The Consequences of Following Jesus

3rd Sunday after Epiphany
January 21, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Consequences of Following Jesus

Mark 1:14–20 (NIV84)
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Dear friends in Christ,

God called him to follow but he did not want to follow. Instead of making the long walk inland, Jonah went to the coast, boarded a ship and tried to go as far as he could from following God’s command. Jonah did not want want to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. And it was not because he was afraid of the people. Instead, he was afraid that they would repent and that God would forgive them. He did not follow God because he did not want those people to be forgiven. So he tried to run away.

The reaction of the four men in the gospel reading today is completely different. Peter, Andrew, James and John are in boats already. Jesus calls them to leave their boats and follow him. Instead of running away, they drop everything and follow Jesus. These men had reason to fear for their safety when following Jesus. John the Baptist was recently arrested and he was the one who pointed Jesus out to Andrew and John. There would be consequences for following Jesus. History tells us that Peter, Andrew and James were executed for following Jesus. Yet, they left everything to share in the Savior’s work.

The consequences of following Jesus for us may not be to the point of death as with most of the first disciples, but there are still consequences. We leave behind and turn away from sin when following Jesus and we share in his work. These are good consequences, but not always easy.

Turn Away from Sin

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus has a specific call to certain men to be his disciples. He calls them to follow and leave their jobs and family behind to follow him. But this call to be his full time disciple was not for everyone. First Jesus preached to all people, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” To follow Jesus we repent and believe the good news.

Repentance is turning away from sin. It means to hate what God calls sin and to love what God calls good. As believers in the good news of Christ, we want to follow Jesus in this call to repentance. We have been washed and cleansed of sin in our baptism. We have heard the words of absolution from a pastor too many times to count. We have received forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper again and again. Do we still need to heed this call to follow Jesus by repenting and believing the gospel? All the time.

Our sinful nature does not stop dragging us into sin and rebellion against the Lord. Our sinful self is like Jonah, trying to run as far from God as possible. As believers, we are tempted to compartmentalize our lives. We live our Christian lives, following the Lord Jesus in many areas of life. However, the sinful self would like to carve out a place in our lives to fully express itself. It may be with friends, coworkers or classmates when we take pleasure in hearing and sharing the latest gossip or stories that glorify sin. We know we should not be listening or enjoying the conversation but don’t we deserve a little sinful pleasure once in a while? The sinful self may lure us to places on the internet where we should not be and convince us that we are hurting anyone. Why not allow the sinful nature one place to operate freely? Our sinful self tries to convince us that we can’t control our language or our anger so we have to let it out sometime. We can’t control every sinful thought or desire and so we might as well let a few linger in our minds and hearts. The sinful self wants a part of our lives. But it will not be satisfied with part. It wants to take us as far from Jesus as possible so the sinful self can freely operate in every part of our lives. The devil and our sinful flesh would rather suffer eternal death in hell than follow Jesus.

Jesus says, “Repent.” Turn from sin. There are no conditions or limitations in this call to repent. We are not to turn from only certain sins. We are not to just control the sinful nature in certain places at certain times. Jesus calls on us to repent all the time of every sin. To follow Jesus is to hate those secret sins, to turn from those compartmentalized sins, to live a life of repentance. It also and especially means to believe the good news.

The good news is that the kingdom of God is near. The kingdom of God was right in front of the four fishermen in the gospel today. Jesus was standing in front of them. He is the one to accomplish the work of God’s kingdom, that is, forgiving the sin of the world and bringing people into God’s kingdom by faith. Believe in Jesus because he took your hidden, secret, compartmentalized sins to the cross. Our sinful anger, desires, immorality, gossip and greed were paid in full by Christ’s sacrifice. Like Jonah, we should be drowned in the depths of the sea. But God rescued Jonah and he has rescued us through Christ. Instead of drowning us, our sins were cast into the depths of the seas. Our sins were washed away in the water and Word of baptism. We are truly free. Not to let our sinful nature operate as it wishes, but free to follow Jesus and share in his work.

Share in the Savior’s Work

Christ called these four fishermen to a new, but related line of work.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

As mentioned earlier, this is a specific call to these four men to follow Jesus. Zebedee was not called to leave his fishing business behind. The hired men were not called to leave their work either. Peter, Andrew, James and John were specifically called by Jesus to follow him as full time disciples. This was not the first time they met Jesus. They already believed that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John the Baptist told them this. But now Jesus calls them to follow completely and learn from him so that they can catch people and not fish.

The Holy Spirit enabled them to drop their nets and follow Jesus. These men seemed to enjoy their work as fishermen. They did not leave to follow Jesus because they hated their current work and couldn’t wait to follow a teacher who would be spoken against, hated and eventually arrested and crucified. No, they liked their work. In fact, after Jesus rose from the dead, they didn’t know what to do next. So they went back to fishing. Jesus came to them again at that time and strengthened them to be his witnesses in the world. They would be fishers of men. But instead of catching people, they would really be freeing sinners from sin through the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Jesus has not called on you specifically to leave your work or your family. But he does call us to share in the work of the kingdom. He has called us to be full time Christian witnesses in this world. You can share in his wonderful work and still be a full time employee. You can be a fisher of men and still be a full time parent. You can share in Jesus’ work in every situation in life. A Christian snow plow driver follows Jesus by plowing the roads safely and quickly to keep others safe. Plowing cross patterns into the snow on the interstate is not following Christ any more than doing the job well. Take care of your children as if you were Mary raising Jesus. Treat your parents as if they are the Savior. Serve your employer like you would serve Jesus. Be an example of a Christian life for your grandchildren, nephews and nieces.

And while we follow Jesus by living our Christian lives in every situation, look for ways to specifically bring the kingdom of God near to others. It may be a conversation with a friend who is hurting. Christ bore our suffering and sorrows and gives us hope for eternal life. In your family, openly discuss Jesus and his Word. All parents are missionaries for their children. Invite someone to church with you. Use the time God gives you to pray for God’s kingdom of grace to come to more and more people.

Following Jesus will have consequences in our lives. We live each day in repentance, turning from our sins. We live each day in forgiveness, following our Savior gladly. There may be some unpleasant consequences too. People may ridicule or hate us for following Jesus and his Word in everything. The disciples experienced this hatred to the point of physical persecution and death. But they would not turn away from their Savior. They followed him because he did all the work of saving them. Christ did not turn back from the suffering and pain of the cross. He suffered all the punishment for our sins to bring us into the kingdom of God now and forever. Christ did everything. We gladly follow.

Amen.


 

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