Huge apologies from the management that we forgot to record the sermon in the Zoom service on Sunday. Edward has very kindly made his text available, which follows:
Mark 1: 16-34
Today we will be continuing our series on the Gospel of Mark, looking at the account we have just heard of the calling of the first disciples. Steve last week gave us an overview this book which is probably the earliest Gospel to be written down by Mark, not an apostle, but who knew the disciple Simon Peter well. Mark acted as Peter’s assistant and translator and would have heard him telling the stories of Jesus. It may have been written as early as AD55, within 25years of Jesus ministry. The stories would have been transmitted by oral tradition and were written to be read out. This is particularly well demonstrated by the actor Max Mclean who has learnt the whole of Mark’s Gospel – his performances are on YouTube and worth watching. This active reading out of the Gospel is a fresh way of listening to the Bible.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic Gospels. Synoptic means ‘to be seen together’. This term is applied to the these Gospels because they are so similar in structure, content and wording that they can easily be set side by side to provide a synoptic comparison of their content. However these three Gospels are written for different purposes and can be seen as looking at different facets of the narrative; the stories are told from a different vantage point. Mark’s vantage point will come out later in my talk.
I am going to look at two questions that arise from the reading:
The first question is: ‘What is discipleship?’
There are also stories of spiritual warfare and healing in today’s reading. The second question arises from this: ‘What is Mark trying to tell us about Jesus by the way writes his Gospel?’
The first question then: What is discipleship?
A Christian disciple is primarily a dedicated follower of Jesus. The term is only found in the Gospels and the book of Acts. In Biblical times a disciple was a close follower or adherent of a teacher or rabbi, imitating both the life and words of the teacher. How do we become a disciple? The answer is illustrated by the forceful and persuasive words used in the original language of the Gospel when Jesus says to Simon Peter and the other men with him. Jesus says simply ‘follow me’, ‘learn from me’. There is also a sense in other language used in the Gospels, for example when Jesus gives His last words of instruction to Peter in John 21:19 to ‘Follow me’. Although this sounds like the command we have just heard at the beginning of Mark, the language used in John 19 is more like ‘Peter, you stay close to me. Don’t worry about anyone else. Stay close to me’. In these current times these words of Jesus are particularly important.
In practice, like many of us, I find that regular personal times with Bible study, prayer, worship and fellowship are key t my own discipleship. These things are of course seen in the Christian worshipping community of church. I’ve also found that my weekly prayer meeting with a few other men and a prayer partner who I’ve been meeting with for over 25 years have been a lifeline for me as a follower of Jesus. Meeting with others in fellowship is vital, including the Men’s activities that are organised by church. The context of our reading today is one of spiritual warfare and I know how I can get distracted by the wrong things, but also the victory I’ve had over these things we have in Jesus. I would really recommend you to have a prayer partner – someone to share with, pray with and be accountable to. In the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus tells us to go and make disciples, so as disciples we are to help others follow Jesus and help build God’s kingdom as proclaimed by Jesus in our reading when Jesus called his first disciples.
The second question is: ‘What is Mark trying to tell us about Jesus by the way writes his Gospel?’
We have just heard in the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew about about the false King of the Jews, Herod, trying to the kill the true king and Messiah. In this, the first conflict Matthew describes, and throughout his Gospel Jesus’ status as Messiah is highlighted.
In contrast, first three conflicts in Mark’s Gospel, including the account of Jesus’ temptation we heard last week and the events of the story we heard today, are spiritual warfare with Satan and his demons. What is significant is that in Mark’s Gospel, Satan and his demons are the first to recognise Jesus as the Son of God, the revelation of God in Man. We are then quickly into descriptions of miraculous healings. Therefore Mark’s emphasis here is on the supernatural and the question ‘Who is this man?’ The answer is a bit hidden from people in his Gospel at first, but the nature of Jesus becomes more apparent later in the book as the story slows down in time to the events of the passion week and Jesus’ death and resurrection. We see Jesus revealed here as who he really was, God revealed as a man.
In summary, as an application I would encourage you to look at your own discipleship and any discipling you may be doing, but be encouraged it’s not all about methods, it’s about what John in his Gospel talks about in Chapter 15. Jesus said: ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples’.
In our groups later, I’d like us to discuss two questions:
What helps you in your journey as a follower of Jesus?
Why do you think that the Gospel writers used the narrative form of storytelling as a way of communicating the good news of Jesus Christ?