Weekly Bible Devotional
“Come, Follow Me: Following”
January 16, 2022
Prayer by Walter Brueggemann:
Your word is a light to our feet and a lamp to our path.
Your word is a glue of the universe wherein the whole creation coheres.
Your word is the address of promise and command by which we live.
Your word has come fleshed among us full of grace and truth.
We are creatures of your word and we give thanks for it.
For all that we are more dazzled that your word
is carried, uttered, acted
by frail vulnerable human agents.
We ponder and give thanks for those who this day
speak your word where it is desperately need and deeply resisted.
We ponder and give thanks for those who this day
act your word for newness and peace and justice.
We ponder with trepidation that among us
you will yet designate such carriers, such speakers, such actors.
In our thanks for your word,
we pray for courage in the name of the one
who emptied himself. Amen.
Scripture: Mark 1:16-20
16 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. 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.
Notes on the Text:
Although the writer of the Gospel of Mark is anonymous, we know that the author was an early Christian teacher and interpreter of Jesus’ life. The writer is brief and yet descriptive. The earliest readers of this Gospel were facing persecution from Nero’s government and disillusionment after the destruction of the Temple during the Jewish-Roman War around the year 70 CE.
The Gospel of Mark begins with an invitation to join Jesus at the beginning of his movement to spread the Good News of God. It is the good news which the Prophet Isaiah and later John the Baptist proclaimed. The good news is that the reign of God has come near to us in Jesus and we are invited to also become the good news of God in the world. We can imagine, that as the Gospel was read aloud during worship, members of the early church were inspired by the disciples’ amazing faithfulness and reminded that the key to faithful discipleship was following Jesus.
The first disciples were called by Jesus and responded by walking with him for three years and learning from his way of life and of being. We don’t know if they knew Jesus before, but most likely his reputation was known to them. They would have heard the teaching of John the Baptist who prepared the way and when the time was ripe, they said yes themselves.
It was highly unusual for a rabbi to call disciples to follow him as the norm was for the disciples to seek out a rabbi. The Jewish people of Jesus’ day had developed a way of knowing God. Their elementary school experience involved memorizing the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Middle school involved memorizing much of the rest of what we know as the Old Testament. Then, the best and brightest would apply to learn from a rabbi. If the rabbi believed the student could live and share his life, that is, take on his yoke, then the rabbi would invite the student to follow and learn from him. The idea was that the disciple would want to be like the rabbi and not just learn biblical teachings from them. A student not yoked to a rabbi would learn the family business. This is especially interesting because it meant that Jesus selected people who would have been overlooked by other teachers. Jesus selected people who knew all too well the painful realities of the world. They were on the bottom of society in terms of economic status. They were subject to the ruthless taxation system of the Roman Empire. Fishing was also a tough business. It depended on many unpredictable factors. The four who are mentioned in our story today, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, were ordinary people just like us. They knew the goodness of God’s creation, but also its brokenness. The invitation of Jesus captured their imagination that they were able to let go of what they knew in order to follow a new way of life. It is important to remember that on the day they said yes to Jesus, they didn’t fully know what they were getting into. They also didn’t get what the good news of Jesus was all about. They needed to be discipled. They needed each other and needed to walk with Jesus daily to let his love shape them. Even toward the end of Jesus’ life, Simon didn’t fully get discipleship. He denied Jesus three times. After the resurrection, Peter also struggled with accepting the inspiration to extend the good news of Jesus to outsiders, the Gentiles.
As we begin this sermons series about following Jesus, we are invited to respond anew or for the first time to the call of Jesus to live as his disciples. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? The Greek word mathetes is the word that Scripture uses for “disciple,” and it means “learner-follower.” A disciple learns to follow and learns by following.
Following Jesus is not the same thing as believing in him. It is not about memorizing or obeying his words out of sheer will power. The invitation is for a journey with him and his followers so that we may find our way through into a life of grace, service, and love.
“God’s call disrupts the lives of settled people, both in biblical times and now. God sends, then and now, to transform the present world, subject to alien powers, into the world God intends. Discipleship and evangelism are, therefore, not primarily about church membership and recruitment but about an alternative way of being in the world for the sake of the world… Discipleship is no easy church program. It is a summons away from our characteristic safety nets of social support. It entails a resolve to follow a leader who himself has costly habits, in order to engage in disciplines that disentangle us from ways in which we are schooled and stupefied and that introduce new habits that break old vicious cycles among us, drawing us into intimacy with this calling God. Discipleship requires a whole new conversation in a church that has been too long accommodating, at ease in the dominant values of culture that fly in the face of the purposes of God.” Walter Brueggemann