God’s Hidden Glory

A sermon preached on Mark 1:14-20 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD, on January 24, 2021.

Find more at www.gswels.org

Have you ever seen a couple that just didn’t make sense? Maybe you thought – what does she see in him or what does he see in her? We like to compare ourselves to others. It’s probably even happened in church. Why in the world is that guy a believer? Sometimes God has hidden his glory in the people that he has chosen. Thankfully that includes you and me.

Today we see God’s Hidden Glory: glory hidden

  1. In whom he calls
  2. In following Jesus

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Why these men? There was nothing special about the disciples. Really, a new preacher traveling around would probably want different religious leaders’ support than fishermen. Likewise, there’s nothing special about those he calls today. God has hidden his glory in whom he has called to faith. The Apostle Paul says, “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

You and I were dead in sin. There was nothing about us that made us less dead and more willing to believe. Yet, God displays his glory through working the miracle of faith. Jesus called these men to follow him and they just drop everything to follow him. Maybe what’s more impressive – James and John’s father, Zebedee, let’s them leave! They are the future of his family business and they just leave!

Why? God had worked faith through the gospel. Jesus went throughout the countryside proclaiming “repent and believe the good news.” He didn’t proclaim “Take my good advice.” Advice, no matter how good it is puts a burden on you. It’s something you have to do. The gospel is something different. The gospel is good news about something that has been done by someone else for your benefit.

The gospel Jesus is talking about is that God receives you, God accepts you; not because of anything you have done or earned, but because of what Jesus was doing for you. Jesus is that gospel. He came living perfectly for you – never asking his Heavenly Father to where or why when God led him to the cross. He never asked why he had to suffer a terrible death because his death paid for your every sin.

Likewise, he washed your sins away through the waters of baptism. That day, God called you to faith and breathed life into you. Christ has not only called you but dwells within you.

So come, follow Jesus. God’s glory is hidden in following Jesus. Why is that?

Last week, our Gospel showed Jesus first starting his public ministry and he called these four men the first time. Andrew, Simon, James, and John all came to faith that day. By time we join our Gospel today, a  little time has passed. Those disciples had actually returned to their homes and jobs for a bit. They had been brought to faith but not much had changed in their lives otherwise.

During this time though, a tragedy had happened. John the Baptist had been put in prison. John had been called to prepare the way for Jesus and call people to repentance. Some turned in repentance, others were offended. One of those furious people was Herod – the ruler of Galilee. John condemned his affair and Herod had John arrested. And as John now fades into the background, Jesus arises to the foreground preaching what? “The kingdom of God is near. Repent…” Pretty much the same thing! It would have been rather scary to follow after Jesus. The disciples might have expected the same treatment or worse than John the Baptist.

God’s glory may be hidden in following Christ to some because it often leads places we don’t expect. Have you heard of the book The Princess and the Goblin? I had never heard of it till I was reading this week. It’s a children’s book. In the story, an eight-year girl named Irene lives in a giant house and learns that in the attic she can meet with her great-great-grandmother who is like her fairy godmother. Her fairy grandmother plays with her and gives her things. One day she gives Irene a ring with a ball of string tied to the end that no one could see but Irene could feel. If she was ever lost or scared, she could put her finger on the string and it would always leader her back to the fairy grandmother. Irene is excited and says – it’ll lead me to safety! And the grandmother says – yes, but it might lead you in some roundabout ways to get there – just follow the thread. That night the girl was sleeping in her room and heard the goblins – and sure enough, she put the ring under her bed and started following the string and she assumed it would lead her to her grandmother upstairs but it didn’t. It lead her down stairs where the goblins were and out the door into the night. Then it led her through some fields and meadows where it was beautiful. But then to her horror it led her to the mountain where the goblins lived and it led to a hole in the mountain where a stream came out and she splashed through the stream to a dead end pile of rocks and she couldn’t go any farther. The string just led to the rocks. She cried and tried going back but there was no thread. Grandmother’s thread only went forward. She sobbed and then realized she could take the rocks down and she worked till her fingers were numb and bleeding until finally it opened to the other side and someone on the other side exclaimed “It’s you!” The goblins had captured her friend, Curdie, and he would have never escaped if it wasn’t for her. He asked, “How did you find me?” And she explained about grandmother’s thread – she must have meant for me to rescue you. Her friend started running for the exit but the string didn’t go that way – it led farther into the cave and she says, “If I didn’t follow it – I never would have rescued you. We must follow the thread wherever it leads.”

Jesus says to you, follow me. For Jesus, following his thread meant going to that cross and suffering hell, having God the Father forsake him for your sins. He was forsaken so that your sins would be forgiven and the destination of your thread assured. But just like the story, following Jesus – your thread in life might take you some roundabout ways. You might be called to pick up your cross and follow Jesus in a world that is poised to start persecuting Christians even more than it has been. Following Jesus involves trusting God’s will in your life as he leads you over the hills and even through some dark valleys.

God has led many of you through those valleys and mountain tops the past year – and he was with you through it all. One of the most moving examples of following Jesus in faith that was shared with me was actually at our seminary. Over the weekend, one of the professors’ son had their life taken far too early humanly speaking. A dear friend of mine had him for class first hour on Monday morning. Everyone in the class felt so deeply for him and also wondered if they would even have class that morning. Sure enough the professor walked into the room and it was silent. No one knew what to say. Without turning around, the professor walked up to the board and wrote a single Bible verse from someone else who knew a thing or two about loss: Job. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). He read the verse and then said that while he was heart broken, his son now knew nothing but the Lord now and he would be content with the Lord’s promises as well. And then they got to class. That is following in faith.

The Lord called them to faith and to follow by his grace and they did. Such power and quiet working. Not of Philip or of Simon, Andrew, or Nathanael, not of you or me – not of what anyone will ever tell you. God says my faith is all him and I believe him. He calls. He creates faith. He calls us to follow. And he empowers us to follow through the good days and through the really bad. He sustained John the Baptist through every sunny day he preached and he sustained him through every dark day in prison. He sustained his disciples through every fear and doubt and they followed not needing to ask why or where they were going each and every day.

This call to faith, this creating faith in our hearts isn’t just a great thing – it’s a life changing thing. Is there anyone you know that needs to hear about the new life Christ has for them now and the new life prepared in heaven? We have an invite a friend service coming up. Following Jesus will have it’s ups and downs. But that thread will have only one destination. And it’s more than safety. It leads to an eternity of bliss and joy in heaven. And it was bought and paid for purely by Jesus. Amen