Mark’s account of Jesus’ life is one of the more dramatic Gospels. In some scripture versions, Mark uses the word immediately about forty times throughout the Gospel. When John the Baptist is arrested, Mark wants to make it clear that Jesus follows in the tradition of John. “The kingdom of God has come near.” Jesus begins to call people to repentance and belief. Repentance—turning in a different direction—comes first in Mark’s story. Not only does it link Jesus’ message to John’s message, but it demonstrates that repentance is the faithful response to God’s reign.
We can easily skip over this call to repentance, especially if we’ve heard this story many times before. We’d prefer to focus on these brave disciples, leaving the lives they’ve known to pursue a new adventure—not to mention that repentance isn’t something the church always does well. How do you call people to repent without shaming them or making them feel guilty? How do you recognize sin in your life and find your way to grace? Repentance is often not immediate at all. But it’s hard to follow if you’re going in the wrong direction.
Jesus sought followers who would willingly reorient themselves to a new way of living. Jesus’ invitation to Simon and Andrew to “fish for people” creates a metaphor they understand; fishing has been their life. Maybe fishing for people will free them from the rigors of their vocation. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Simon and Andrew trade their lives of security to follow the path of risky discipleship.
Empowering God, help us reorient our lives so that we can respond wholeheartedly to your call to follow. Amen.
Things are not always as they seem. To Jonah it appears that the people of Nineveh are beyond hope, so he runs away rather than going to preach to them. God has other plans; to Jonah’s surprise, the Ninevites turn to God. To our eyes, social standing and wealth may seem to divide people into different classes; but the psalmist declares that in God’s economy, all are equal and will be repaid the same. Paul echoes the theme of the temporary nature of all things in this life; they should not be our source of security. Jesus opens his ministry in Mark by proclaiming that God is breaking into history to overthrow what has been accepted as the way things are. Sometimes God’s perspective is not our perspective.
• Read Jonah 3:1-5, 10. When have you experienced God’s call to a task you would have preferred not to undertake? What happened? What did you learn about God?
• Read Psalm 62:5-12. When have you experienced God as refuge and fortress? How do you actively embody God’s hope and offer it to others?
• Read 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. How lightly do you hold your job, your relationships, your possessions, given the passing nature of the present age?
• Read Mark 1:14-20. When have you heard Jesus call to you to follow? How did you respond?
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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.