First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (2nd Sunday in Lent, February 28, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Come, Follow Me!”
“Discipleship” is the topic that I’ve chosen to focus on during the Season of Lent this year. Discipleship is a very broad topic and we literally can spend a few months just scratching the surface of this topic. But I would like to spend the next six weeks looking at this topic from a different angle. We will revisit our understanding of discipleship through examining some key events in Peter’s life.
Events in the life of Peter became a model for what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple. This series of messages is not a biography of Peter, but a way to see the formation and maturing of a disciple. So we will follow the journey of Peter from his response to Jesus’ invitation to follow Christ in Mark chapter 1 and end with Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 10.
In this series of messages, we will focus on Peter’s response to the call of Christ to follow Him and then look at Peter’s confession in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is the Christ. That bold confession of faith is followed by Peter’s failing and denial of Christ. Still later we see transformation in Peter after the resurrection of the Lord. We then see Peter serving others, proclaiming the gospel, stepping outside of his comfort zone, and crossing the barriers and borders erected by tradition or culture. The Peter who speaks in Acts chapter 10 differs significantly from the Peter we meet in Mark chapter 1. Through this journey of discipleship, Peter was not perfect for sure, but God’s sustaining grace is evident in every step of the way.
What is Discipleship?
Discipleship. What is discipleship? Christian discipleship is a lifelong journey of going wider and deeper – wider by our ministry and service, deeper by our study and learning. Discipleship is our response to Jesus’ invitation to “Come, follow me.’”
The gospel of Mark begins with an invitation: an invitation to join Jesus at the beginning of something – a movement that is the beginning of the Good News. The Good News is that the Kingdom of God has come near in the person of Jesus Christ. The Good News is that Jesus is inviting all who will believe to not only proclaim the Good News, but to also be, to become the Good News in the world.
In Mark chapter 1, we get to see four individuals joining the movement of Jesus of Nazareth. Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John immediately accepted Jesus’ invitation – seemingly without hesitation, consideration or buyer’s remorse. What was it about Jesus’ invitation that was so irresistible to these first disciples? I like what someone said that Jesus meets us where we are and invites us to follow Him from there. So as we kick off this new series this morning, please allow me to share two short observations regarding the nature of Christ’s call. Discipleship is a twofold call:
First: It’s a Call to ChristThe first thing that I want to highlight is the call to discipleship is primarily a call to Christ Himself. Jesus called the early disciples and us today to “follow” him (vv. 17, 20). It was a call to shadow Christ in order to learn from Him. It was a call to be committed to Christ. What a disciple would eventually become, would depend on how closely and faithfully we follow Jesus.
I want you to know that discipleship was not something that Jesus invented. In fact, it was very common before and during the time of Jesus. In first century Palestine, it was very common to see a Jewish Rabbi with a group of followers or disciples who would adhere to a certain way, a certain methodology or school of interpreting scriptures. There were also so many philosophers who would teach a certain philosophy and call people to adopt it as their way of life. Unlike those rabbis and philosophers, Jesus never invited His followers to follow a certain ideology or philosophy, rather, He called them to “follow Him.” So Jesus Himself was the philosophy. He was both the curriculum and the instructor. I like how Mark 3:14 puts it. Mark says, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”
Second: It’s a Call to CommunityWhen Christ called His disciples to follow Him, He was also calling them to community. The call of the four fishermen in Mark chapter 1 indicates that the essential work of Jesus consists in forming a fellowship, a community, a diverse community.
It’s true that when we answer the call, we are answering it individually, but we are, at the same time, answering it in community. In other words, we are not the only ones answering the call. Jesus has called us to be meaningful, faithful members of the community of faith—the church.
Jesus did not call people to follow Him and then train them in isolation from others. No, He calls us as individuals to train us in community. Yes, the community would get messy at times. The disciples would bicker with each other and would argue who is the greatest among them. They would often fail to grasp what the Lord was teaching them. They would lose their temper with those who were not Christians. They would grieve their Lord, on several occasions, when they failed to take seriously His mission and message of His cross. They would all ultimately forsake Him when the shadow of that cross crept closer. Yet what do we find at the end of the story? We find them as a community again—in Galilee (Mark 16:7)! We are called to be followers of Jesus Christ together, to be fishers of men together.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus would say to all of us today on this Second Sunday in Lent. If you’ve been a follower, take your discipleship to the next level. If you’ve never responded to Christ’s call, today is the day. Friends, let’s remember that Jesus will meet you wherever you’re today. He calls us to a deeper and more intimate fellowship with Him and He calls us to a journey that we travel together as a community. Discipleship is a call to Christ and it’s also a call to community. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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