THE CALL OF (INTO) THE WILD
Mark 1:14-20; John1:29-51
A universal truth that impacts virtually everyone on the planet is that everyone is on a quest for identity, a search for what we’re supposed to be and how we can have that fulfilled. Most of the problems that we encounter in life are a result of when we seek to satisfy the quest for identity by other means apart from those that are God-directed.
That’s what prompted someone to say that, “Christians are like stoplights on a car. They never do anything until you stomp on them real hard, and then they turn red all over.” I don’t believe it. It seems to me that many want to be serious disciples, but they are lost as to what is involved.
This passage is about the beginning of the Galilean ministry and the calling of the first disciples. As we look at this time of beginnings, we are going to observe Mark’s comments, and we are going to include John’s as well. It’s interesting to look at the differences between the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, who based their accounts of Jesus life on a timeline basis, and John, who didn’t follow a timeline or always include the same items in His account.
Mark chose to include the call of disciples as the first act of Jesus mission following the Wilderness Temptation. John excludes the wilderness experience and directly proceeds to the separation of followers among men who would participate in Jesus mission. This shows us John’s great emphasis on relationship when it comes to Kingdom matters. Stuart Briscoe says that disciples in the ancient world were made in several ways. Teachers made disciples by way of protest, procedure, and principles. Jesus made disciples by personally calling them away from their life tasks. Briscoe says, “The test of one’s discipleship is the depth of one’s relationship.”
In order for us to probe the depths of the relationships that were forming, let’s look to the calling of the four fishermen. In this story we see three different descriptions of discipleship. Genuine following of Christ means:
1) CONNECTING TO THE PERSON
2) CONNECTING TO HIS WILL
3) CONNECTING TO HIS MISSION
1) CONNECTING TO THE PERSON
The disciples were able to literally connect in to the person Jesus. To “come after and come and see” what Jesus was doing and go wherever He was going was a literal reality. Two sets of brothers follow immediately. Both were fishermen. The use of the clever association of fishermen becoming fishers of men has a deeper meaning than just a play on words. In the Old Testament, judgment was often depicted with word pictures that showed God fishing by both hooks and nets, The Lord God has sworn by His holiness: “Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks (Amos 4:2)… “Behold, I will send for many fishermen,” says the Lord, “and they shall fish them… (Jeremiah 16:16)… Why do You make men like fish of the sea…? 15 They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet… 16 Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; because by them their share is sumptuous and their food plentiful.17 Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity? (Habakkuk 1:14-17, The Prophet is questioning God)… But I will put hooks in your jaws, and cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, and all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales. 5 I will leave you in the wilderness, you and all the fish of your rivers; you shall fall on the open field; you shall not be picked up or gathered. I have given you as food to the beasts of the field and to the birds of the heavens (Ezekiel 29:4-5)… I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords (Ezekiel 38:4). That isn’t a pretty picture.
1:17-18The call of Jesus is a call to rescue men from impending judgment
The in breaking of the Kingdom of God brings blessings, but there is always the darker note of judgment that will be applied to those who refuse the call to follow Jesus, which brings us back to the act of following, doing and telling others about the good news. Part of becoming a disciple is participating in the work of Jesus judgment, which is a judgment that issues salvation to those who believe. As we follow, we become aligned with heaven. The real purpose of discipleship is spiritual alignment. We become aligned properly we can begin to learn how to give away what we have acquired. True Kingdom living means we become like Jesus and that means that we need to start giving away our gifts.
John 1:35-51 Four Days that will live in eternity
Much like an Olympic runner during the opening ceremonies, John is passing the torch to Jesus.
This is the point where for all intents and purposes, John’s ministry ends and Jesus begins. Mark’s assertion that the Kingdom is being preached alludes to the content of all Jesus preached, which can be summed up in two words: good news! Why is it good news? Because God is both the source (subjective genitive) and object (objective genitive) of this news, that’s why. This is a message from God and it is about God. It is a Kingdom revelation. This message isn’t about a physical realm; it’s about the introduction of a new level of rule and reign that transcends borders, as God interacts with men and releases to men the Kingdom.
John served as a witness to the One who would come. When the Jerusalem entourage came, his testimony was that he wasn’t the Messiah, nor was he Elijah or the Prophet. John said that he was simply a voice who baptized in water and who was not worthy to take off the sandals of He who was to come.
John’s statement to the crowd was telling. He told them that Jesus is the Lamb of God, that Jesus is the One who would baptize (inundate) them with Holy Spirit and that Jesus is the Son of God. John also testified that he was an eyewitness to the Spirit descending like a dove upon Jesus, and that he was waiting for this sign. The great witness is beginning to release his followers to follow Jesus (1:37). One of these two would go and get a major figure in the origin of the church, Andrew’s brother Simon Peter.
Jesus was being recognized as a teacher, and as Messiah, although it would take time for this truth to actually be embraced without doubt. The first challenge of come and see, would give way to the second reality that was based on the challenge, to see is to believe. The process where faith came to these men over a four day period looked like this: they went from hearing to seeing, from seeing to believing. On day #1, there was just the word of the witness. Day #2 saw Jesus appearing, but the witness was still the point of prominence. Day #3 shows us the witness diminishing and Jesus increasing, as Jesus receives followers of John. Day #4 witnesses the new followers of Jesus reporting their findings to other people, and then the ‘others’ entering into the new revelation.
This is what the disciples would both observe and learn as they responded to the call into the wild. They learned the reason for the gifts and how they manifest among men. The gifts of the Kingdom are demonstrated in two primary spheres, words and works. The teaching component of words about the Word is important, as they open us up to understanding. Jesus was a master at using parables to convey truth. Parables are just stories that say this like that, in order make big concepts easier to understand. They are stories that are taken out of the cultural context of the people you want to communicate with. Works are living parables.
1:18 And immediately they followed Him…
There was an instantaneous response on the part of the called. Jesus calls whomever He wants to in the deeper aspects of Kingdom management, however, when He calls, it becomes our responsibility to respond in kind. Service in the team does not give acknowledgement to your station in life or your personal background. These are irrelevant to service.
So the call to discipleship is a call to become enrolled in the Jesus School of Supernatural Ministry. In Christianity it is not enough to agree with the teachings of Jesus; you must fall in love with the teacher himself and then demonstrate that love. It would be hard to imagine doing this without a genuine commitment to reading the Gospels, as they record for us what Jesus both did and then commissioned us to do as His disciples. Jesus taught His followers at times,
None of us have sufficiency in ourselves. Anyone who supposes they do is suffering under a real delusion of pride. All the resources of the flesh ultimately fade. The strongest thing that ever happens is when you recognize your weakness and come to Jesus as a source of strength. We need to express our confidence in Jesus when we become afraid, threatened, intimidated, overwhelmed or driven by circumstances. As we grow in Him, we learn to grow through problems rather than run from them. The foundation upon which the solution for life’s dilemmas can be laid is the Person of Jesus.
2) CONNECTING TO HIS WILL
Jesus calls these men out of the ordinary into the extraordinary. They were called while living ordinary lives. This is an important principle, as it shows us that God doesn’t operate in a void
God’s Kingdom assumes and assimilates people, people who are subject to His rule, making His reign a reality among men. Kingdom is all about community
1:19-20 The cost of following is undergirded through what the men left behind
They walked away from their boats (plural), which implies that they left their successful businesses. The level of discipleship that these eventual world changers would enter into led them on a journey that didn’t always have set boundaries or permanent addresses.
Immediate function of the called: accompanying Jesus as witnesses to the nearness of the Kingdom of God and the necessity for people to turn to God through radical repentance.
Discipleship’s request is submission to the call for decisive action. Note: forsaking must always precede the action of following. We cannot follow until we are willing to forsake our own plans and wishes in this life. These men left their families for the family of God. For Peter, Andrew, James, and John this meant a vocational shift of significant proportions. Perhaps it meant that father Zebedee had to look elsewhere for heirs to his business. For us it can means yielding even our career choices (James 4:13-17). This doesn’t mean that everyone who responds to the call of Christ for salvation and service must enter into vocational labor for Christ, but it does mean that we are willing to if that is what He wants.
In Christianity, the first prerequisite to discipleship is to deny self. This is the only road to Christian joy. From Jesus’ point of view letting God rule our lives is a wonderful thing something on the order of a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl merchant on search for fine pearls (Matthew 13:44-46), but surrendering our will is hard. I know of nothing more personally challenging as surrendering my will. The number one hit in the Garden of Eden was, “I Did It My Way.” We selfishly cling to that which will kill us. But this path leads only to death, and many there are that find it. We should take great joy at prospect of the government of God. “I did it my way” must yield to “sweet will of God.”
3) CONNECTING TO HIS MISSION
1:14-15 Discipleship: Confrontational in Nature
Now that the preaching began, the call to men had to happen. This call is the call to become shareholders or franchise owners of the ideals of the Kingdom, in the same way that people purchase the right to own franchises today like McDonald’s, or any other franchised business. These disciples are going to become the inheritors of the results of the wilderness battle: the fullness of the Spirit that was given to Jesus becomes the power of the Spirit through the process of testing. These men will be tested repeatedly over a 3 year period and at the end of the testing, they will receive the power that would be needed to accomplish the purposes Jesus had for them.
Jesus was a “people’s person”
Jesus was uniquely welcomed by the people but it was not because of any showmanship on His part (Luke 15). The principle thing that attracted people to Jesus was the completeness in Himself. In His Person, the eternal fullness and glory of God is seen. There was an intuitive awareness that He answers to everything we’re not. Every situation that He was present in was lifted by His presence; healing took place and life flowed. Jesus becomes the fountainhead of every basic need that we have and it is His desire that no one face the prospect of perishing because of being separated from Him.
For us it means that we need to emotionally own the world that God loves. I love how Bill Johnson says that we owe the world an encounter with Jesus. To embrace this mindset would affect our prayers, our giving, our time, and the total stewardship of our lives. In Christianity there is one word for all of this: GO! God calls us to Himself so that He can send us out. The God of the Bible is a pilgrim God who is always on the move.
The Call of the Wild demands total commitment. The disciples struggled with this as we will. But we can work at becoming totally committed. Therein lays the adventure. Attachment, surrender, and acceptance, and connecting, these are the keys. Because Jesus dwells within through Holy Spirit, there’s an availability of His life in you to nourish others. Out of that resource there comes to be something of a resource in you that makes you a “people person” too.