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01.16.11 Disciples on Monday and Sunday Mark 1:16-28; 2:13-17, Sermon Summary

by on January 28, 2011

Summary Points

  • Jesus calls disciples from all walks of life
  • When disciples respond, their whole life becomes holy
  • Jesus’ enacting of the Kingdom is his teaching of the Kingdom
  • The church of disciples is a hospital for sinners

In Mark, after Jesus takes up the preaching of his imprisoned forerunner John the Baptizer, Jesus begins to recruit some disciples of his own. He starts with two pairs of brothers who are fishermen, and invites them to, guess what, follow him and fish for people.

Mark asks would-be disciples this question: Where do you “fish”? If Jesus decided he wanted to call you to be one of his disciples, where would he have to go? To determine your fishing place, think about where you spend your time. Think about what you “do,” what your job is. Or think about the roles you fulfill in your family, work, or school. You might “do” insurance auditing, but might have an encourager role at work within your team. These are the places you fish.

When Jesus comes to your fishing place, what will you do? According to Mark, disciples of Jesus Christ ask the question, How can where I fish become a ministry? In theological terms, this is the question of vocation. It refers to God’s calling in your life, the thing God gifted and positioned you uniquely to do. Today we confuse theological vocation with industrial vocation (e.g., vocational schools). But everyone has a theological vocation, not just welders.

It’s important to figure this out, because it leads to what the Puritans referred to as “sanctification.” This refers to the entirety of your life becoming holy. Our lives, even and especially the mundane parts of them, are “made holy” (“sanctified”) when we do them with the conviction of vocation. Everything we do is sanctified when we do it expecting Jesus to walk up to us and make it an opportunity to fish for others, an opportunity to serve others.

This is what it means to be a disciple on Monday. But what about Sunday?

The next scene in Mark has Jesus “teaching.” Remember that of the four Gospels, Mark uses “teacher” the most. But he includes the least of Jesus’ famous teachings. In this scene, Jesus is noted for “teaching with authority, not like the Scribes.”

What makes his teaching so authoritative? It can’t be the content, because Mark doesn’t give us any. It must be something else. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Jesus’ teaching had authority because it was combined with service. In the midst of this worship service in which Jesus taught, a man with an unclean spirit speaks up. And Jesus heals him. He not only taught the Kingdom of God, he enacted it. His authority as a teacher was verified by the demonstration of his message.

All throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is presented as a powerful warrior against forces opposing the Kingdom of God. We will discover this theme through to the end of Mark. This seems to be one of the things Jesus “taught” and that Mark really wants his audience to learn.

Mark gives us another example beginning in 2:13. Here again, Jesus calls someone who’s “fishing,” only this time it’s someone collecting taxes. Levi runs with a crowd of “sinners,” and Jesus enjoys a meal with all of them. As in the synagogue, his message is manifest in his actions: he welcomes sinners. He even says to his critics, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

What is our understanding of the church? Are we a gathering of saints, or a hospital for sinners? According to Mark, Jesus “taught” that his community was to be a hospital for sinners. If we think of ourselves primarily as a gathering of saints, we may well not be disciples of Jesus. We have to realize that we are Jesus’ guests, and Jesus only invites sinners.

When Matthew retells this scene (9:13), he has Jesus quote God’s desire in Hosea 6:6, “I desire steadfast love, not sacrifice.” The people of Hosea’s day had neglected faithfulness to love and instead substituted religious sacrifice. God reveals in Jesus the right balance of both. On Sunday, we offer our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. This Jesus did on the Sabbath in the synagogue. And on Monday we offer steadfast love. This Jesus did with Levi. But in fact, he combines both when he heals on the Sabbath.

So let us go forth into our Monday, into our vocations, into the places where we fish, and show steadfast love. And when we gather again here on Sunday, let us do so as the welcoming and inclusive people of God to offer our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Amen.

Thoughts for Further Reflection

  • Do you believe yourself to be sick? Do you think you were sick but now you’re not? What value is following Jesus to a non-sick person?
  • Do you know others who are sick? In what ways are you showing steadfast love to them? Would you feel comfortable inviting them to our church?
  • Who are the “sinners and tax collectors” today who draw the criticism of our religious authorities, as Levi and his friends did in Jesus’ day? How does Jesus want us to relate to them?
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