The Gospel reading of the week (Mark 1:14-20) is rather popular at commissioning ceremonies, times when Christian students either graduate or Church ministers are ordained.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel,” the preacher will say (v.15), obviously focusing on those in the audience whose commitment to Christ is thought to be suspect.
Rarely, however, will those of us in the institutional Church walk by the road not taken – the sea side for Jesus in the text (v.16) – to recruit potential believers and disciples.
In a sense, our choices of where to reach out often betray our vision of God’s world, and perhaps where we think we might not have to forego some creature comforts.
It has to be asked, – is HIV and Aids, and the many ways in which it distorts the image of God in our own lives and the world around us a part of our vision of God’s kingdom?
Or is all we see “tambarare, kwa Yesu tambarare, tambarare kwa Yesu hakuna milima” (it’s a smooth plain at Jesus’, there are no mountains at Jesus’), as we might have variously sung so often in Church?
Mark records that without ceremony (v.17-20), Jesus tells those he finds at the sea side to follow him.
“Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men,” he’s quoted as saying.
Just like that – no compelling PowerPoint presentation on surviving a post-fishing lifestyle, or per diem to “facilitate” their transition.
Yet how often do we needlessly complicate what ought to be a rather straightforward proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom?
Immediately, Mark continues to tell us (v.18), “they (Peter and Simon) left their nets and followed Him.”
The sons of Zebedee, he adds (v.20), “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him.”
Their obedience is immediate, – not delayed, or creatively re-cast in a way that might not offend some sensibilities.
In the final analysis, perhaps we need to look at who Jesus is, where He is moving in our times, and heed when He bids us to follow him.
Then, perhaps, we might each discover – as did Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945, The Cost of Discipleship) – that “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die….But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”
To think about: Who is Jesus? Where might He be found? What might it mean to follow Him in your context?
Written by:Jesse L. Masai is a media trainer and consultant, and a member of the Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA) in Kenya’s North Rift region. He serves with the St. Paul’s University Community Chapel in Limuru, Kenya.