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Mark 1:14-20: Following Christ by Believing and Proclaiming the Gospel Print E-mail
Sunday, 08 July 2007

Every few years there are certain fads that become popular within the Christian subculture.  Do you recall the WWJD craze that happened not too long ago?  The letters stood for ‘What Would Jesus Do’ and you could find them printed on everything from bracelets to notebooks to Bible covers.  I remember at the time seeing numerous people wearing these letters somewhere on them.  I have never been too fond of popular Christian fads (at least I like to think that I haven’t), but I too was given a bracelet that I wore for a bit.  Although I struggled with the popularity of the whole deal, I have to confess that the idea behind it is not erroneous.  Granted, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that Jesus did some things that we will not do, nor are we called to do them.  Yet, the overall of goal of trying to live like Jesus is obviously good and right.  Of course, we could never do it apart from the grace of God, but we are called to it nonetheless.  So then, what would Jesus do?  I think the only way to faithfully answer that question is to answer another one, namely what did Jesus do?  How did He live?  What was important to Him? 

The Gospel of Mark is a great place to start in seeking an answer to these questions.  And for the record, let me just say that the answer may be a bit shocking.  Jesus was not this soft spoken Jewish teacher who just tried to do His best in loving people and maintaining peace.  He was not weak nor a pushover.  He was not ‘everybody’s favorite rabbi.’  I guess what I am saying is that if you are going to honestly answer the question of what Jesus would do according to the Gospels, then you must be prepared for what they truly say about our Savior and not just settle for what you want them to say.  With that said, we should note that the Gospel of Mark (and the others as well) are very much concerned with teaching us about the life of Christ (or as theologians would call it, ‘Christology’).  They teach us who He is and what He did and taught while on the earth.  Yet, they also teach us about those who were followers of Christ.  And this is not what we really expect either.  Mark is particularly blunt when it comes to their failures and shortcomings.  We see them struggling to believe that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.  Granted, we see their successes as well (like in our text this morning), but the Gospel writers are faithful in giving us the whole picture of the first followers of Christ.  Needless to say, as we struggle to faithfully follow Him, we have much to learn from the book of Mark about who Christ is and what it means to be His disciple.  This morning I want us to consider two important, early lessons that we learn about following Christ.

First, the focus of Jesus’ ministry is preaching repentance and faith in the gospel (v. 14-15).

Verses 14-15 are central to the Gospel of Mark.  After telling us of the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism and temptation, Mark begins telling us of the ministry of Christ.  So, where does He begin?  He begins with proclaiming the gospel.  Look at verses 14-15 with me.  Mark tells us that after John was arrested (a subject he will return to in 6:14-29), Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God.  The proclamation of the gospel is central to the life and ministry of Jesus.  I think we could say it this way, all that Jesus does serves the end of proclaiming the gospel.  Whether He is healing someone’s sickness, casting out demons, feeding thousands, correcting the Pharisee’s, or teaching parables, all serve the purpose of proclaiming the gospel of God.  Of course, His death, burial, and resurrection form the very heart of the gospel itself, for it is through these acts that the ‘good news’ is really good.  Christ’s death on the cross for our sins is our only hope for forgiveness and our only hope for new life in Him.  Thus, the central core of the ministry and life and death and resurrection of Christ is the proclamation of the good news.

So what is the message that He proclaims?  Simply stated, He tells us that since the Kingdom of God is at hand, we are to repent and believe in the good news.  Christ is announcing that through His incarnation and appearing the time of waiting for the Messiah is fulfilled.  The prophets spoke of One who would come to redeem the people and to suffer on their behalf, Christ is telling us that He is that One.  In other words, the good news of God’s salvation is being fulfilled before their very eyes as they see and hear the preaching of Jesus.  How should we respond to such good news?  Christ tells us to repent and believe.  Again, as Barry noted last week, this is the only appropriate response to the good news.  We have sinned, we have gone our own way, and we have rebelled against God.  Thus, we must begin with repentance, we must begin with confession, and we must begin with humility.  We do not come demanding, we come desperate, for we know who we are and what we have done.  We begin with repentance.  It is this broken, contrite, and true repentance which accompanies true belief in the gospel, or the life and ministry of Christ.  We turn from our life of sin and toward the life of Christ.  We do not trust in ourselves (how could we?), but we place all of our trust in the finished work of Christ.  This is what Jesus preaches: repent and believe in the gospel.  This is how we should respond to the good news.

We must first respond to the gospel with repentance and belief and then we are to continue in a life of repentance and believe which includes proclaiming the very gospel that we believe in.  In other words, part of repenting and believing in the gospel is proclaiming the gospel to others.  If we really believe that men are sinful and in need of forgiveness, if we really hold that such forgiveness can only be found through belief in the gospel of Christ, then how could we not proclaim it to any and all?  Likewise, if we say that we are followers of Christ, then how can we not be about what He was about?  If the proclamation of the gospel was central in the ministry of Christ, then how can it be anything but central in our lives and ministries?  Thus, I challenge you this morning: believe the gospel enough to proclaim it.  After all, James warns us that faith without works is dead and a faith in the gospel that is not willing to proclaim it to others as Jesus did is dead faith.  We can talk about all kinds of reasons for why we don’t proclaim the gospel as we should, but at the root of them all is simply lack of belief in the gospel itself.  So believe in the gospel enough to proclaim it.

If this text teaches us that the focus of Jesus’ ministry is the proclamation of the gospel, then what does it teach us about the followers of Christ, or the original disciples?  This leads to our second point this morning…

Second, the followers of Jesus’ call are simple men simply obeying (v. 16-20).

As we said earlier, the Gospel of Mark focuses on Christ and those who followed Him.  So, what can we learn about those first disciples even at this point?  Well, let me break my answer into two sections.
First, we learn that they are simple men.  Look at verse 16.  The text tells us that Simon, who Jesus will later name Peter, and his brother Andrew, were simple fishermen.  It is often said that they were poor and the outcasts of society as fishermen, but that is not necessarily true.  In fact, fishing was a decent job and we are told that James and John had a boat and even hired men to help with their work.  Thus, I think if we conclude anything about these first disciples, we should simply say that they were normal, hardworking folks.  They were not the poorest of the poor as much as they were simply the normalist (or most normal) of the normal.  The extraordinary thing about Jesus calling them is that they were not extraordinary at all.  Now we will see Jesus call all types in the book of Mark, but here we see that He begins with four pretty ordinary guys.  This gives me great hope as one who desires to follow Christ.  Christ is not necessarily looking for great men to do extraordinary things.  Rather, He is taking ordinary men and using them to do great things.  The Lord calls and uses simple men to bring Him glory on the earth.

Second, we learn that they simply obey.  Look at verses 17-20.  Again, notice the simplicity of their response.  They simply obeyed His call to follow.  We are not told much more than this: Jesus called and they obeyed.  Yet, do not think that their obedience was easy.  Simple obedience does not necessarily mean easy obedience.  For both sets of men, Mark notes what they left in order to follow Christ.  Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed him.  James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.  Even at this early point in the book, we see clearly that following Christ is costly.  These men left their jobs, their livelihood, their family, to follow Christ.  We see the error of valuing anything over following Christ, an error which will become clearer throughout the book.  In this brief account of the calling of the first disciples, we need to see that the cost of following Christ is great.  Yet, the proper response is simply to obey.  I ran across this quote from John G. Paton this week as I was thinking about this text.  He was considering going to serve in a place where missionaries had recently been killed and eaten.  He tells a story of one who was encouraging him not to go:  “Amongst many who sought to deter me, was one dear old Christian gentleman, whose crowning argument was, ‘The Cannibals! You will be eaten by Cannibals!’ At last I replied, ‘Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms’.” 1

This is what it means to follow Christ.  We are to value what He valued.  We are love as He loved.  We are to fight for what He fought for, yes, even die for what He died for.  The question of what would Jesus do is not necessarily best answered by giving some ethical requirements (although these do have their place).  Rather, it is best answered by looking at what He did.  And what He did was make the proclamation of the gospel central to His ministry.  We are called to the same.  As followers of Christ, we must labor to proclaim the gospel in our conversations, in our work, in our leisure, in our relationships, in all that we are.  And you need to know up front that it will cost you.  It may be friends, family, career, success, popularity, or even your life.  You might even be called to be eaten by cannibals.  Yet, at the end of the day, the true follower of Christ it will make no difference as long as they can live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus.  So leave your nets, leave your self-serving dreams, leave anything that would keep you away and follow Christ by believing and proclaiming the gospel.  Amen.

1 Quoted in Peter Hammond, “The Greatest Century of Missions” (South Africa: Christian Liberty Books, 2002), p. 133.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 July 2007 )

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