[The lessons are here]
We’ve had one of the hottest weeks in recent history here in Cape Town. On Sunday, you could almost feel that which was about to come upon us. It was hot. People were perspiring in the pews and I was sweltering under the alb and chasuble. But all seemed to be a mere preparation for Monday and Tuesday, when it really started to boil! They said it would cool down by Wednesday but it seemed to go up a notch. At 01:00 in the morning, a neighbour of mine was hosing down his roof because of the heat. He couldn’t sleep. Neither could I – even with the fan was on full blast.
Speaking of fans, I saw the most interesting thing when I walked into Game (our local Wall mart) on Monday. The place was full, with long queues of customers, all milling around the appliance section. When I got to the till point, I was probably the only person without a fan or a portable aircon in my hand!
The weather people called it a ‘heat wave’. A heat something it was. Sweltering, and oppressively so, they also said that certain stations were experiencing a 100% ‘discomfort level’ which was deemed to be ‘hazardous to health’, posing a danger particularly for the elderly and babies, with figures forecasted to rise even further. Discomfort more than 100%? Apparently so. No wonder everyone was looking flaccid and quite out of it this week, weary from the all the heat.
Discomfort doesn’t always come to us by way of the weather. There are a lot of things in life that can cause a level of discomfort, to a certain degree. Last week we saw two of John the Baptists disciples leaving him and following Jesus. They walked away, and yet he had no problem with this. He wanted to show people Jesus. And faithful he was to that mission.
Today we find him in prison. Furthermore, the Gospel tells of men leaving that which they knew and were most comfortable with, and beginning a new life by following after Jesus. ‘As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him’ (Mark 1:16-20).
One word in particular stands out in the text: And ‘immediately’. In the original Greek: καὶ εὐθὺς (transliteration: euthus), which when translated can also mean ‘forthwith’ or ‘straightway’. So in other words, directly or at once, they stopped what they were doing, left it, and followed after the One who was calling. In fact, the word is a common connective in Mark’s version of events and is used some 41 times by him in his Gospel.
Now what’s interesting here is that these are indeed of the same men we met up with in last week’s lesson: Andrew and John (John 1:25-42). Simon (to be called Peter) and James are at this point of the narrative also introduced and are found by Jesus to be with their respective brothers Andrew and John. Commentators tell us that it is quite possible that though they knew of Jesus, when John the Baptist was imprisoned, they returned to their fishing businesses on the Sea of Galilee and continued in that up until this point, at which, they are called to follow Jesus permanently.
What we have here is not just the calling of the first disciples; it is the epitomic response of every person. When Jesus calls – and call He will – you and I are required to stop, and respond to His voice. This is, in point of fact, a fundamental dynamic of the Christian’s spiritual life. God speaks, and we listen. God is working, and we do.
It requires of us prayerful and active attentiveness, by carefully listening to God and His Word. But it also requires from us a prompt response – one that occurs immediately, now.
But while the Gospel indeed shows us Jesus calling the disciples and them dropping what they are doing and following Him immediately, we don’t find them going from fishermen to being leaders in the Christian Church overnight. Waiting for them is a period of growth and development. In a like manner, our response to Jesus grows, develops, deepens and matures over time (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).
So often we make the mistake of assuming that the first disciples were these great men of God from the day that they met Jesus. For sure, a first time encounter with Him, transformed them. But just like every other believer thought the history of Christianity, they too needed to grow in faith as they walked with Jesus. There were going to be up, and there were going to be down. But the goal one: to follow Jesus with all that lay within… It’s our goal also.
To what end you may ask? Well for our eternal salvation for one. But in addition, to spread the Good News of our salvation. It is fantastic for me to see people coming here to Church, all because they have been led so to do by another from the congregation. That is a sure way for us to grow as a parish. But it is also a sure way for you to grow as a Christian. You are leading others to Jesus and in doing so, pointing them to eternal salvation. The Church grows by word-of-mouth. The amount of souls being saved grows by word-of-mouth. Evangelism is the purpose to which you and I are called… ‘Follow me,’ says Jesus, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ (Mark 1:17).
The world out there is desperate to know Jesus. Your friends out there are desperate to know Jesus. Your family members out there are desperate to know Jesus. To be set free from the fetters of sin; to see and to taste the joy of salvation. They are dying for want of knowing Him. And who will show them, if not you and I? So where are you casting your net?
St Francis of Assisi said, ‘Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’
Mark uses Jesus’ invitation: ‘Come, follow me’. Allow me to repeat that invitation: ‘Come, follow me’. Follow Jesus. Grow in Jesus. No matter how discomforting the call may seem – for demands will be placed upon you. You will be called to do things that you would not otherwise do. You will be called to leave things that you would not otherwise leave. But there is also an element of comfort in His words. But perhaps, above all, they indicate to us exactly what it means to be a Christian: One who is a follower of Christ. ‘Come, follow me.’