Sermon for Proper 21b
Scripture: Mark 9:38-48
Theme: You don’t have to be perfect, just follow Jesus.
The Disciples are an interesting bunch. We can see that all through the New Testament… there must have been something about them that prompted Jesus to choose them as his closest followers and students. We get a glimpse of just how unique they are at the beginning of Mark’s gospel when he recounts how it was that Jesus called the first disciples to follow him.
Let me set the stage for you.
Mark opens strongly but differently than Matthew and Luke—he has no birth story… instead, like John the Evangelist, he opens with John the Baptist “baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).
Mark provides us little background information about John—in the Gospel of John he is referred to as a “man sent from God.” In Mark, John simply “appears” as if from nowhere, “baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).
In Mark’s Gospel, everything has a purpose, there are no extraneous details and you get the sense that we are going somewhere… toward a destination, with no false endings, no time to wait around and talk about unimportant things, about anything that doesn’t take you closer to the center of the whole story…
So when Mark takes the time to tell us how Jesus called the first disciples we know there is something important going on, something we’re supposed to learn… not only the sort of importance we might think of from the simple fact that these were Jesus’ first and closest disciples, but something in particular is important in the way they were called—in the way they reacted.
You could tell from their reactions… instead of asking Jesus a hundred questions about what he meant and who he was when he said to them: “Follow me,” they laid down their nets and followed.
So there was something that Jesus saw in each of his disciples, particularly the 12, his inner circle, that inspired him to choose them as his closest followers. And yet, they weren’t really that special, were they? I mean, no more special than anyone else… they were fishermen, and tax collectors…political dissidents and people working with the Roman establishment.
They were every-day people… and Jesus called them…
And they followed.
They followed him through his ministry, through the towns and villages, into the Synagogues and out into the desolate places where he prayed. They followed him when he healed, taught, prayed. They were faithful disciples of Jesus.
But they weren’t perfect.