The first century Jews were feeling secure in their many centuries of tradition when the King of God’s kingdom arrived, and then everything changed. Jesus started preaching, healing, casting out demons – and calling people to follow Him. In the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, He had called some fishermen, and they had immediately left their nets to follow Him. Now He calls a tax collector, who does the same. There must have been great authority in Jesus’ call for them to have left everything and to have followed Him without any question. He taught with the same authority (not like the scribes), and He exercised authority over the spirit world, and over sickness. All of this made Him popular, but Jesus made it clear where His priorities lay.
When four men, with ingenuity and persistence, brought their paralysed friend before Jesus for healing, His first response was to recognise their faith and forgive the paralytic. In Capernaum He had healed many, and crowds gathered as they brought the sick and the demon possessed to Him for healing. ‘But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”’ (Mark 1:38 | NLT) His first priority was to preach to sinners so that they would believe in Him as the Saviour, repent of their sins, and receive forgiveness. His healing was to demonstrate that ‘the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ (verse 10), it was not to amaze the ignorant. Jesus’ point was that we need spiritual healing far more than physical healing. We need forgiveness, and He has the authority to forgive. This was the purpose of His preaching, and this is why He called people to follow Him, to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to give up what the world considers important and to make Him their priority.
It is still His call to all people everywhere. If we have followed, if we have experienced Christ’s forgiveness, then there’s only one thing left for us to do – call others to follow him, tell them that salvation is here. Our compassion should go out to those weighed down by sin, lost, hopeless, helpless. To them we hold out the hope of forgiveness and peace with God. Responses will not all be the same. Some will respond to the call of Jesus, but some will reject Him. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, to warm the hearts of the self-righteous and the self-deceived who are cold and stubborn towards God’s grace.
Remember this, though. In all the ways Jesus could have described being a follower, He chose to say that we should be fishers. We should recognise that people’s greatest need is for salvation, and so we should be fishing. Is there anyone for whom you’re fishing, holding out the gospel, sowing live into their lives, caring for them, praying for them?
Heavenly Father, where our words fall short in proclaiming Your salvation, may our lives speak of the grace we’ve received in Christ our Saviour. Give us humility and gentleness in our conduct, truthfulness in all our conversations, kindness, tender-heartedness and a willingness to forgive when we’ve been wronged, and a sincere love for our family and our friends who have not yet turned to You in faith. We pray O Lord that Christ will be seen in us.