Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 16 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went away to follow Him.
If I asked, “What would you be willing to do for the sake of your family?” Many, if not most of you, would say anything or whatever I can. And that’s the right answer. And you do. You work hard; invest yourself and make sacrifices for the good of your family.
What we have in this passage are examples of what Jesus and those He called where willing to do for the sake of the kingdom; the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God and the readiness of those early participants to advance it at great personal cost is the theme of this portion of Mark.
Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand….” The Lord has His kingdom in view and we can clearly see what He wants from His subjects…What He wants from us. What we’ll consider are not casual obligations. As I said last Sunday, the time for convenient Christianity is over. When we take in the full-breadth and depth of what Jesus called those first followers to, it can be intimidating. Yes, our Lord promises eternal blessings for pledging our faith in Him. But make no mistake, He’s also asking for the full measure of our present devotion, regardless of the price.
The price isn’t the same for everyone. In fact, I’d suggest that most of us get off quite easy. Let’s face it, most, if not all of us give up very little to be part of the kingdom of God compared to the persecuted church around the world. Or those fist-century believers Will that change? It may, so we must always be ready to serve King Jesus in whatever way He requires. Readiness, that’s the normal state; the normal condition for subjects of a king. We must think of ourselves as subjects of our King if we’re to be ready, prepared to follow Him.
That’s the early lesson for those fishermen. Think and act like subjects; men coming under the authority of Christ. This is a hard lesson to learn, it takes a lifetime. Because our nature tells us to rule over our own little kingdoms. The kingdom of my body, my money, my relationships, and career. What we have before us is how to think and act for the kingdom’s sake; for the good of the kingdom of God.
We’ll consider three examples.
John the Baptist gave his life for the kingdom’s sake. (14a)
For the past couple weeks, we studied the wilderness scenes of John the Baptist.
- Preaching repentance, baptizing and the baptism of Jesus
Here we have the quiet exit of John playing out.
- Now after John had been taken into custody….
He’s been arrested and will eventually be executed. John the Baptist gave his life for the kingdom’s sake. As tragic as his ending was, it’s John’s life that he gave for the kingdom. He built a reputation as a godly, anointed man and drew countless people to seek the Lord. As I said two weeks ago, John pointed others to Jesus. That was his divine assignment. And He lived it well, because he behaved like a subject of the King. We will probably not be asked to die for the kingdom’s sak, but we are asked to live for it. What does Scripture teach?
- Matt. 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Living for the sake of the kingdom begins as a matter of priority and importance. But seek first the kingdom of God. What’s most important to me? Do you remember the topic of Jesus’ lesson in that portion of Matthew 6?
Matthew 6:31-34, Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jesus isn’t telling us to live a monastic, severe and reclusive life. He’s not saying we’re all to live like John the Baptist. Jesus does teach that the priority of our lives should be the kingdom of God. Prioritize your life around the principles of the kingdom of God. What did He teach is the central principle of the kingdom? We find it in Matthew 22:34-40.
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
The guiding principle of God’s kingdom is love. Love for God and others. The kingdom of me is self-love; loving myself. The kingdom of God centers in love for Him and others. Living for the sake of the kingdom of God prioritizes actively loving God and others. This stands in stark contrast to the way most people live.
Which is why Jesus said…
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
The contrast is so stark, so plain, that others can’t help notice it. Folks, this is a time to love God and one another like never before. As our world becomes more and more loveless. Live for the kingdom’s sake by loving God and others.
[John gave his life for the kingdom’s sake.]
Jesus preached the gospel for the kingdom’s sake. (14b-15)
Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
If the priority of the kingdom is love, the message of the kingdom is repent and believe the gospel. When Jesus said… By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. He didn’t mean for us to stop there, just creating a holy huddle. Loving one another, yes, but it’s not enough for others to know we are Jesus’ disciples. He wants all men, all people, to become His disciples too. And that begins with the core message of the kingdom; the gospel.
We cannot live for the kingdom not sharing the message of the King. Jesus modeled kingdom-living for us.
- Preaching the gospel of God; the good news
The apostle Paul captures the essence of the gospel in 1 Cor. 15:3-4.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
The gospel of the kingdom is that Jesus died for our sins. He paid the penalty for our transgressions against God. God won’t judge eternally condemned those who put their faith in what Jesus did for them. And His resurrection secures the believer’s everlasting life.
Romans 6:5, reads, For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Romans 6:8-11, Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This is good news, this is the gospel, the kingdom message. The message of our King. If Jesus is my King and I am His subject, I am bound by sacred duty to my King to bear His message. Again, Paul wrote it this way:
2 Corinthians 5:20, Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Don’t allow our American political thinking drive your view of Jesus. What do I mean? We are taught, and rightly so, that our political leaders work for us. And if we don’t like what they do, we have the power to vote them out. A careless Christian can impose his or her political attitude on Jesus. Voting Him out of their life, if they don’t like what He does. I want to say this as plainly as I can. Our King doesn’t serve us, we’re to serve Him. And an essential task is to bear the King’s message; the gospel.
How we represent His message can be different from believer to believer. There’s great diversity in the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 12:4-5, Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. Also verse 12, For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
There’s great diversity in the kingdom; but one King, and one gospel. Lastly on this point, the kingdom gospel is more than a message, It’s a lifestyle.
Philippians 1:27, Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
The gospel-life, in the church, is unity. The message of our King is reconciliation with God so as messengers of the gospel, we must be reconciled, unified with one another. Live as though your church is the last church in Pittsburgh. Strive together for the faith of the gospel as if the whole of this city hearing that message depends on us. Folks, if every gospel-centered church in Pittsburgh lived that way. We’d see revival; there’d be a great awakening.
The disciples took risks for the kingdom’s sake. (16-20)
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went away to follow Him.
The significance of the risks these disciples took becomes apparent to us when we realize their response to Jesus’ invitation wasn’t robotic. He didn’t put them under some sort of mysterious supernatural spell. They thought through their decisions. Here’s why I say this. We know from last week’s message that Andrew and Simon-Peter already met Jesus. It’s reasonable to assume they’d done some soul searching before leaving their nets, their livelihood, to follow Jesus. Likewise, we presume John was with Jesus in the wilderness as the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist alongside Andrew. Certainly, he and his brother James would have talked about what it meant to follow Jesus. The Lord later teaches on counting the cost of such a commitment.
Luke 14:28, For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down, and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
It makes sense that Andrew, Simon, James, and John did just that. They knew there’d be risks involved in following Jesus. And their risks started on day one with leaving their businesses. These were financial and family risks; incomes and in-laws. Those guys didn’t know what the outcomes of their decisions would be. Making them risky decisions. That’s part of full kingdom-living, uncomfortable choices. Because we can’t always know what the outcomes will be.
- What they will cost us
These past ten months forced all of us to make uncomfortable decisions individually, as families, and as a church. And we still don’t know the outcomes; all the consequences of some. Were some of the decisions impacting our church wrong? Let the one who’s never made a wrong decision cast the first stone. Did fear ever factor in some? Maybe. Healthy fear of the unknown is good. That’s why we like street lights and quality-control of our food. It’s wise to have well-lit roads and sidewalks at night. And food prepared to the highest standards. I may offend some of you with what I’m about to say. That’s not my intention.
My intention is to remind us all that we’re not to judge one another. If you look down on your Christian brother or sister because they express a level of concern that you consider as fear. You’re judging them by implying you have more faith than they have because they’re comfortable adjusting to the state and federal guidelines. It’s borderline self-righteousness to question their faith. Were the disciples ever afraid while following Jesus?
Remember the storm on the Sea of Galilee? Or Peter’s denials? Or their retreat to avoid being recognized after Christ’s crucifixion? What if someone does have unhealthy fear? The least compassionate response is to let them know how fearless you are. Risk and fear; they are two sides of the same coin. We can only be the church our King wants when we’re willing to take risks for His kingdom’s sake. And not judging one another. Exercising compassion, not condemnation, toward people with views different from ourselves is risky.
- It’s loving
- It’s kingdom-living
You’ll recognize taking a kingdom risk when you go against your flesh.
Here’s one of the best descriptions of the kingdom of God I’ve read.
In the simplest terms, the Kingdom of God is what the world looks like when King Jesus gets His way. Kingdom First, Jeff Christopherson
Is King Jesus getting His way with you? Live for the kingdom by loving God and others. Adopt a gospel-lifestyle. Take kingdom-risks, including not judging others. In the gospels we have the word church mentioned twice and kingdom 119 times. We must think of ourselves as subjects of the King, as well as supporters of His church.