E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
'NOW AFTER THAT JOHN WAS PUT IN PRISON, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the
gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, The time is fulfilled and the
kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe the gospel', 1. 14, 15.
When Jesus came it was not as John's rival but in John's own words as one
'preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose', John
1. 27. It was no accident that Jesus came into Galilee. Stubbornly nationalistic
and a natural target for any northern invader, Galilee was to experience the
fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy, 'the land of Zabulon and the land of
Nephthalim by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the
people which sat in darkness saw great light and to them which sat in the
region and shadow of death, light is sprung up', Matt. 4. 14--16.
After centuries of expectancy, God's people could be free, and a concept
familiar to the prophets was about to unfold, This would not come through
a devastating exhibition of military force but by a change of heart and belief
in the good news of the gospel and the consequent rule of Christ over the
hearts of men. 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation ... for
behold the kingdom of God is within you', Luke 17. 20, 21. This lesson would
not be learnt easily.
'As he walked, .. he saw', 1. 16.
Many pass through life completely unaware of the opportunities which
surround them. The mark of genius is the ability to recognize potential in
that which lesser mortals dismiss as trivial or of little importance. The
discovery of penicillin byALEXANOER FLEMING and of X-rays by CONRAD RONTGEN
are only two of many such examples. As Jesus walked along the shore He saw
Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea. In them He
discerned possiblities of a higher order for He would make them become
'fishers of men', 1. 17, thereby enriching and re-directing their natural skills.
A little further and He saw James, the son of Zebedee and John his brother,
mending their nets, an equally important occupation, though not so
adventurous. 'Menders' in the church serve a vital role in its spiritual welfare,
for the faithful and sacrificial work of generations can be destroyed in a
moment of time. It is far easier to 'rend' than to 'mend' .
Luke records that the Lord saw two ships standing by the lake, but the
fishermen had left them and were 'washing' their nets, Luke 5. 2, another
essential function for success. Only as the Lord's people are sanctified can
they be 'meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work', 2
Tim. 2. 20, 21. There must be purity of mind, 'whatsoever things are ... pure
... of good report, think on these things', Phil. 4. 8; conduct, 'wherewithal shall
a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word',
Psa. 119; action, 'who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or stand in his holy
place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart', Psa. 24. 3,4; heart, 'cleanse
thou me from secret faults', Psa. 19. 12.
Paul exhorted Timothy to keep himself pure, 1Tim. 5. 22, advice particularly
relevant in our day and age.
'Come ye after me', 1. 17
To respond to the call of Christ is a costly exercise. It was no less costly to
leave the nets than to leave father and the hired servants, for both demanded
a full surrender to the claims of Christ, 'whosoever he be of you that forsaketh
not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple', Luke 14. 33. It was the eastern
custom to walk in single file so that to 'come after' would imply in our terms
to 'walk with' a person. In New Testament times to 'follow' implied the
acknowledgment of a superior, a file-leader who would walk ahead as in
Heb. 12. 2, 'Looking unto jesus, the author and finisher of our faith'. 'Author'
here not in the sense of originator but one who takes precedence as the file-leader
of the procession. This was the One whom the fishermen were called
to follow. The Lord did not call everyone to leave their occupations. The
Gadarene demoniac was given the more difficult task of staying at home to
witness to his own folk, of what the Lord had done for him, 5. 18, 19. By
contrast, the cleansed leper, 1. 44, was strictly forbidden to tell anyone about
his healing. For such paradoxes there are always good reasons. The Lord
would not return to the Gadarene country but the healed demoniac would
ensure a continuous witness. On the other hand when the leper was cleansed
multitudes came for healing so it was not necessary to spread the tidings.
Christ's healing ministry was never purely demonstrative but always selective,
compare Luke 4. 25-27.
Whether we are called to renounce our earthly calling or remain in our
daily occupation, the conditions of discipleship are uncompromising,
'Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross
and follow me; for whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever
shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it', Mark 8.
Are you a disciple?