Why Follow Jesus?
3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
Why Follow Jesus?
Text: Mark 1:14-20
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said. We do. We follow him. We’re Christians. But why? Why Follow Jesus? Have you ever thought how strange it is to be a Christian and follow him?
Everyone else sleeps in on Sunday morning. They sip coffee in their jammies and watch the news while I’m hustling to make it here on time. Everyone else goes home from work and hangs out with the family or unwinds or cleans up a bit around the house. But I make my schedule even more busy (as if that were possible!) by going to midweek Bible studies and dinners and services coming up during Lent. That’s strange.
Here in America, the king country of consumerism, my fellow Americans make money and buy whatever they want and can possibly afford (sometimes even what they can’t afford). Meanwhile I first plan and pray about my money. I set money aside—money I worked hard for and earned—and I give it away to support God’s work. And I’m directed by God to do this cheerfully and joyfully and before I even think about how I would like to spend that money on anything else.
Speaking of prayer by the way, I find myself at random times of the day with folded hands and bowed head showing utmost humility and trust in a God that I’ve never met and never seen. That’s strange, too.
Other people abide by the U.S. Constitution and say whatever they want because they have freedom of speech. But I have to choose my words carefully. I can’t say some certain words. I can’t tell certain jokes. I can’t even use God’s name out of context as if it’s some other expletive like everyone else in our culture does.
Others drink as much as they want, and so what if they get sloppy drunk and do something dumb? “YOLO!” the kids say these days (You only live once). So what if you sleep with someone who’s attractive? So what if you sleep with lots of people? And so what if you’re not married to them? “YOLO!” again. But I’m supposed to be self-controlled. I’m supposed to be sober. I’m supposed to be pure. I’m supposed to be chaste.
Why follow Jesus? It seems to me like I’m giving up a lot. No, it seems to me like I’m giving up everything to follow Jesus—he’s supposed to come first in everything I do. Everyone else, they get to have all the fun doing whatever they want and saying whatever they want with no consequences and no guilt, and here I am giving up all this stuff and having no fun at all. But hey, at least I get a cool bumper sticker that says, “Christian” on it, right?
It happens quickly, doesn’t it? My sinful heart gets the best of me quickly. It only takes a few minutes to get myself so worked up that I’m not even sure I want to follow Jesus anymore because what I want is something else. I want more time on my schedule. I want more money in my pocket. I want more “freedom” to do whatever I want. I want to be able to indulge. I want to be able “live.” I want to have “fun.”
But do you see what my sneaky sinful nature is doing? “I . . . I . . . I.” “I want . . . I want . . . I want.” I talk like Jesus is the problem—like he makes following him so hard or so awful. But he’s not the problem. I am. I would rather serve myself than serve him. I would rather live a me-pleasing life than a God-pleasing life.
Then I look at those disciples today. Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the fishermen of Capernaum. They had lives. They had families. We know that at some point Peter was married—probably already at this point. We know that James and John worked with their father and that their mother was alive too. We could safely assume that there were probably other family members in their lives as well.
These were men who had families and who had regular, normal lives like regular, normal Jews in Israel. They also had careers. They were fishermen. They didn’t go out deep sea fishing for trophies. Maybe they liked fishing. But more importantly, this was their livelihood. The local economy depended on their fishing. Their families depended on their fishing. They depended on fishing.
But then enter Jesus who says, “Come, follow me.” “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus is asking these men who only knew fishing to step completely out of their comfort zones and now become evangelists who fish for souls. Jesus is asking these men who only depended on fishing and their own skills to now depend only on him. And they did! They followed him!
Now Luke tells us that there was a little more that happened, that Jesus performed a miracle and they had a huge catch of fish. That gave them more proof and confidence in Jesus. But it’s not like these four asked for time to think about it. They didn’t write out a Pros and Cons list. They didn’t waffle back and forth for weeks. It says in verse 18, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” And James and John? They left their father with a boat full of fish and followed immediately too.
Then I think about myself some more. I think how I follow Jesus sometimes and it is neither at once nor immediate. I wake up begrudgingly on Sunday mornings sometimes. I give my offering because I feel like I have to, not because I want to. I think about all the other “fun” sins I could be doing if I wasn’t a Christian (or maybe I just do them anyways). I see the quick, immediate, and joyful following of Jesus by Peter, James, and John and I wonder—Why would they do such a strange thing and follow Jesus?
But then I remember what happened right before this. Look again at the beginning of the gospel today. “After John (the Baptist) was put into prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’”
This little encounter was not the first time Peter, Andrew, James, and John had met Jesus. They had seen and heard him before. And what they heard was good news. The time had finally come. After God’s people had waited thousands of years for God’s promised Messiah—a great Prophet, Priest, and King who would come—now finally the time had come. The kingdom of God was near. In fact, the King himself was standing right in front of them.
And so now was the time to repent. Repent means to change your heart and mind. Now was the time to change their ways. Now was the time to stop chasing after things of this world. Now was the time to stop putting themselves first. Now was the time to stop serving their own hearts and their own desires. Now was the time to change, to repent of those sins. Now was the time to follow God instead of their own hearts.
There was good reason to do so. God had good news for them. That Messiah was now here, as promised, and he was here to bring forgiveness. He was here to offer them a new life, a life as God’s children in a restored relationship with their Creator. And he was here to offer an even better life that will never end in the joys of God’s eternal kingdom. That was good news, to say the least. So joyfully, and at once, they dropped everything to follow their Messiah and Savior.
We already follow Christ. We call ourselves Christians. Our very name implies that as Christians we follow Christ. But sometimes that is so hard. We struggle. We struggle with reason and purpose in following. We struggle to find joy in following. We struggle against sinful self when following.
But when we struggle (which is often!) all we need to do is stop and listen. Listen, because Jesus has good news to share. Jesus tells us that now is the time for us to change our ways. Now is the time to stop chasing after things of this world. Now is the time to stop putting ourselves first and serving our own hearts and desires. Now is the time to change, to repent of those sins, and follow God instead of our own hearts.
Just listen to the good news about Jesus Christ. He did the opposite of what we do. He didn’t come to be served by us. He came to serve us and give himself for us. Jesus came to do the most unselfish, unworldly, loving thing we could ever imagine. He offered himself to be our substitute to pay for our sins. And because he did, we have a new, restored relationship with our God. And even better, we have an eternal life waiting for us in God’s eternal kingdom.
That’s the good news that Jesus wants you to know. You don’t need to serve yourself. You don’t need to chase after the things of this world. You don’t need to look here, there, and everywhere for something better. Jesus already gives you something better—for free. Forgiveness. Life. Salvation. Joy. Peace. Hope. It’s all yours.
That’s the good news. It’s the good news you know. It’s the good news you believe. It’s the good news you love (because there could never be any news that is better news). And it’s that good news that makes you do some very strange things.
The good news makes you jump out of bed on Sunday morning, eager to hear more about what God has done. The good news warms your heart and brings tears to your eyes. When a fellow believer dies the good news makes you cry tears of sadness and tears of joy. It makes you resilient during sickness. It helps you persevere during troubles. It makes you confident when facing death.
The good news shapes your life. It makes you careful with what you say and judicial about whom you hang out with. The good news fills you with such joy that you want other people to know that good news so they can be filled with joy too. So you do more strange things like giving time and money to God’s work so that others can hear the good news.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John heard and believed the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, and they completely changed their lives and followed him. But we do the same. One Christ the King member recently said, “I still can’t believe that I’m at church every week—but I love it. And I’m actually proud of the church that I’m at. I tell everyone about it and I invite people to come and see too. It’s crazy!” Another one of you recently said to me, “Put me to work. I want to help. Put me to work.”
Some of you have quit a life of alcohol abuse and filled the void with the good news. Some of you have only recently finally felt the burden of guilt removed from their shoulders and the forgiveness feels so good. You smile more now. You handle troubles and changes better now. You feel happy. You feel fulfilled. You’re ready for anything that comes your way, and you’re even more ready for the life that’s waiting for you next.
Isn’t that strange? Everyone else in the world thinks that what you do and how you act and how you feel is weird. It’s crazy, they’d say. But you know it’s not. You know why you act so strange. You know why you’re different. You know why you follow Jesus. Because you know the good news—Jesus is your Savior.
Posted on January 28, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged Andrew, Capernaum, Church, Come Follow Me, Galilee, James, Jesus, John, Mark, Mark 1, Peter, Sermons, Zebedee. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.