Here! Behind me! – Br. Jonathan Maury

Br. Jonathan MauryMark 1:14-20

It seems that the end is already present in the beginning.

Jesus commences his public ministry just as John the Baptist is arrested. Before we even perceive this John as the one coming in the spirit of Elijah, his witness to Jesus’ coming hastens his murder by the powers of this world. Now the one whose appearance John foretold is walking among us, proclaiming as he goes, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near!” Mark tells us that Jesus is not simply announcing the time. Rather, it is Jesus himself who fulfills the time, both in his words and in his full humanity. For this is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In him the coming time is always now—the present.

But how can Mark’s Jesus preach that the time is fulfilled when the world’s history continues with disaster upon disaster, injustice upon injustice, violence upon violence, hatred upon hatred, and greed upon greed? If the time is already fulfilled, then what are we to make of the redemption, much of which is clearly yet to come?

Yet Jesus, who still walks among us, doesn’t set about explaining or making excuses for God. Rather, Jesus calls upon people, using an imperative, to respond to his declaration, “Repent, and believe in the good news!” Jesus walks among those of his own day, and continues to walk among us in our own. Jesus invites us to assume our full identity, new each day, even those of us who have begun to experience his call in our lives.

Two pairs of brothers, simple Galilean fisher-folk, immediately respond to Jesus’ call: “Follow me!” As Jesus continues on his way along the seashore of their daily lives he commands, “Here! Behind me!” [1] If we truly listen to and observe this Jesus, then we are shocked by the response these four make. Simon and Andrew leave their nets and forsake their identity as fisher-folk who reap the bounty of the sea. Zebedee’s sons leave their father and their identity as known in family and community. These four are called to forsake everything familiar, the toils and pleasures of human life, and to be made members of a new community, the kingdom of God.

Drawn by the fierce love of this Jesus, these four follow, learning to shed all that separates them from full communion with God. They are drawn to a new identity in companionship with Jesus as “fishers of people”, and to go into God’s world with this identity and the promise of a whole new fuller life beyond their imagining.

Yet in the face of this wonder, we might object in fear, ‘But I have never experienced so dramatic a call as these Galilean fishers have.’ However, we would be very wrong in our assertion, for, even from before we were born, we have known Love’s jealous demand for our whole selves.  By the grace of Christ crucified and risen, we have been mysteriously and relentlessly drawn into Jesus’ community of faith, nurture and transformation. Holy Baptism, which we received for the forgiveness of sins, is itself a response to the message and call of Jesus. Either we, on our own, come or those who long to join us to Jesus’ own life in them, have brought us to the font for a sacramental and real flesh and blood sharing in the dying and rising of Christ. The rite of Baptism we undergo is for but once in a lifetime; but, the relationship, which it initiates, is renewed week by week in worship, prayer, community and service in the particulars of our daily life, work and situation. Our own stories and lives bear the marks of those first disciples whose trust and courage brought us to Jesus. We with them can face the fears, equivocations and drawings-back they knew on their own path into fullness of life in Christ. Like them, through repentance and faithful belief in the good news, we acknowledge our own failings which become the paradoxical means to union with God and one another through Jesus’ call.

Today, now, the disruptive, passionate, self-giving, dying and living Jesus desires and lovingly persuades us, “Follow!” “Here! Behind me!” Jesus cries in all the extraordinary and very ordinary circumstances of our lives. ‘Forsake all that holds you back!’ he pleads. ‘Offer you’re your whole self to the Author of life and know wholeness and transformation in eternal life, now and in the age to come.’

So the end continues to be in the beginning. Our end is to become entirely who we were created to be, and to do so in the community of God’s love, with Jesus and one another. And we begin again each day as we choose to follow the One who walks before us, from death into life.

[i] Paul K. Hooker in Feasting on the Gospels: Mark, Ed. Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, Westminster/John Knox, 2014, p. 29

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  1. Cameron on January 8, 2024 at 09:25

    Yet another year later: we are witnessing the reckoning that is always the consequence of hubris, excessive human pride. Our social and governmental institutions are revealed to be contaminated by greed, racism, misogyny… motivated by the self preservation of a few and the exclusion of so many. May we use these crises to imagine how it would be different if the Divine vision for humanity were to prevail. This is the opportunity that Jesus offered in his own hard time …and continues to offer. Sacrifice and humility are necessary. The second baptism is trial by fire, where we choose to follow His lead because we have suffered…and see more clearly.

  2. John Wolf on January 13, 2023 at 18:05

    In study and prayer, it is all too easy to conceive of God somewhere out there. But, as Jesus reminds us (as do the gospellers), the kingdom is here and now. And, the divine is ours now. We have only to ask.

    Thank you for reminding us in such an articulate way that God’s Love is not merely historical or apocalyptic.

    • Reed Saunders on January 8, 2024 at 05:30

      Jesus is the face of God we have always sought; we long for relationship and now it is possible if we simply yield to Jesus’ offer of love and mercy. Can it be that simple? Are we willing to relinquish our little ego driven kingdom for the glory of God’s?

  3. John Boehmer on January 13, 2023 at 06:20

    These words could not be more relevant or more needed than they are today, now. I have often asked myself “Is it a sin to lose faith in mankind entirely?”. It is a great temptation for me personally in these days of so much deception, where mankind seems to be losing so much of the progress we had made.
    And yes… I think that losing faith in humankind must be a sin, when even now Jesus is urging us to leave our nets and to not let ourselves be troubled. If God has not given up on us, why should we ouselves?
    But it is hard.

  4. Marta Engdahl on January 17, 2020 at 22:07

    It’s a year later, and we keep walking, walking behind, walking to follow the “call”, walking by rite of our Baptism, walking to follow Jesus, where-ever it may lead. . . . . .

  5. marta engdahl on January 16, 2019 at 11:02

    What a wonderful sermon for celebration of Epiphany 2, the Baptism of Jesus, and the call to us to “follow Me”. One can never tell when a “call” will come, or how it will become fulfilled. Little invitations can mean a lot and become long-term opportunities to serve the Lord through another human being’s needs. Soon, one’s days can become “filled” with the Love of Christ administered through one of His followers. It is a honor to be able to answer a call, especially when it comes in a still, small voice (barely heard) . . . . . .

  6. Susan B Gillespie on January 14, 2019 at 11:42

    I love that phrase, “the fierce love of Jesus”! It gives me faith that all shall be well! Thank you, Br. Jonathan.
    Susan Gillespie

  7. Elizabeth Hardy on January 14, 2019 at 09:42

    It’s reassuring to me that Jesus puts me behind him- he is in front, he is leading, he is protecting, he is bearing the brunt. I can feel safe enough to be a bit more adventurous in serving him. Elizabeth+

  8. Margaret Dungan on July 19, 2018 at 10:24

    Thank you Br.Johanthan, Every now and then we need to be reminded of the fundamentals of our faith, what it is that we must build on and never loose sight of on our life’s journey.

    Margaret Dungan.

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