This year our theme has been, “What is Next?” Some people live in the present, and I think that these are, in many ways, the happiest people. Most people, however, wonder about the future. We wonder about the future of our world, of our nation, of our communities, of our families—we wonder most of all about our future. It is natural to ask the question, “What is Next?”
Kathy and I have never been fans of long driving trips. My Dad and Mom were of another generation. I have vivid memories of two week trips from Kansas City to San Francisco and back in a car without air-conditioning! We would go zipping down Route 66, stopping at tourist attraction after tourist attraction: Old Albuquerque, to Sante Fe, to Taos, to the Grand Canyon. (Until one is a parent, it is impossible to understand how irritating it is to be with two constantly fighting little boys in a Chevy station wagon for twelve hours a day!).
Of course, as kids as we got back into the car after each stop, we had two questions, “Where are we going next?” and “How long until we get there?” (All parents get these questions.) Life is a little bit like being on a driving trip. The two questions we most want to have answered are:
- Where are we going?
- How long will it take to get there?
Interestingly, for most of our lives most of us will not always understand the answer to those two questions! From time to time, we have no idea where we are going or how long it’s going to take to get there.
The Bible often uses the metaphor of a journey for life. In the Old Testament, and especially in wisdom literature, the Bible often describes human beings as on one of two paths:
- The Path of Wisdom or Life, which leads to blessings; and
- The Path of Foolishness or Evil, which leads to death.
The Caller who is Jesus Christ.
In the Gospels, the first major activity of Jesus is to call people to go on a journey with him. This morning, we’re reading from the first chapter of Mark, the portion where Jesus calls his first disciples. Listen in this blog to the Word of God as it comes to us through the writing of John Mark:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
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. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him (Mark 1:14-18).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Lord of Life: Come now to call us into your presence. Allow us to hear in the depths of our hearts your voice saying: Come Follow Me. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Almost everyone who reads this passage is struck by a singular fact: the disciples are going about their daily business, trying to make a living when they meet Jesus and immediately go with him. Peter, Andrew, James and John, were fishermen. In Jesus’s day, being a fisherman was a good profession. They made good money fishing.
In addition, James and John were from a prominent family. It’s possible that John’s father had a commission to sell fish to the priests in Jerusalem.  From the passage, we see that John’s father was at least wealthy enough to employ hired men in the family business. As they were fishing and preparing to fish, Jesus walked by. Perhaps he stopped and had a short conversation. We don’t know. What we do know is that Jesus said to them, “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men” and they followed him. The same Jesus who called them calls us to follow him.
The Character of the Caller.
Why were Peter, Andrew James, and John willing to follow Jesus? There must have been something about Jesus that overcame their natural reluctance to leave their business, their family, their responsibilities, and follow Jesus. They must have seen something in Jesus that they desired.
We know from the Bible that not everyone followed Jesus. The Scribes saw nothing special in Jesus. The Pharisees saw nothing special in Jesus. The Sadducees saw nothing special in Jesus. The Priests saw nothing special in Jesus. In fact, most people saw nothing special in Jesus. What did the disciples see?
In the Old Testament, wisdom is often pictured as a woman urging the human race to leave the path of foolishness and follow the path of life. In the New Testament, John begins his Gospel with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:1-13).
In other words, what Peter, Andrew, James, and John saw in Jesus was the very wisdom and power of God in human form.
John wrote his gospel as an old man. I don’t think that these words from the beginning of his Gospel sprang into John’s mind the first time he saw Jesus. However, I think he did see that there was something special about this man. In Matthew, Jesus compares himself to Solomon, saying that “one greater than Solomon” is present in Jesus (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). Paul says in First Corinthians that Jesus is the very wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:24).
I think Peter, Andrew James, and John saw some glimmer of the majesty and wisdom of God in Jesus. They saw something of the love of God in Jesus. This is important for us. We will not follow Jesus unless we see something different in Jesus, something that we long for in the depths of our hearts. We will not follow Jesus unless we sense that we cannot find what we are looking for, we cannot arrive at the destination in life we are seeking, unless we follow him.
The Way of the Caller.
Jesus does not come to Peter, Andrew, James, and John asking them to come to his seminary, attended Sunday school class, participating his Bible study, or be in his school for living. He says, “Come and follow me.” There is nothing more important in the Christian life than hearing Jesus say to us, “Come and follow me.” More than anything else, Jesus was calling the disciples (and us) into a personal, one-on-one, three-on-one, twelve-on-one relationship.
As I mentioned a moment ago, in the Old Testament the way of wisdom was often called the “Path of Life.” Interestingly, one of the first names for Christians was “the People of the Way” (Acts 9:2). In Hebrews, the author writes to Jewish Christians that, “We enter through a new way that Jesus opened for us. It’s a living way that leads through the curtain—Jesus’ body” (Hebrews 10:20, Easy to Read English Version [emphasis added]).
There is a lot packed in to that single sentence! A path is something we follow to get somewhere. In Jesus, we have a new path to God and to abundant, eternal, life. We have a new way to fellowship with God and a new way of living. This new way is not about forcing ourselves to obey the law. It’s not about a kind of works righteousness. That was the old way.
The way of Jesus, the new way, is a living way. It is a new path to wholeness and fellowship with God. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, and the sacrifice he made for us, we can have a close, personal, daily relationship with God and walk on the Path of Life with God in Christ.
So often, we contemporary American Christians think of discipleship as attending a Bible study, memorizing some Bible verses, being involved in some church program, or some other activity. Jesus wants us to be involved in some of these things; however, the call is to be in a personal one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three (you get the idea!) relationship with Jesus as we walk together with Jesus and our fellow disciples day by day.
The Power of the Caller.
Our power for living and walking with Jesus will not come from ourselves, but from Jesus. The call to follow Jesus is a call to follow Jesus into a completely new way of life. When Peter, Andrew, James, and John heard Jesus say, “Follow me,” they probably thought they were going to follow Jesus in accordance with the laws and the prophets. Jesus went out of his way to tell them (and us) that his way is externally no different than the way of the law and the prophets. He did not come to change the law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). His way is a New Way because it is a way of living from a center inside of God’s presence and power and of being gradually changed by the power of God’s love. In fact, when the disciples tried to walk with Jesus on their own power, they failed. For example, when Peter try to walk on water without Jesus, on his own power, he sank (Matthew 14:28-29).
Perhaps my favorite Bible verse is Second Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. Behold: The old has gone. The new has come.” In this verse, Paul, filled with excitement about the Gospel and in its power tells us that, if we are in Christ, the power of God will make of us a new creation. The old person with all of its failures, weaknesses, false selves, and sinfulness will go away. Instead of the old person, a new person will grow up in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Most of us (all of us) have hopes and dreams. If we are honest, we know in the depths of our hearts that we desire to be something that we are not. We hope to achieve a better character than the character we have. We hope to be more humble, more loving, more peaceful, more merciful, more courageous, than we are. Yet, most of us understand that, in reality, we are not going to change—we are not going to become better people—we are not going to arrive at the place we hoped to arrive—on our own power. We need the power of God.
As I mentioned earlier, I have lots of memories of cross-country car trips through the Great American Desert without air conditioning. If we had tried to walk those trips on our own power our family would never have made it. We would have died of thirst in the Great American Desert, as many pioneers did in the 19th Century. It is only because we were driving a car, and the car was powered with gasoline, that we made it to our destination. In just the very same way, we cannot reach the kingdom of God our own power. We need the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Christ, the power of God to reach our destination.
The Gifts of the Caller.
For the next several weeks, we are going to be talking about various gifts that we receive from the Holy Spirit. We are going to learn more about who the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit does, how the Holy Spirit operates, and how we can receive the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit. These gifts of the Spirit are the presence of the wisdom and love of God working in our lives in a new and powerful way.
A few weeks ago, we talked about prayers of thanksgiving. I mentioned that, for the next several weeks, we are going to spend a lot of time in First Corinthians. In First Corinthians, Paul gives the following teaching:
For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:5-7).
In this passage, Paul praises the Corinthians for all the gifts they have received from God, and for the next few weeks we are going to talking about the gifts we receive by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Kathy loves to travel. I’m not as big a traveler, but I like to travel too. One of the things that we enjoy about traveling is the change it makes in your life. When you visit new places and see new things, you become a new person. As we travel, Kathy normally purchases gifts for our children, so that they can also be enriched by the journey we’ve taken. Sometimes, we buy gifts for friends, family members, coworkers, and others. Why? So that they can enjoy the journey as much as we did.
Jesus is here this morning asking each one of us to follow him. He’s not telling us exactly what we going to be doing or where were going to be going. He didn’t tell the disciples that, either. We can hear his call and, like many of his contemporaries, go about our business, rejecting him. Or, like disciples, we can look at his eyes and into the soul of the one revealed to us in the Gospels, see the very wisdom and power of God, and follow him. If we do, he promises we will not lack anything, for we will be filled with the presence of his Spirit and the power of love and wisdom the Spirit brings.
Copyright 2016, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 See, John 18:15-16. In the Gospel of John, it appears that John was familiar with the household of the High Priest, as if he and his family had some familiarity with the home and its inhabitants. Some scholars speculate that John was from a prominent family and had delivered fish to the High Priest’s home. We cannot know for sure.