Saturday, February 03, 2024

Mark 1:14-20; The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany; January 21, 2024;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17a)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Follow me.” I wonder if the disciples knew what they were getting into. There were, of course, all the miracles. There were also the teachings that made them scratch their heads. And then there was the whole passion of Jesus. To follow Jesus wasn’t going to be easy. I’m sure they didn’t know.

This call of Jesus is very interesting. In those days, people who wanted to be disciples of any Rabbi, would come to them. In other words, the followers chose the teacher. But for Jesus, he calls his disciples. He chooses them. It is of the same fabric as God’s call has always been. God calls Abraham. God calls Elijah. God calls Jonah. God calls David. God calls Jesus’ disciples. God calls Paul. And, in fact, God calls you, just as he calls the whole church. From Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed.

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise up me and all the dead and will give eternal life to me and to all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

Luther emphasizes the call through the Holy Spirit. He links it to the Word, the Gospel. The disciples were called directly by the Word of God, Jesus himself. We are called through Jesus also, through his Gospel.

Luther carries it from St. Paul. He uses the word “called” frequently. Specifically, speaking about Christians.

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30, ESV)

Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:20, ESV)

Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.” (1 Corinthians 7:18, ESV)

including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,” (Romans 1:6, ESV)

And many more. When Paul uses this word, he implicitly means baptism. It is the time when God works to bring you faith and make you a part of Jesus Christ.

What then is the call of the Gospel? Simply to believe in what Jesus has done for you. That he was conceived and born of the Virgin. That he lived his life walking among us. That he did miracles. That he taught about himself. That he was arrested and crucified. That he rose again from death. The call of the Gospel is to believe that he did all this, and that he did it for you. And since you now belong to him, he gives you the forgiveness he won by his life, death, and resurrection. Simply put the call of the Gospel is to believe that Jesus lived and died for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.

Was that call different from the disciples call “follow me”? Decidedly not. To believe that Jesus forgives your sins and that he has made you his own, is to follow him. They left their nets immediately, St. Mark says. But they didn’t yet understand what it meant.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34–39, ESV)

The disciples would take up their crosses and follow Jesus. They all died brutal deaths . When you follow Jesus, when you received and believe the call of the Gospel, you make a horrible enemy of Satan, the World, and your own sinful flesh. That struggle is what Jesus means when he says take up your cross.

It is far from peace to struggle against Satan. He is a powerful enemy. He is out to kill you and send you to hell. He knows what he is doing, not because he is all powerful, but because he has seen all struggle in human beings, and he knows what works.

Peter says it in his first epistle:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9, ESV)

Notice how St. Peter says to resist, “firm in your faith.” In other words, lean on your calling. Trust in Jesus all the more.

It is far from peace to struggle with the world. This struggle is filled with hate.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18, ESV)

Why does it hate us so much? Because the world doesn’t want salvation by Jesus. It doesn’t want to live under accountability to God’s law. So, they strike out against the sheep of the shepherd.

Earlier in John, Jesus says this,

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27–29, ESV)

Through your calling, you are his sheep. You hear his voice, his calling. Jesus gives eternal life, no one in the world, or out of the world, will be able to snatch you out of his hand.

It is far from peace to struggle with your own sinful human nature. This is the most difficult. It is a struggle that comes from within. When you were called by the Gospel, your sins were forgiven. You were declared by God to be without sin. Your sinful nature wants to sin, and it wants to justify itself. The struggle against sin is a daily one, hourly one, minute by minute even. But you have the trump card. You are called by the Gospel. You are baptized.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7, ESV)

God poured out the call upon you. You were collected into eternal life. Even your sinful flesh falls to such a call. Use this in your struggle against your sinful nature. Say “but I am baptized, that is not how a follower of Jesus would act.”

And when you fail, and you will, often. Remember what Jesus said,

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” (Revelation 21:5, ESV)

He is making all things new. Continually recreating you in his image. Continually, forming you though the Holy Spirit. You are called, you have received that call. Jesus died for your sin on the cross.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11, ESV)

So, I leave you with Paul, who describes what it looks like to follow Jesus, according to his call.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:1–7, ESV)


The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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