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 1:16-20
Three cheers for Simon, Andrew, James and John! Jesus passed by, called to them, and they left everything and followed Jesus. Well done! The complete model of faithful response. Right?
Yes… and no. Certainly the four individuals cited in this verse offer a paradigm on responding to the call of Jesus. However, if we present their decision as somehow fully accomplished and thus concluded, we are guilty of not fully understanding the nature of disciples. Certainly the decision to follow Jesus is paramount. Yet, it marks a beginning, not an ending. Here I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous words following the British victory at El Alamein, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps the end of the beginning.”
Especially in the Gospel of Mark, which highlights the lack of understanding of the disciples (as Dr. Efird would say, Mark emphasizes the “duh” in disciples), the decision to follow Jesus leads to a lifelong growth in understanding. Throughout Mark, the disciples have their assumptions and expectations shattered, leading to new revelations of God, self and world. Discipleship isn’t so much an event as it is a way of life.
In some sense, we know this. Such sentiments are bound to arise during a Confirmation service. Saying “Yes” to Jesus is just the beginning of a lifelong journey. The distinctive Wesleyan emphasis on sanctification allows us to voice the ongoing process of grace in theological language. While this may not be the central focus of this passage, it seems worth noting, lest we unintentionally suggest that following Jesus is an end, and not a new beginning. How we tell the story affects the way it is appropriated.
There always is the temptation to settle down on the journey of discipleship. Achievements in faithfulness or understanding can lead to a satisfaction that belies future growth. It can happen both to the people in the pews and to the people in the pulpits. Being a disciple means being on the move, going ever deeper into the love of God and ever further into our God-given potential.
It is a given that our reflection on scripture is seen through the lens of circumstance. As I write this on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, with racism swirling in our culture, I cannot help but think the way the dominant culture has shared the story of Civil Rights has crippled the actual movement towards true justice and equity. When the Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Act, along with selective metrics are presented as ends, then it appears the work is done. However significant these victories may have seemed, they were simply waypoints along a much longer path.
I am thankful that you have said “yes” to Christ’s call to discipleship. I pray that you continue along the journey and discover more fully the Kingdom of God that already is at hand.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/