Following Jesus

The Gospel of Mark, though second in the New Testament order of the things, was the first gospel written. It is also the shortest Gospel. I suppose if you just wanted the quickest look at what happened in the time of Jesus, then Mark would be the one to read.
But you had better be paying attention. Because the Gospel in Mark is told kind of the way I talk, all rapid fire and all. He moves the story quickly – the words “immediately” or “at once” is used over 50 times. He is completely focused on the ministry of Jesus. You won’t learn about Jesus mother, or His childhood, from reading Mark. Mark IS focused on spiritual warfare, he talks about Jesus casting out demons more than any other Gospel.
So, right in Chapter 1, we see in Mark the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as well as the call of His first four followers.
Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” The arrest of John brought on the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Notice that John and Jesus preached the same message – “In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. ”” Matthew‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Matthew was writing specifically to Jews, who always avoided even using the word “Yahweh” out of reverential fear and respect, that’s why he refers to the kingdom of Heaven and not the Kingdom of God, but they are the same thing. Repent of your sins and turn to God, the Kingdom of God is coming. Jesus Himself uses the term “Good News”, referring to the Good News that only He could bring.  

Why was John arrested? Why were John, Jesus and all 12 of His apostles (except John) arrested and executed? For talking about spiritual things? For talking about going to heaven when you die? No, principalities and powers don’t care what happens when you die. All these men ultimately died for preaching the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus is Lord. Their message was threatening to those in power, it is still threatening to those in power. Jesus said “follow me”, Caesar demanded that he be followed.  Jesus tells us to follow Him, He is the way the truth and the life. Our rulers tell us “It’s the economy, stupid.” I’m simplifying, but I hope you get the point.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. Moving right along. The first two disciples, Simon (Peter) and Andrew. Throwing their nets into the water, catching fish. It’s what they did. It’s what their father did, what their grandfathers did. They didn’t choose to be fishermen. No one was holding their hand in kindergarten asking “what do you want to be when you grow up?” You learned what you were going to do, you didn’t choose it.
A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. James and John, sons of Zebedee. Later known as the sons of thunder! Their mother would later ask Jesus to sit them in places of honor next to Himself, she didn’t know what she was asking. Just as they had no idea what Jesus was calling them into. Peter, Andrew, James and John, before there were 12, there were four. Peter, James and John would ultimately be the three that never left Jesus’ side. Together, four fisherman called by a carpenter. Did they have any idea they would change the world. Did they have any idea they were part of something that was about to split history, split time, in two? Call me crazy, but I doubt it.  

So – why did they follow Jesus? Who in the world was He? He called these first four, and without questioning, without thinking, each one “at once” dropped their nets and followed Jesus. This is not 2016 America, where the world that is so big is now so small, where people can earn a good living simply based on moving information without moving anything. When these disciples were called, you didn’t just up and leave your home, your job. How would they eat? How would they support their families?  

Again, why follow Jesus? Because He’s JESUS!! When He calls, you might not understand what you’re being called to, or why. But you GO. All of these men would follow Jesus to His, and their very own, deaths. That was part of the deal. They didn’t know it, we don’t understand it. But when Jesus chooses us, we follow. We don’t know where it will take us, or what it will cost. But it will take us places we never knew, and maybe don’t want to go. It will cost far more than we imagine.
So why do we follow? Because He’s Jesus. 

“Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:14-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John Lewis

25 thoughts on “Following Jesus

  1. Really liked this…very thought provoking…though all of us make a decision to follow Jesus too…or not for some people…but it is not usually as dramatic as it was for the Disciples, we usually aren’t required to leave everything and go with him…of course, I think that the physical presence of Jesus had a lot to do with it…mesmerizing, I’m sure. After all, if we can all get excited about him and we know him through the Holy Spirit and scripture, imagine seeing him in person in front of you! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark is my favorite gospel. That probably seems strange to most folk. But I am most intrigued by Mark’s account. I even wrote my own laymans commentary on it. (It’s not published, don’t look for it.)

    I think it is key that Mark wrote first, but also that he wrote VERY near to the fall of the temple in Jerusalem in 66 (70)AD. We modern, western Christians have no idea how powerful that moment in history was for God’s people! And I think Mark was compelled to compile (probably Peter’s eyewitness accounts and sermons and campfire stories) and present them as a single story in a revolutionary pamphlet designed to place a call on young, Jewish men of about fightin’ age to consider standing with Jesus instead of that doomed temple. I also believe Mark’s original account ended at 16:8 with the troubling conjunction. If I am right, then the whole book ends without a “.” – a period. It is open ended. The call on your life compels the reader/hearer to make a choice. AND I believe the whole document was originally entitled THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST THE SON OF GOD. If the Title calls it “the beginning” then it suggests the document as a whole is not the full account.

    My theory, and I fully recognize it as theory, is that there are troubling parts of Mark’s account that were put there by design. And in fact, I think they were so troubling that later church fathers (Matthew, Luke, and John at least) felt compelled to offer more thorough accounts that increasingly clear up troubling areas in Mark’s account (AMONG OTHER THINGS).

    This is a complex theory, I know. And I am not actually a qualified expert. But neither am I just a novice. I am a life-long student embracing a handful of risky conjectures among scholars who also do not have a clear consensus and making a few assertions which can make logical sense of the data we actually do have. And I do it all with a conservative eye.

    The result: Mark’s little pamphlet is designed to trouble young Jews who otherwise are tempted to go defend the temple from Titus and the Romans. If you study that war in Josephus and other places, you learn of some of the men who rose up and gathered a following in the doomed project of defending that empty temple. We do not know if Mark wrote before or after it’s fall, but very close to it for sure. And all through his fast moving account of Jesus, the identity of this Messiah seems to be in question, at least among the mortal human characters in the story (WHO is this that stops the wind and waves? They thought he was a ghost? He casts out demons by the ruler of demons! etc etc…) God, the voice from heaven clearly knows who he is. The demons he casts out know. But none of his own countrymen do.

    How would Mark convince some of his fellow countrymen to follow this crucified (and risen) Messiah instead of Simon bar Giora or some other revolutionary hotheads? In the climactic scene at 15:39, the centurion (not a defender of the temple, but most likely a Roman soldier – an outsider – watches Jesus die and breath his last as he gazes upon the cross AND THEN HE confesses “This man was the Son of God!”

    Mark seems to be troubling the minds of these would-be temple defenders and making them jealous that such an outsider might have stumbled on that stumbling block of a cross and discovered the truth about Jesus! And if that is so, then any readers would want to abandon that temple and head to Galilee where they too might just see the risen Jesus!

    I think the book still has the effect on us today. We can read over those shoulders and find we too are troubled by God. Do you really want to follow a crucified messiah? REALLY??? Have you actually considered it in the dark of the night when you and God are alone with your thoughts and fears? Mark wants you to wrestle the angel! You just might prevail!

    Well, I have just hijacked your blog with that comment. Sorry.

    Still, I respectfully submit it for your consideration and that of your readers. Mark has more punch than most folks know. And it is easy to run to the other gospels and try to fill in the gaps and so forth. But Mark really has his own voice, his own effect, and it will lead you to that wrestling match with God!



    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks brother, that’s quite a lot to take in. I will be sharing much from Mark, just what I discover from study and reading. I’m planning on writing tomorrow morning on the first miracle recorded in Mark, expelling a demon in the temple. Mark, I believe, has a theme of confrontation between the kingdom of God as seen through Christ, and the kingdom of Satan as seen through out world’s systems and empires. That’s why there is so many instances of demons in Mark. Very interesting, fast moving, direct account indeed…


  3. I would venture to think that the initial followers of Jesus were looking for a purpose in life. Much like us going about our hum drum lives. Jesus had a clear purpose and vision. Most of all he was certain of his calling as the lamb that was to be slain for the sins of all of mankind.. And that’s the only reason I follow Jesus, to find a purpose in lie and because he was certain that he was the son of the Living and Almighty GOD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not so sure of that. They had their purpose – to catch fish!! I think you might be applying modern day thinking anachronistically to a situation where it just doesn’t fit. People during this day weren’t looking for a purpose. They had a purpose – survival. These people didn’t have hours and hours to sit around watching jerry springer and playing call of duty.

      And yes, we follow Jesus not just because He was convinced He was the son of God, but because we are convinced of the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In the nearly 300 year span of time between the Maccabee revolution and that of bar Kochba, “messiahs” were a dime-a-dozen. Literally hundreds of messiahic pretenders rose up, gathered followings, and then died as rebels. Jesus of Nazareth, as far as those terms go, did the same and fell almost in the middle of this time period. The people of Israel were an occupied nation most of that time too, and so were EAGER for God to save them from oppressive pagans and taxes. So eager, in fact, that messiah-ism was practically a cottage industry.

    The problem wasn’t that a guy couldn’t get a following, the problem was that none of these messiahs and their rebellions seemed to actually thwart the pagan empire, save God’s people from oppression, and secure the Jews their God-ordained freedom; but one could not tell in advance which messiah might be the real thing. Think of it, even John the Baptist sent word just before his execution asking, “Are you really THE ONE or should we wait for another?” If even John could have questions and doubts, how can we not? It was always in hindsight that one could say, “Well, that one was NOT truly Messiah because God did not bless him with victory.”

    The problem was not one of apathy. No. The people were only too eager to see God’s messiah come, but they all kept turning out not to be all they had claimed. And you couldn’t know until it was too late. This explains the Pharisees. These guys, in large part, were the experts who could sniff out a pretender. If a Jew started making claims of the messiah, the Pharisees would size him up and determine if he really even could be the truly blessed One of God.

    It’s not that they wanted to enforce their own kind of rule for living on anyone and everyone (though there may have been a few like that); it is that with messiahs popping up right and left, gathering up sons of Israel to run head long into rebellion with, and then costing everyone in their little “army” their lives, it became necessary to weed out the kooks!

    Think of it. If you were a farmer, or a fisherman, and you had 7 or 10 sons, most of whom are about fightin’ age, and some “messiah” comes along making claims of God’s blessing and seeking a few good men with which to fight, you would want your boys to go with him! UNLESS you had seen this same thing happen last year and the revolt got put down, the year before that, and that revolt got put down, and the year before that too! You have several sons, but not THAT many, and they are too precious to send off with every pretender that comes along! How can you tell which one to send your boys with?

    You check with the Pharisees and see what they say. And they are experts. If they find a guy making messianic claims who then also is breaking God’s law, whether a big one or a small one, you point that out and discredit that “messiah” and hopefully save those sons of Israel to fight another day! In that case, the Pharisees are providing a deeply needed service! Once any farmer or fisherman with sons would surely appreciate!!! In fact, it’s not a whole lot different from media commentators who vet every word, every claim, every move a presidential candidate ever makes and reports it to the voting public! Can you imagine a presidential campaign without this service? You want to know every thing that has bearing on the worthiness of a candidate before you vote, no? How much more so if we are considering whether to send your sons off with the rebels?

    With this stuff in mind, now go to those shores of the Sea of Galilee when Jesus of Nazareth comes along proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand! You are a fisherman with several sons when this Messiah comes along. Your boys drop the nets and run off to join the revolution!

    This reminds me of the minute-men of the American Revolution. They were the sons of the colonists who would go to work in the morning but who would drop the plow, the saw mill, the flour mill, the carpentry tools – whatever they were doing – at a moment’s notice and run to the town square to fall in formation for drills and prepare to fight!

    This IS THE CALL OF JESUS on those men!

    But if you stay with this story, you find that Jesus appears to fail all the pharisaic tests of authenticity! And he preaches to LOVE your enemies instead of kill them. And in Mark’s Gospel more than the others, the disciples (the would-be rebel forces) are not understanding this feature of Jesus’s call. They signed on to FIGHT, but Jesus is training them to lose that fight while winning a fight with PRIDE and sin that they had never imagined. They are wrestling with God like no one had ever dreamed! And thus the term “disciples” actually fits even if it might have been used euphemistically otherwise. These men are learning what it means to follow Jesus, and it is a whole category change of worldview for them that they had not anticipated.

    In my view, Judas Iscariot (most likely a dagger-man of the Sicarri – the elite zealots) sniffed this Messianic love-your-enemy agenda out and saw it for what it was long before the dimwitted Peter and the others did. He sold this messiah out AT LEAST AS MUCH because of his contempt for him as for his “greed”. If you were a true zealot’s zealot who discovered that the messiah you were in league with actually planned to get crucified rather than kill the enemy, how would you extract yourself from the group, save face (and reputation), and rid your nation of this scourge??? Probably just like Judas did. And if subsequent to that, you sensed that you had actually betrayed your beloved God, what would you do then? Kill yourself??? What world could you possibly live in then?

    I am saying all of this stuff to repaint the picture just a bit. We have put the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllables, but I have not actually introduced anything new. The Pharisees are there sizing people up with their rules alright, just not in some “legalist” need to hold rules over peoples heads – what ever that is…. It is still a matter of faith whether to follow Jesus, but now it makes sense of why those boys dropped the nets and why their fathers let them go. Otherwise, that is really a strange idea. And no… the background to this tale is not neutral or spiritual in some other worldly sense, no. It makes this worldly sense, and pushes all the buttons we face in reality even today.

    And the call on their lives is still the call on ours. We constantly remake Jesus in our image. We distort him to suit us or to suit today’s empire. As long as the Pharisees are some “religious” leaders who have some strange spiritual bent to make people live by their spiritual rules, then none of that has any bearing on where you spend your money, whether you join the army or navy and kill Americas enemies, whether you give to a charity or go to this or that school and so on. Your life is neatly compartmentalized into secular stuff and spiritual stuff and most of the spiritual stuff has no bearing on the secular. Thus you send your kids to school where they learn evolution, become doctors or astronauts, or maybe just American consumers of every new novelty, and you merely hope they maintain some version of faith in a creator god – but that is actually a rather schizophrenic reality! All the while Islam moves in down the street plotting a hostile take over of your schizophrenic reality!

    Yeah. This stuff has bearing. We have a lot to sort out. It’s not for punks!

    But I have now hijacked again. I will stop. If my words have any meaning or attraction for you, please visit my blog via the link (unless John is happy hosting the engagement). If not, disregard politely; I will not harangue this blog indefinitely.

    That said, I really appreciate the post and the blog and the opportunity to share.


    Agent X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with much of what you say. We certainly look at things far differently today than at this time. We really need to keep in mind politics and conditions during the times of the Gospels. We especially need to be aware of these things when trying to understand revelation. So much time is spent trying to figure out how it us predictive of what is happening today, but that us not shy it was written. Revelation was written as a prophetic critique of the Roman Empire. EVERYTHING in Revelation is symbolic. Babylon, as always, is empire. The empire of the time was Rome. It is prophetic for us only in as much as it applies to all empires as an extension of the Roman Empire.

      As for the Pharisees….they started some time prior to Jesus’ coming. They were actually very positive at first, they were all about staying Jewish in the face of Empire that required submitting to itself over submitting to God. Over time, unfortunately, they became exactly what they appear to be ion the gospels – incessant legalists who were far more interested in their own rules and regulations than in loving and serving God.

      Part of empire is always the religious elite, along with political. They are just as interested in maintain their power as anyone else. Jesus threatened them just as much as He threatened Pilate or Nero. They were right there with their high priest, nailing Him to the cross. Murdering the son of God, you’ve gotten something wrong in your system along the way.


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