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"버려두고 떠나니라" (신현철 목사)
성경: 마가복음(Mark) 1:14~20
They left all, and followed HIM.
Translated by Soyeon Song from ON, and Ji-ye Chun from UK
“Discipleship” is a program in which many churches in Korea participate. It is considered one of the greatest achievements by Pastor Ok from SaRang Community Church. On the church website, Pastor Ok talks about the purpose of Discipleship.
Even though there are 10 million Christians in this country, the society is not renewed. While our society is overflowing with corruption, injustice, and iniquity, what are our Christians doing as they are facing this reality?
The objective of Discipleship is to reject an individual’s attitudes of faith that are:
• Personal and selfish as to being content as long as his family and he himself are saved
• Lazy and idle as to being satisfied as long as he himself is peaceful and full of blessing, regardless of what is happening to the society
• Dualistic as to acting just as same as non-Christians do, especially on days other than Sunday
• Incompetent as to not being able to influence the corners of the society
and to nurture and train the individual into becoming a strong disciple of Jesus.
It is believed by many that anyone can become a pastor-like leader after going through the harsh Discipleship program that lasts for 32 weeks. I also experienced being in this program when I participated at a conference in LA SaRang Community Church for a week.
This experience lasted a strong impression on me, and I also believe that this program will be helpful for many churches in Korea, and that it is a very useful program from developing leadership.
Nevertheless, the reason that our church is not doing this Discipleship program is because I have a few other thoughts as well as hesitation.
(Even though one day, there may be a time that we are also doing this kind of program,) I think that we and our church are already in this kind of discipleship training.
But the more fundamental reason for not doing the Discipleship Program is that there is no certainty as to whether one really becomes a disciple through this program.
Just because one goes through the theology school and gets a Master of Divinity does not mean that he or she is a true pastor. I still think that I am in the process of becoming a pastor, and that this process may never end… If one can become a true disciple of Jesus through this Discipleship Program, I would like to do it first.
However, becoming Jesus’s disciple is not done through a program of a certain time period; instead it is a life challenge and training. The reason for not doing the program at our church is that it may give you a false idea that once you are finished with the training, you can truly become a disciple.
We say that we believe in Jesus, but we lose confidence when we are asked if we are God’s true disciples. Think about it. Who were these fishermen that Jesus met on the beach? It was Simon and Andrew, and Zebedee’s son James and his brother John. They were fishermen, who did not have the privilege of a 32-week discipleship training.
They were just told “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Here when it says “follow me” it means come behind me which we can read as Christ telling his future disciples to not just learn his words, but to experience Christ first-hand and live as they see him live.
How did these men react to the 3 words Jesus spoke, ”Come, follow me”? In verse 18 it says, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” And in verse 20, “Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” Isn’t this is amazing? How could they do this?
Since I entered the seminary and now, I have read and studied God’s word continuously. I believe I have some knowledge in the matter. But, even now I have ‘nets’ that I haven’t been able to leave behind. I can’t even imagine leaving my father.
In Luke 14:26/7 it says , “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” When I read this scripture I am afraid that perhaps I can never be God’s disciple. How about you? Can you say that you are a disciple as described in these verses?
However, there is an easy escape to this pressure. This verse wasn’t given to all people, but very special few – like the 12 disciples in the time of Jesus – and only they can handle such things. But, is this really true? To say the bottom line, no it isn’t.
We all must respond as the fishermen did. No one can follow Christ without leaving his or her nets, even his/her own father. In this context, today’s scripture is not an easy one to swallow. Think about what it means to leave things behind to follow Jesus. I pray that such dedication is reflected in each of our lives.
It is hard for anyone to say “Amen” here, because ‘to leave one’s nets and follow Jesus’ is not easy or fully acceptable for anyone here. Some people might think the following: These disciples only have their nets to throw away; we, on the other hand, have a house, a car, a family, and a lot more things. If we are told to leave all our belongings, how can we follow Jesus? Does Jesus really want us to give up our family and our jobs and actually live in a monastery?
That is not true. There is no need for us to quit our jobs and leave our family in order to follow Jesus. Rather, we need to protect our family. We need to obey our parents. In fact, it is impossible to disobey our blood parents but be able to obey our spiritual Father. Then why did the disciples leave their nets and Jesus did not stop them?
First, when Simon and Andrew “left their nets and followed” Jesus, we think that they had great determination and dedication for Jesus. Further, when James and John left, not just their net but also their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, we find it incredible.
But what is important here is not the ‘net’, nor the ‘hired men’, nor the ‘boat’, nor the ‘father’. If the object that the disciples had given up on really mattered, then we need to take note that Simon and Andrew are gave up on fewer things than James and John did.
In other words, since Simon and Andrew left only their nets, while James and John left their boat, their family, and their hired men, James and John should be considered greater disciples of Jesus.
But nowhere in the Bible does it mention James and John as greater disciples. Jesus never praised James and John for leaving more things to follow Him. Here, the core does not depend on ‘what’ the disciples gave up on.
Then what is important is the verb “to leave.” This verb has originated from the verb, “to send.” So, the verb, “to leave,” means “to give up” and from another perspective, it also means, “to forgive, to pardon, to permit.” But the funny thing is that it can also mean “to expire.”
I think that the meaning “to expire” perfectly describes the context of the verb “to leave” used in today’s verse. While we can interpret today’s verse as Simon and Andrew gave up on their property (their nets) and followed Jesus, the verse can also mean that once Simon and Andrew decided to follow Jesus, the effects of their nets wore off, thus the nets had “expired”.
The same thing happened to James and John. While we can think that they had great determination to leave their father, their hired men, and their boat, they could have left these because these things had no effect on following Jesus.
Then the disciples would have known what things had effects on following Jesus and what things did not.
And, as they are with Jesus, they will learn more about what things truly have effect on following Him.
In other words, when called by Jesus the first time, the disciples knew what truly had effect and responded. Just as an expired license has no effect on anything, all things that have no effect on following Jesus were no longer necessary to keep.
A net is useful when it is used for catching fish. However, a net is not useful for following Jesus. Zebedee’s family were wealthy enough to hire men and have a boat; however, James and John realized that whether one is rich or poor has no effect on following Jesus.
But, just because they left their nets, their boats, their father, and their hired men, it does not necessarily mean that they immediately left everything that was not useful for following Jesus. In Mark 10:37, James and John replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Even though in the beginning they left their boats, their family, and their hired men, there was one thing they had not given up on, and it was “power.” They had still been holding on to “power” as they could not give it up till the end.
In order to be trained well to be a true disciple, we first need to know what will have effect on our religious lives.
I hope that we realize what things will expire soon. The effects of nets, wealth, and material things are useless in following Jesus. Apostle Paul seems to have figured this out when he said,
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).
What are things that are useful in following Jesus Christ? Are we holding on to any useless things while trying to go towards the Lord? The author of Luke and Acts is Luke, and the addressee is Theophilus. Strangely, The Book of Luke is addressed to “most excellent Theophilus,” but the Book of Acts is addressed to just plain “Theophilus.” This can be explained in many ways. However we can think that as Luke experienced a change after listening to the Gospel, the effect of calling Theophilus a ‘Sir’ disappeared for Luke. That is why Luke is calling Theophilus as a friend in Acts.
I hope that we are able to leave those that are useless in following Jesus Christ. Our age, wealth, education, employment, experience, and background… Please confess that all these have now expired and leave them to become the true disciples following the Lord.
“At once they left their nets and followed him.” Yes, it means that ‘nets’ or material things are meaningless for followers of Christ, but at the same time it reminds us that these are not the reason why we follow Jesus. In other words, Simon and Andrew do not follow Christ to get more nets. James and Andrew do not follow Jesus to get more workers.
We have been looking at the book of Job at the Morning Prayer service since last Thursday. In Job 1:9 we can see satan trying to get God to let him test Job by saying, “Does Job fear God for nothing?”
In other words, satan is trying to say that Job follows God for his own happiness and blessings: “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.
But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
Satan believed that Job lived a pious and faithful life because God had blessed him. He had plenty of things which helped him protect his faith and he also continued to serve God to keep these things.
So, he is convinced that if everything was taken away that Job would turn his back on God.
We are asked similar questions as we live as Christians. Why do we live a life of faith? I’m sure we all pray for God’s blessings and peace in our hearts. But, what if these things disappeared?
We do not believe in God and follow Him for material things or His blessing. Job asks us whether or not we would follow God even when all these things are gone because God is God.
When we see that the disciples left their nets and their family to respond to Christ’s calling, they are showing us a physical confession that they are not following Jesus for blessings. They do not leave their boats because they don’t mean anything, but because it is not why they are following him.
When I lead the prayer after our Sunday offering, I often ask that we are freed from this world’s materials. I also pray that when we give our time to our Lord that we don’t feel tied down by it. Giving up our ‘nets’ and ‘fathers’ doesn’t mean that these things don’t matter, but that they cannot be the reason why we follow him.
My beloved brothers and sisters, why do we live as Christians? There are many benefits to being a Christians. But, I pray that we follow Him because He is God and because Christ is Christ. May every one of us be able praise our Lord because He is our Lord even when all other things fade away.
Two famous professors were discussing about the meaning of life. One of them asked the other, “A boy named Henry says that he is your student. Is that true?” The other professor answered, “well, he follows all my lectures, but he isn’t my pupil.”
Why is Henry not described as the professor’s student despite going to all of his lectures?
In Genesis chapter 12, God tells Abraham to leave his hometown and go to the promised land. Abraham follows God’s words. When Jesus called his disciples, they left their nets and their family to follow him. In other words, as God called Abraham in the old testament, Jesus also called his people for his kingdom. And through those who respond to the calling, God wants to bring His Kingdom to life.
In the end, people who are tied down to their nets cannot be God’s disciples. It is those who can leave them behind that can become God’s followers. Brothers and sisters, I pray that we all can be followers of Jesus. I pray that this will bring a new kingdom to this world where injustice and immorality cannot survive because every Christian lives as true followers of God.
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