A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on January 25, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Come, Follow Me!
Mark 1:14-20
A very popular book and movie right now is American Sniper. It’s a true story about all the training and sacrifices an American soldier goes through as he served our country and saved maybe 1000s of American lives by the enemy soldiers he killed. If you see that movie sometime, ask yourself, could you do what the character in that movie does? Would you be willing to let yourself be a high-risk target for the sake of others? This morning Jesus is recruiting us to His army. The training and hard work at times will push us beyond our limits, and there will be sacrifices. But unlike the American sniper, whose job it was to kill enemy soldiers, our job is to save lives for all eternity. And so, in our text Jesus calls us and builds us up to Follow Him. 1. Following Jesus requires unconditional commitment. 2. Following Jesus guarantees unimaginable compensation.

1. Following Jesus requires unconditional commitment.

We read in our text: 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.” – Mark 1:14-17                                                                                                                                                                                         This wasn’t the first time Simon and Andrew had met Jesus. They had been disciples or learners of John the Baptist, but two things happened to change that. John told them that Jesus was the promised Savior, and then they spent half a day talking with Jesus privately. Shortly after that, John was arrested. King Herod had his brother’s wife and daughter move in with him. John told everyone this was adultery. Herod didn’t like that being said about him, so he threw John into prison.

In some ways this made Simon and Andrew unlikely candidates for following Jesus. If Jesus couldn’t protect His own forerunner and cousin, who’s to say the same thing wasn’t happen to Jesus and then to them, if they followed Him? Nevertheless here’s what Simon and Andrew did: At once they left their nets and followed him. – Mark 1:18

We might think that giving up a wooden boat and some nets was no big deal. In those days, even if you made everything yourself, a boat and nets was a serious investment in time and money to just walk away from. Also, this was their source of income, and Simon was married. Later on Jesus and his disciples would often camp out at Simon’s mother-in-law’s house. When they were gone, who was going to support Simon’s family? Simon would have to trust Jesus to somehow work things out, because Jesus was calling him to follow Him.

Jesus is also calling us! Most times this doesn’t mean leaving behind our homes and careers and going on mission trips to exotic places. Jesus is most concerned about our hearts. And what shows our commitment to Him isn’t necessarily in the showy things. It’s the little things. Children show they love Jesus by obeying their parents and doing their homework to the best of their ability. Or, parents show they love Jesus by sacrificing some of the fun things adults like doing, so they can spend more time with their children, and especially pray with them and read God’s Word to them. And singles show they love Jesus by their helping others and serving their community.
But why should we be so committed to Jesus? Because Jesus is committed to us! In fact, He gave up His glories in heaven, so He could live here with us as our brother. During that whole time, He never had a “what’s in it for me attitude?” Also, He saw all those times when we would have that attitude, or when we would hold back in helping someone, because we were afraid to trust God to take care of us. Jesus foresaw all those times, and it sadden Him, because there’s one word for all of it – sin!

Still, Jesus didn’t want to leave us in our sins, for He knows that sin enslaves, and it hardens a person’s heart. And ultimately sin separates a person from God forever. For this reason, Jesus did what we could not do. He loved perfectly. He obeyed all of God’s law perfectly. And then having suffered God’s wrath over our sins for us, He now offers us His perfection. In our text he told everyone to repent and believe the good news. In other words Jesus is saying, “Stop thinking sin is your friend! Stop thinking that you can handle your guilt on your own! And trust in all that I have done for you!”

But what does it take to really repent and believe the good news, and not just go through the motions? It takes listening to God’s Word, because that’s how God Himself enables us to repent and believe. This being the case, repenting and believing requires putting His word above what other people think about us, or above all the things we could be enjoying if we delayed hearing His Word. But what if that’s what we’ve been doing in the past? Or, what if we haven’t been unconditionally doing what the Word says? In various ways at various times we have all been guilty of that. But today Jesus is calling to us, “Follow Me!”

So, do you like yourself? Do you feel gifted enough and strong enough and dedicated enough to follow Jesus unconditionally? If you don’t, that’s maybe a good thing, or it’s at least an honest thing. On the other hand following Jesus changes us! We see that with Simon. According to Luke’s account of our text, this is when Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Peter means “rock.” Now, sometimes Peter did start acting like a rock. When Jesus asked His disciples, whom do people say that I am, Peter boldly stood up and spoke for all the disciples, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” At other times Peter acted more like sand. He denied knowing Jesus three times. Later he would cave into pressure again and deny the power of the Gospel, because others were, and then Paul had to publicly rebuke Peter. Eventually Peter did grow up on his faith. Toward the end of his life he encouraged everyone: And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. – II Peter 1:19 Here’s my point. Jesus name Simon the rock, but he had to grow in faith in order to live up to what he was – a rock. In the same way, through our baptism Jesus calls us children of God. But we all need to grow in faith in order to live up to what we are – children of God.

For example children of God keep themselves separate from sin like Jesus, our brother, is. Or, children of God are humble like Jesus, and they love and forgive one another like Jesus did. However, when we aren’t following Jesus in these ways, because we still got more growing up to do, then let’s follow Jesus by believing that He hasn’t given up on us, and that whatever consequences He lets us suffer because of our sins and failures, it’s because He HAS forgiven us and he’s working through those things to help live up to what we are. All the more then, let’s follow Jesus in every area of our life with unconditional commitment.
Actually everything I said so far is just part of our regular ongoing training in God’s army. And now let’s talk about our mission in God’s army. Our mission is the same as Jesus’ was, when He was here. He told people to repent and believe the good news, and that He is the only way to the Father. But what if people today don’t want to hear this? What if our saying these things is even risky to our relationship with someone? Jesus is calling us to speak the truth anyway, just like John the Baptist did to Herod. However, this doesn’t mean being obnoxious or getting in people’s face. It’s means letting our words be seasoned with Jesus’ love for them. For us this means praying before we say anything. It also means growing daily in the Word for ourselves. Still, sometimes it might feel like we’re beating our heads against a brick wall. Actually we might be at times, because hearts can be hard, and sometimes the seed of the Word grows slowly, just like in us. Nevertheless, unimaginable compensation awaits those who follow Jesus with unconditional commitment. 

                                                                                   2. Following Jesus guarantees unimaginable compensation.

We read on in our text: 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 1:19-20
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the next three years, for Peter, James and John and the rest. They had unbelievably great camaraderie. They would get to hear Jesus’ teachings and see all His miracles first hand. Toward the end of their internship, they themselves would get to go out two by two and God would use them to “catch” many for Jesus, except their catching wasn’t to keep people and then sell them like fish. Their catching was to rescue people and free for all eternity. Whoever gets to do that for someone, experiences the joy of angels. Also, these disciples would see first hand all the events of Holy Week and Good Friday and Easter.

Is there anything we wouldn’t give up to be in with that little group? However, by the Word we can be in that little group. In fact I would invite all of you to our special Lent services that start on Ash Wednesday, which is on February 18th. However, as we now follow Jesus, He will take us out of our comfort zones, He will stretch our abilities. But like the disciples, He will cause us to see the full truth about life and salvation, so that He can use us too to catch people for eternal life. And then when we as a result get to see the fruits of our labor in the fruits of faith in our children and grandchildren and others, this is the greatest joy this side of heaven.

But this is only the start of our compensation. In the life to come Jesus will introduce us to each person who’s in heaven, because of our witness, our example and our prayers. Now, some of you might be thinking, “The line of people waiting to see me is going to be kind of short.” Don’t think like that, because you don’t know! In that movie American Sniper, the character had only one regret. He wished he could have even more to save more American lives. So it is for us. It’s normal for Christian heroes to feel like they’re not doing enough or accomplishing that much. But rather than look to that, look to Jesus. He is calling us to follow Him with unconditional commitment. Let’s follow Him, then, until we see unimaginable compensation already starting in this life, and forever in the life to come. Amen.


Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net