The opening chapter of Mark has a story about Jesus calling the first disciples. He told them plainly, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” We are told by Mark that they left everything (including the family business) and followed him. Levi was also called in a similar manner, and he left his tax business to follow Jesus. The haunting image, for me, in these passages is that they left everything to follow Jesus, no questions asked. Pretty drastic, don’t you think?
I will let you discern what those passages might look like for people in the 21st Century context, since that is not the aim of this post. Instead, the immediacy and decisive nature of their action was what caught my eye. Being a disciple of Jesus means that we must be faithful to him, to follow him even if he calls us out of our present situation. Being a disciple means that we pursue him, even though it might mean that we leave a comfortable life.
Count Zinzendorf once stated that Christians are to “preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.” I must admit, I recoiled when I first heard this quote a couple of years ago; however, when I started to chew on this abrasive suggestion, it made me confront the reality of my heightened sense of my own self importance. What mattered in life was the life-giving truth that Jesus came to restore creation and reconcile broken humanity to God.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, Seth Godin’s “Tribes” helped frame this matter. We are all leaders of a band, some have large influences while others have a small circle. As Matthew would show elsewhere, we are responsible for what God has given to us, whether it is large or small. Nevertheless, our faithfulness to that circle of influence and ministry will be rewarded. Those with large influences will be required much, and those with smaller influences will still be required proportionately. The Lord wants us to build for the Kingdom of God, and I am confident that he is faithful and will give a reward to all those who are diligent. As explored in more detail in my post Gandalf in the Sky, God is not harsh and he will reward those who are faithful, even in the small things. He will preserve our life and work for the Kingdom. He is faithful and just.
(Below is a modified version of a devotional that I wrote for my church. It is based on the readings from these passages of Scripture: Psalm 37:1-18; Hab. 3:1-18; Philippians 3:12-21; John 17:1-8)
We were reminded last week on Ash Wednesday that we are dust, and one day we will return to that dust. Continuing along with the theme of human frailty, we are reminded that our bodies are mortal in Philippians 3:12-21. Yet, Paul reminds us that we must press onwards towards the prize– the prize of an upward calling of resurrection. There is the tension of frailty and glory. He eagerly looked forward to the redemption of his body, when the transformation of the mortal body is complete in glory, made like Christ’s. Nevertheless, the hope in future glory and resurrection is inextricably tied to the cross.
We are not told to imitate a suave and debonair individual, like a James Bond or Cary Grant. Instead, it is the crucified Christ that we must imitate, the one who emptied himself and became man (Phil 2:5-11). This is a way of life, and believers are baptized into this reality, being marked by faith, hope, and love. Notice in the Philippians 3 passage that Paul invited others to imitate him as he imitated Christ, being fully aware of the influence of others who also walked in the same manner of cruciformity (cross-shaped).
Did you also notice a pattern of influence that came up in the “High Priestly Prayer” of John 17? Jesus passed along everything that the Father entrusted to him, giving the words of truth to those who were given eternal life. From the Father, to the Son, to the Apostles, to the early church fathers and mothers, and down throughout the ages, we have been given the words of eternal life, confirmed through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a simple contribution we can make when it comes to living out the good news of the Kingdom. We can invest in the lives of others, encouraging them on the road to the goal. As C.H. Spurgeon once noted, “Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you. So carve your names on hearts and not on marble.” So let’s leave a legacy by being faithful to Christ and passing on the life transforming words of truth.