Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

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. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. Mark 1:14-20

Mark tells us that Jesus’ first sermon was nineteen words long. It is the biblical Gettysburg Address. Most of the words are worth a sermon all to itself but we don’t have room for that so let’s quickly run through them.

“Time.” There are two words for time in Greek. Chronos is sequential time. It is watching the hands move on a watch. Kairos means consequential time, the right time, the critical time. It is that moment when the robbers hear “OK boys, the gig is up!” An alcoholic might think of the difference between “closing time” and the “time I got arrested and hit rock bottom before I got sober.”

The “kingdom” or the “reign” of God. These terms are among the politically subversive ideas in Mark. They signify God being the ruler, the one from Whom we take our marching orders, not Caesar. The kingdom or the reign of God signifies a relationship marked by loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness. This kingdom is “drawing near” in the person of Jesus. Unlike Caesar, God doesn’t use violence, coercion, or manipulation to entice followers. God uses love because God is love. We should always, by the way, be very wary of earthly rulers who “love” us and seek for us to “love” them in return. That’s how Caesar would have used that word. Jesus’ love landed him on a cross. Very different.

“Repent” means turning around, reversing course, changing our minds, and changing our ways. To “repent” isn’t “feeling sorry about your sins” – that is contrition or remorse – repentance is the recognition that the path we’re on is a dead end and we’re willing to stop and do something different.

“Believe” is more than being intellectually convinced that something is true. That is part of it but it doesn’t capture the full meaning. I always think about the analogy of a chair. Someone tells me that a chair will support my weight. If I didn’t know that before but now do, that is knowledge, the first movement of faith. If I agree with them, that is assent, but I still don’t believe. Only when I actually try it out, and physically sit down on the chair, which is trust, do I fully believe what they are saying to me.

To believe is to trust. It isn’t merely about our heads or our hearts, it is about our whole bodies, our whole being.

And the good news that Jesus brings stands in stark contrast to the good news that Caesar brings. It is the newness, the fullness, of life for all people which will be marked by love, mutual service, and “enoughness” for all. It is not about the dominance, the insatiable empire, the worldly adoration, that Caesar seeks. It is the difference between a local leader forcing all the citizens to line the roads to put on a good show when Caesar comes to town and an impromptu flash mob laying palm branches and their own clothing on the road to welcome Jesus.

Then Jesus hits the road. Two paragraphs later, he has four friends joining him in his mission. His missio dei – his God-given mission, mandate, and purpose for being. He has literally called his friends with the invitation, “Follow me” and they do. They immediately recognize that what Jesus is about is much more important, hopeful, and helpful than fishing for a living. Do we?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, let today be the day that we hand the wheel of our lives back to you. Again. Take us, use us, always to your glory and to the common good of all people. We know the allure of the dead-end roads we have been traveling. Count us among your followers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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