Posted on Sun, Jan 25, 2015
January 25, 2015
3rd Sunday in Epiphany
Gospel text: Mark 1:14–20 ”Can You HEAR Him?”
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
I love the book of Mark because the Gospel story moves so fast. However, Mark doesn't fill his book with long explanations of why Jesus said this, did that, or why he went to certain places. He assumes the reader understands the customs of the day and the proper ways people treated each other and respected the different levels of stature in society. But that means for us living in 2015, and NOT understanding the what, where, who and why’s, there may appear to many holes that only a somewhat Bible-literate imagination can fill in. Which allows my imagination to have some fun!
At the time John is arrested in Jerusalem, Jesus is way of north in Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ The area around the Sea of Galilee is fairly small, and I can only imagine the coconut telegraph moved pretty fast in those days when the news of the new rabbi had come to town. If you had a boat, which Zebedee and his boys had, getting from town to town was not so difficult.
There is a good chance that Zebedee or one of his boys heard about this new rabbi Jesus and they went to hear this new rabbi and his amazing message. Or, they may have heard something amazing from an enthusiastic neighbor… And if they did hear Jesus directly, or from a friend, I wonder what they heard! If they had taken the time to hear this new rabbi, surely as they were fishing, or repairing their nets, they would have spent time discussing what they heard… that is what people do when they fish. That is purely my imagination speaking, but according to what Mark only tells us in his Gospel, it appears that Jesus suddenly appears out of nowhere and approaches Zebedee and his boys fishing when he calls them to follow him and tells then he will make them ‘fishers of people.’ And for some reason, not recorded in Mark, they suddenly, or IMMEDIATELY, leave their father, their jobs and responsibilities to their village to follow Jesus leaving Zebedee holding the net… Pardon me, but that is not normal…
In those days, you did not just leave your father or village suddenly unless you were kicked out of the family or dragged away by Roman soldiers; you had a responsibility to their family and their village. Did Zebedee give them permission after listening to Jesus and being convinced of Jesus’ message? What did Zebedee hear in Jesus’ message and calling that seemed to allow him to let his boys follow Jesus? What was he expecting after he saw Jesus and his boys leave the village?
Or, maybe it happened just as it is written. If that is so, what did they hear in Jesus’ calling that made them immediately leave everything in order to follow Jesus??
What do we hear when the Gospel is proclaimed? Do we hear anything? Do we have the courage to listen to the Gospel with our whole hearts? Do we even feel or recognize the need to hear the message Jesus gave his life to fulfill? Do we have ears of faith, and hearts that believe? I know there are some of us who can’t wait to hear that we are forgiven and to receive the Holy Supper. What do we EXPECT TO HEAR in the Gospel before we get to worship? I know that if I miss a Sunday, there is a huge hole in my heart all week long until I am with you all to worship and hear that we have been forgiven!
First of all, what exactly did Jesus proclaim that seemed to convince these young fishermen to leave their family, village and responsibilities? The message was, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
The message is:
I want to explore that last point. If we allow ourselves to hear the Call of Jesus, we can never have any expectations on where Jesus will lead us. Believe me, God has bigger plans for us than any expectation we may conjure up! Do you think Simon, Andrew and John had any clue as to where, or for what purpose Jesus had called them? The best we can imagine is that they were convinced that a new and charismatic rabbi was calling them, and they had a chance to get an education and end up maybe in Jerusalem… with a steady job… maybe in the temple. But again, I am just speculating.
Jesus real purpose was not only to teach them, but also to show them that the Kingdom of God was surely at hand and that through Jesus death and resurrection, God will fulfill the promise of salvation. They weren’t being called by Jesus to proclaim a message about a great teacher and rabbi. There are tons of teachers, mystics and the like. Jesus was calling them so that someday they would be able to proclaim Jesus CRUCIFIED and RISEN for the forgiveness of sins as the Messiah to Israel and the Savior to the Gentiles. Their journey would have to pass through the darkness of the cross and the light of Easter morning.
Jonah is a great book, but the prophet Jonah leaves something to be desired. Jonah had ears, and as a prophet he knew when God was calling him; but he was afraid because of what he “expected to happen” after he responded to God’s call. Therefore, when God called him to go to Nineveh, he ran in the completely opposite direction. After his encounter with the fish, he eventually did arrive in Nineveh, and he obediently prophesied as God had ordered him to, he said, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
Listen to his message, there is no Gospel, just pure warning… and Jonah was expecting, hellfire and brimstone! But just the opposite of his expectations, the people listened to Jonah’s warning, and they repented… They changed their ways and returned to God, and God CHANGED GOD’S MIND!
But Jonah was all in a tizzy because he expected punishment and death to those “sinful” Ninevites! He traveled all this way, gotten eaten by a fish, spat out and had to walk all this way… he wanted to see a Shock and Awe type Light Show! But God, upon seeing the people repent, was faithful, changed God’s plans AND WAS MERCIFUL TO NINEVEH. It is okay for God to change His/Her own mind… God did and does it all the time; recall Abraham and Isaac… But Jonah couldn't accept the fact that the message he was called to proclaim was GOD’S MESSAGE, not his. Just like the disciples after the great commission, the message isn’t about them; it is about what God has done and will do! Jonah was called to do God’s Work, not his own, but sometimes ego’s get in the way.
With all the noise, unreasonable expectations, social pressures, personal hopes and dreams, are we able to hear God’s Call to us? And if we can detect a ‘Still Small Voice,’ would we allow our faith to cling on to God’s message causing us to let go of our expectations and follow Jesus where he leads?
God has created you for a purpose. God has formed this church for a purpose. Can we take quiet time and prayer in order to discern our calling to be God’s Servants here in East Honolulu? For the churches in Hong Kong, before the church is built, the people through prayer, discern or determine first what is their Call to Service would be in the area; I.e., they would ask themselves, what are the needs of the people in their neighborhood and how can they serve those needs first? And then, after their purpose is established and a service program is UP AND RUNNING, only then the thinking and planning a sanctuary building can actually begin. I think as a congregation we have been responsive to the needs of the people of our island through our feed bank, school, music and worship programs… but we must be always open to unexpected changes God may have in store for us.
But do not be afraid, God is faithful, and even Jonah, after he learned that the message wasn't about him, but belonged to God, even Jonah came around to God’s ways.
God’s message of mercy, forgiveness and faithfulness is not our message, it is not my message; it is God’s message given to us for the sake of the world. With all the noise and distractions, can we allow our heart to listen for God’s Call and faithfully follow? God is faithful, and God’s plan is way beyond our expectations. Believe me, that is the story of my life! Amen.
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