Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Day at the Beach: the Beginning

This time of year its easy for our minds to drift to warmer climes and the beach.  If you close your eyes you can almost envision the turquoise water, the white sand and a palm tree that you can lean back on.   I love being close to the water.  Maybe its the fact that my family all came from a small island and that is where I spent a part of almost every summer growing up, never far from water.  When we lived in Australia we werent far from the shore and as often as we could we headed for the beach.  Angela loves her kayak, but for me Im usually content to sit by the water and read and listen to the sound of the waves.  Whenever I travel overseas I try to find a beach at some point, even if its just to take a walk and smell the salt in the air.  The other day I realized that I have walked on beaches in more than a dozen countries in five continents.   For some of you there is a beach in your near future, as you head south for a week or two to escape winter.  For others its a little further away and will happen come summer at Dollar lake and Grand lake and Kearney Lake and Shediac or Cavendish. 

So for the next few weeks we invite you to join us at the Beach. 

As you read through the Jesus story you discover how much of it happened around the water and on the water.  If we pull up one of our trusty maps we discover that much of Jesusministry was focused on this area here.  What we often refer to as the “Sea of Galilee” but it wasnt really a sea, it was just a lake.  But it was their lake.  It didnt matter if you referred to it as the Sea of Galilee, or the Lake of Galilee or one of the several other names it has gone by through the centuries it was a focal point for the people who lived in that area.  There are only 3 lakes in Israel.  3, compare that with Canada that has over three million lakes, Canada has 60% of the lakes in the world.  But Israel only has 3 lakes, the largest is the Dead Sea and its a salt lake so there is no commercial value to it.  Then there is Hula Lake which is only 10 foot deep and then there is Galilee which is 20 km long and 13 km wide and 43 metres deep.  To put that in perspective it is 9 times larger than Grand Lake but you could put five Galilees in Bras d'Or Lake. 

The Jewish Historian Josephus, who was born around the time of Christs death, claimed that there were 9 good size communities surrounding the lake and over 230 fishing boats worked the waters in his day.  Compare that with today, Tiberias is the only city left. 

But back to our story.  If youve been reading the gospels, Jesus has been born, has been baptized by John the Baptist and been tempted in the wilderness.  But his ministry hasnt really begun, there have been no records of miracles, the crowds arent flocking to hear his words he hasnt started upsetting the religious leaders of the day.   After all, up until now he has just been a solitary voice attracting very little attention with his teaching.  And this incident is pivotal in the history of what would become the Christian church, which would eventually change the world.  And it all started one day at the beach.

I don’t think we could ever over state how important what happened on the beach that day would be, not only to Peter and Andrew and Zebedees boys but to the world as a whole. 

(Ted Talk Video on Leadership)

This was the day that the movement began. The day that a lone leader attracted his first follower.   So what is it that we can learn from this Day at the Beach?

Mark 1:16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, . . . 
It Started on an Ordinary Day  So often we want to make those significant days different than all the others.  The sun was shining brighter, the birds were singing louder, there was a sense about the day that made it different than all other days.  But this was just an ordinary day.  Jesus it seemed was doing something that he had often done, he was walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus meets us in life, sometimes on Sundays, sometimes on Monday through Saturday. 

If you had of talked to Peter that morning and asked him what his plans were for the day I'm sure that he would have talked about going to work just like he did every day.  Maybe he had special plans for what he would do at work that day.  We know that on that day he was fishing from the shore, even though from other accounts we know that he owned a boat.  Maybe he had heard that the fish were close to land and he could avoid the extra work of preparing and launching his boat.   And perhaps he would tell you what he had planned after the fishing was done, maybe he would take his wife for a walk or putter around the house.     

But I'm pretty sure that his plans didn't include meeting the Messiah, the Son of God and having his life turned upside down.

The day that I became a Christ Follower is one I will always remember, on September 2 1979 I experienced the grace of God, my sins were forgiven and I was made new.  It was a life changing experience and it is a day that I will never forget.  But it started out as just an ordinary day.  We had been fishing on the Gaspe coast and because of quota issues we decided to take a few days off and return to Saint John, so we tied up the boat and went home.  I had nothing planned for that Sunday and so I decided to satisfy my best friend and attend church with him that evening.  Just an ordinary day. 

And then it changed, because on that ordinary day I meet the creator of the universe.

The New Testament is full of stories of how people encountered Jesus, and they all started as ordinary days.

Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.  When is the day of Salvation.
We can wait for special days for special things to happen, or we can realize that today can be that special day.  Because ultimately you will choose whether the day will stay ordinary or become special.  Peter met Jesus on the beach, but he chose to allow that meeting to change his life.  He allowed it to go beyond a nod and a smile. 

But Jesus didn’t just go for a walk that day, let’s go back to the story. 

Mark 1:16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.  It Started With Ordinary People  Now I don’t know about you, but if I was God and was looking around for someone who would lead a movement that would change the world I don’t think I would have picked Peter. 
Seriously? Peter?  Peter who had problems with his temper, Peter who had a tendency to shoot off his mouth, Peter who waffled in his faith.  It’s just that Peter seems so much like us.  God has a habit of using ordinary people.  Moses, Gideon, David, Daniel, Peter.  Just ordinary people, but people who God chose to use and people who chose to allow God to use them. 
We look at Peter and see the ordinary, God looks at Peter and sees a world changer. 
There is a story told in the Old Testament of when Samuel the Prophet was given the task of selecting the second King of Israel.  Maybe you know the story, God directs him to go to a little obscure town called Bethlehem and to meet a man named Jesse who had a number of sons.  One of whom would be chosen to be the future king. 
The bible tells us that when Samuel met Jesse’s sons he was immediately impressed with Eliab, and then we read God’s response to Samuel’s suggestion.   1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
And that is why we know the son of a dairy farmer from North Carolina as Billy Graham, the daughter of a Albanian business man as Mother Theresa and a preacher’s kid from Georgia as Martin Luther King Jr.  All just ordinary men and women.
Don’t ever sell yourself short, God has a wonderful plan for your life, and if you think “Well, I’m just ordinary”  that’s good because that’s who God normally uses.  If he was able to use a  fisherman he met on a beach to start a movement, think of what he would be able to do with you?
And so the story continues; Mark 1:17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  If up to this point everything had been ordinary now it would change.  It Led to an Extra-Ordinary Request  We don’t know all of the conversation but we know some of it.  Jesus sees the guys and invites them to follow him but there is more than simply the invitation to follow Jesus he invites them to join in on the adventure.  To bring others with them.  And it’s the same invitation today, to follow Jesus.  But the invitation is not simply to follow Jesus, it’s never that simple, he still calls us to participate in the adventure. 
And with Peter, Jesus does what he does so well, he lifts an analogy from everyday life that Peter would understand and uses it in his invitation.  He doesn’t challenge Peter using agriculture terms or monetary terms, instead he invites him to join him in doing what Peter is already comfortable with, fishing. 
And some people are content to follow Jesus from a distance, but that isn’t what he’s calling people to do, because you can’t follow Jesus without obeying his teaching.    
The invitation comes in two parts, first follow, and then do.  The invitation was not to simply follow and it still isnt. 
There are those who would say they follow Jesus, they read about him, they know how he was born and how he died, they might have pictures on their walls of Jesus.  But they don’t have a relationship with him.  That’s not following Jesus, that’s stalking Jesus.
Every once in a while in the news you hear about a celebrity being stalked and they describe how the person who is stalking them becomes fixated with them.  They collect all kind of information about their personal lives, they read everything they can get hands on about the celebrity, they collect pictures of them, they talk as if they know them, but there is no relationship there.  That’s just creepy.   
If you follow Jesus then ultimately you have to have a relationship with Jesus and if you have a relationship with Jesus then it’s defined in the terms that Jesus revealed to Peter and his friends in  John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”   Jesus invited Peter to follow him, but more than that he invited him to obey him.  To not just hear what Jesus said but to actually implement it in his daily life. 
And it wasn’t just a little request, this was an over the top, outside the box, extraordinary request.  We don’t know about all of the disciples, but we do know that Peter had a boat, and a job, he had a wife, and a house and a mother-in-law who lived with them. 

But what Jesus offered to Peter was so much more than Peter could ever imagine, he would go places and do things that all hinged on the invitation.  And that was what it was, an invitation.      An invitation to follow Jesus and to change the world.  And Peter could have said ok, or he could have gone back to fishing, and that would have been his choice. 

So listen to what happened,  Mark 1:18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
It Finished With an Extraordinary Decision    The miracle of Christ’s call to Peter is that it obtained extraordinary results from plain old ordinary people.

When I was working on my message the thought came to me that Jesus interrupted Peter’s life.  But Peter’s life wasnt just a life interrupted it was a life dramatically and radically changed.  If I’m working in my office and someone interrupts me, when they are done interrupting me I go back to work.  Jesus never intended to simply interrupt our lives, that’s why he told us in Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”   He was saying “If you follow me your lives will never be the same”.  Which is why Paul wrote in  2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!   
And you might be thinking:  That’s bizarre, a dude walking along the beach and see four guys fishing, asks them to leave everything and follow him and they do.  But we are only seeing a part of the story, the part told by Mark. 

In John’s account we get a little more detail.  The day after Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist is standing on the side of the river chatting with a couple of his followers and Jesus walks by.  John nods at Jesus and tells the other two guys, “Behold the lamb of God.”  And immediately we are told the two guys go over and strike up a conversation with Jesus.  If we pick up the story in John 1:40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus.
If you continue on in the story you discover that this is when Jesus told Simon, “Your name is Simon, but you will be called Peter.”  And that might not seem like much to us except the name Peter means “rock” in the Greek, and eventually you recall Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
That day at the beach wasn’t some chance meeting between Jesus, Peter and Andrew.  We don’t know what was covered in the previous discussion or even whether or not there had been other meetings and conversations before Jesus went for his walk that day.  What we do know is that Peter was ready at that moment to make a decision. 

If I told you the story of my decision to follow Christ it would seem as if on September 2nd 1979 I went to church and suddenly my life was changed I quit the fishing boat and went to Bible College.  And that is true, it  happened just that quick and just that radically.  But that only tells part of the story.  The rest of the story is that for a year my best friend had been telling me about Jesus, for a year my best friend had been living out his new “Jesus” life in front of me, and for a year my best friend had a pile of people at Bethany Bible College praying for me.   

Long before I had a conversation with Jesus about following him I had conversations with him about what that would mean.

And that is how it happens for many people, the “instantaneous conversion” is usually the end result of a series of events that have been happening.  Like the overnight success that was ten years in the making. 

But it didn’t end with that decision, I’m not even sure that Peter knew what he was getting into, as we follow the story through Peter keeps making exciting discoveries about the Jesus that he has chosen to follow.   Jesus’ call to Peter was to join him on a journey, and the invitation is the same today.  When we follow someone it suggests movement.   Jesus may have met Peter where he was at but he didn’t leave him there. 

Did Peter follow Christ and never look back? Nope, and that’s what makes it so exciting, Peter wasn’t perfect and there were times he let Jesus down and times he blew it, but Jesus never gave up on Peter.  Next week we are going to Luke chapter 5 and we find Peter fishing again.  But there is Jesus saying “Come on Peter, you know there is more for you then a fishing boat.  Come on and follow me.”

And again Peter puts down his nets and follows Jesus, and because he did it wasn’t just his future and his life that was changed it was the world that was changed.

I wish I could say that from the day that I decided to follow Jesus that I always did a stellar job, but there were times that I wasn’t obedient and there were times that I probably embarrassed Jesus and there were times that if I was Jesus dealing with Denn I would have thrown up my hands and walked away.  But that isn’t grace and grace is what Jesus offers. 

If you have never accepted the challenge to follow Jesus then you need to.  He is still calling people to follow him, and by follow him he means to accept his teachings and obey him. 

Or maybe you chose to follow Jesus but now you find yourself back at the fishing net pursuing your old life and its agenda.  But Jesus still wants all of you, and he’s still offering you all of him.    

No comments: