One of the hymns by Cecil Frances the wife of William Alexander who later became the Anglican primate of Ireland resonates with the call to repent and follow Jesus Christ in our Gospel reading today. The Gospel reading from Mark is Jesus’ inaugural message, a missional address setting the tone for whole of Jesus’ proclamation of the Good News of God and His kingdom (Mk 1:14-20). Jesus’ speech points to why following Him is of missional importance and to follow him, He said, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (vv 15, 17) The Simon and Andrew, the James and John in each of us calls for a response, a decision as Jesus is presented to us again and again. Our response and decision to follow Jesus means to do what He does, calling other people to God’s kingdom as fishers of men and women.
God’s kingdom in this context refers to His divine and complete power and authority, as well as His purposes and way of life, both on earth and into eternity. The first coming of Christ brought both the message and the evidence of God’s kingdom near to people and these ‘appears and develops through several stages throughout history as part of God’s overall plan to bring people into a relationship with Himself. Let us look at the five stages.
The first stage is the kingdom in Israel with reference to the kingdom in the Old Testament which consisted of God’s plan and action involving Israel in complete plan of spiritual salvation of the human race (Gen 17:7; 26:3-5). Paul explained God’s dealing with the nation of Israel especially in His plan of salvation and their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, ‘the stone which the builders rejected’ (Rom 9:6, Matt 21:42).
The second stage is the kingdom in Jesus Christ. This is the manifestation of God’s kingdom – its authority, power and purposes active on earth in the person and work of Jesus, who is the King (Lk 11:20). The kingdom in the church points to God’s kingdom active in His church through His faithful followers in ‘local congregations and in the worldwide community of all true Christians.’ The establishment and continuity of kingdom in church is not a political or material kingdom but it is based on growth as people accept Jesus’ Good News of forgiveness and new life by admitting our sins, turning from our own way and making Christ the Ruler of our hearts and lives (Jn 3:3, 5; Col 1:13). The kingdom in church is a spiritual one in which God works through and among His people to overcome the power of Satan, sin and evil in the world.
There is also the kingdom in its completion on earth, end of history after Jesus Christ has returned to earth to defeat the forces of the antichrist and judge the wicked. Many of the Old Testament prophets foretold this time (Dan 7:13-14; Is 11:1-9, Rev 20:4-6). The climax is the kingdom in eternity, at the conclusion of the thousand years when God’s eternal kingdom will be established in the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1-4). The residency of this Holy City ‘will be those throughout history who were faithful to their relationship with God’ (Rev 21:12).
Beloved, according to Jesus’ inaugural message, the first and primary calling, that is, appointed task, purpose of anyone who would be disciples of Jesus is to be with Him, to come after Him, to follow Him in order to know Him personally. Our relationship with Jesus Christ as His followers demands that we must stop following other things in order for us to be able to follow Jesus Christ and to lead others into a devoted relationship with Him. Peter and his friends left their fishing net to follow Jesus. For us to follow Jesus Christ in a fruitful relationship like the first disciples, we must leave behind our net of pride, net of sin, net of gossip, net of discrimination and net of religion without redemption. Let us prayerfully sing with Cecil Frances Alexander as we decide to leave all for God’s dear sake.
1 JESUS calls us; o’er the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless sea,
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me.”
2 As of old apostles heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for His dear sake.
3 Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store:
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, “Christian, love Me more.”
4 In our joys, and in our sorrows,
Days of toil, and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these.”
5 Jesus calls us — by Thy mercies,
Saviour, may we hear Thy call;
Give our hearts to Thy obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.