was scared out of his mind of a girl –and she says– I know you, you were with that Jesus guy – and Peter denied Jesus. Then you have James and John (Matthew 20 & Mark 10:35ff)- what they wanted was to have Jesus make them a top priority- to be number 1&2 in command; clearly they didn’t prioritize Jesus- but each of them –as they faced their end of their life on earth, as they journeyed in their discipleship process, they finally learned to be a disciple of Jesus Christ- it gives us great hope- it also shows unlimited patience that Jesus has. That’s great news to hear, my friends! That He is not done with you. Following Jesus is one thing, YES! BUT He’s following you is another; because He is willing to go into the depths of your failures and denials of Him and show you of what it really means to lay down your life, to lay down all of your allegiance for the sake of Christ. Only Jesus can show you that because He laid down His life- HE laid down HIS allegiance with HIS FATHER (Phil 2) for who? For His friends (John 10); US!!! That’s why he is not ashamed to call us HIS brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11).
The third result
c) While we follow Him, He calls us to a grace-centered purpose
[1:17 & 3:13-15]
Read- v. 17 & 3:13-15
We need to remember that Peter, James, John, Andrew, Levi and the rest of them were the apostles. We need to protect that! They had a special and a particular role in redemptive history. But there are implications for us. The spectacular thing about this passage is that these people were bunch of nobodies. I mean NOBODIES. They had no credentials in ministry what-so-ever, they had no experience in mission what-so-ever- all that they knew was that they know how to fish and row boats and take people’s money. But profoundly, Jesus entrusts HIS redemptive mission, his grace saturated mission to bunch of nobodies-
It is amazing to see that Jesus calls people in need of grace to be the tools of grace. God calls broken people, he calls the sick, the sinners, broken people, the ones who haven’t got it all together- He calls them to be the instruments of healing. This paradigm once again, amazingly puts Jesus at the center stage- these men were not called because of who they are (like if they had some intrinsic goodness) but they were called of who Christ is and that leaves us no room for boasting, no room for pride. Paul Tripp says, “Because the gospel never preaches our adequacy, our capabilities, our effectiveness. It preaches the sufficiency of Christ.”
These are messy, needy, lost disciples that Jesus says, “follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men”. Now, the picture of fishing in the Bible (OT) has always been dark- it is quite gloomy- it’s not really like a ray of sunshine. Fishing in OT has to deal with God’s judgment and punishment for the people who deserve it and you cannot escape it (R.T. France). And what is happening in this passage is that Jesus is handpicking these disciples to rescue people from the coming judgment of God. It’s an effort to rescue through the proclamation of the GOOD NEWS. This fishing is all-together a different kind of fishing because He is re-telling the story- the time is fulfilled, the Messiah is here- He is re-telling the story of fishing because He knows that God is going to unleash His wrath, His judgment, His punishment on HIM, His Son, in the place of sinners (you) with the judgment we deserved- this is the time of re-telling the story of the gospel of grace. He is re-telling the story in a way where you have the HIGHEST PRIVILEGE in participating in God’s purpose of redemption, so He says, follow me. Oh the grace of God- how not only can it help you to see who God is but how in the many ways, unimaginable to you, to be used as a vehicle for God’s purpose to be accomplished. It is a glorious story of broken people who were rescued by grace and who were made useable by that grace. If you think that you are useless- think again!
But what is even more spectacular – in 1:17- when Jesus says, ‘follow me, I will make you; the you there is PLURAL. That means Jesus is creating a whole new community- we are not meant to do mission alone or isolated places. We are meant to do this together. We don’t follow Christ alone. We don’t do mission alone. We don’t evangelize alone. God’s purpose is accomplished through the means of community through the proclamation of the gospel of grace. This purpose – this rescuing purpose forms the purpose of our CHURCH. We are “together for the gospel” Jesus calling Peter, James, John, Levi, Andrew, and the rest of the 12- He calls them to follow and together they become fishers of men. They all came together to be with HIM and He sends them out with redemptive purpose (3:14ff). It is never about your own worthiness or your goodness or even your broken-ness but your willingness to receive this free gift.
I wish I could say that in the past 20 years of my life- being called as a Christian, I was all about the Kingship of Christ; but I can’t. I wish I could say that I am no longer seeking my own way, but I find myself searching endlessly for my own calling. I find myself searching my call in my career- my vocation, what I want to do in ministry- why haven’t I got this? Why haven’t I got that? Why am I so angry? Why do I want to be King? Why do I want to control, manipulate and order things around my life? Why do I see my very own precious kids as interruption to what I want to achieve. Why do I see myself wanting to be served? Why does he or she have that and not me? I deserve something. I endlessly search my calling but I hear my Savior calling, passing alongside before the foundation of this world – He saw me when I never, ever was able to see Him. He saw me. He came to me when I was never, ever able to go to Him. He searched me, when I am searching for others things. HE came to show me, that the highest and the supreme of all the other callings that I will ever receive – like my career, my relationships, my marriage – the highest and the supreme calling is- a renewed life in Christ, a renewed life in Christ of how you approach work, how you approach career, how you approach relationships, how you approach marriage, how you approach parenting, how you approach your life- it is a renewing and the redeemed work of Christ. That gives me hope. That God can call messy, needy, lost people to Himself- and entrusts us, as a community, for His redeeming Mission to the world. Paul Tripp: “That we are not just called to be containers of grace but to be disciples of God of grace to be part of this mission of grace;” AND Christians need to recover the sheer size of this calling, the sheer bigness of this calling and be impressed by it, be moved by it, be affected by it, be thrilled by it, be alive to it, because it is the ultimate calling that can give you life to the fullest and the only calling that gives us the power to live no matter what we may face or experience. And when we do recover the sheer size of this calling –that is- the calling by God, and from God and to God- we are now able to execute God’s mission humbly; the way God has called us to do it. AS we find ourselves getting off the King of the Hill and following the True Leader – let’s not call it goodness- let us not call it anything. Let us be found busy by looking at the Source from where it ALL comes. Let’s pray!