Preached by Pastor Jeff Hamling
Sunday, November 15, 2020
November 15, 2020
I’ve always been fascinated by stories where some obscure, no-name person stumbles on to a great idea and then it catches fire and changes the world. For example,
- The Beatles played for the first time in 1960, in a dingy, obscure outlet in the red-light district of Hamburg, Germany. Hardly anybody was listening. But they found their unique sound. And went on to sell more albums than any artist to date in history.
- Steve Jobs was a 20-year old college drop out working out of his parents garage when he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple. In 2018, Apple became the first company to be valued at 1 trillion dollars. The world has never been the same.
- In 1990, JK Rowling was a single mom on welfare. She was sitting on a train headed to London when she got the idea of a boy named Harry Potter. It is one of the top best-selling books of all time having sold more than 500 million copies.
Sometimes a seemingly insignificant moment sparks a movement that changes the world. That’s what today’s passage is about: A no-name rabbi, in the first century, in the middle of nowhere calls 12 people nobody ever heard of to follow him. A humble beginning. A seemingly insignificant moment. And it would change the world forever.
How does this kind of thing happen. What would it look like for you to be a part of something that changes the world? This passage invites us to follow the disciples and to take the three following steps.
First, Recognize your desire
Second, Discover the object of your desire
Third, Participate in a transformational community
Recognize Your Desire
v.13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.
Notice the symbolism of where Jesus calls his disciples: “Up on a mountainside.”
In the ancient world, mountains were considered holy places. Sacred places close to the gods.
In the Bible, Moses met God on Mount Sinai. Elijah calls down fire from the mountain top of Mount Carmel. Later in the Gospels—Jesus is revealed in all his glory on a mountain—known as the Mount of Transfiguration. Most importantly, in the OT, the Garden of Eden is up on a mountain. This is the place where God dwells with his people.
Being summoned to the mountain is a symbol of being called back home. Back to the Garden of Eden. To the place where things are the way they are supposed to be.
Today, mountains continue to be places that beckon us. We want to live near them. We want to hike in them and climb them.
Last year a documentary called Free Solo won and Academy Award. It’s about American rock climber Alex Honnold and how he climbed El Capitan—a 3000 ft rock formation in Yosemite National Park. He is the only person in history to climb it without using any ropes. For over a year, he organized his entire life around this one, singular pursuit. He risked his life. Why? In the documentary his mother is interviewed and asked, “Why does he do it?” She said, “When he’s climbing, he feels the most alive, the most everything.”
You might not be interested in climbing El Capitan without ropes, but we all familiar with that desire to feel “the most alive, the most everything.”
But the mountain climber is never satisfied with just one summit. They have an insatiable desire to keep climbing the next mountain. Why is that?
Steve DeWitt in his book, Eyes Wide Open writes: What we desire is never found in the wonderland of creation. We keep looking and longing for the beauty behind the beauty, the one who will satisfy the cravings of our soul. This explains why the drug addict keeps shooting up and the porn addict keeps looking and the materialist keeps buying and the thrill–seeker keeps jumping. On the other side of one thrill is the constant need for another.
There is something deep within each of us that drives us. It’s a longing for an epic journey, a yearning for a sense of grand purpose. It’s as if we’re made for something bigger than ourselves. Something majestic and transcendent and beautiful. Something that the mountains are just a small symbol of.
Where does this desire come from?
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity puts it like this: Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. People feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
The first step in changing the world is recognizing that you have a desire for another world. That you were made, not for a broken world, but for Eden—a place of peace, and transcendence, and harmony.
When Jesus calls his disciples—it is a sacred call. A call that awakens in them a recognition that they were made for something more. And so they follow Jesus to the mountain.
Step number one in changing the world is recognizing and acknowledging your desire that you were made for something bigger than yourself.
Step Two: Discover the Object of Your Desire
Today, Christianity is the world’s largest religion. There are around 2.4 billion followers of Jesus. Throughout history it has shaped the world for the overall good.
Paul Maier, who was professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University writes: “It is hardly politically correct to say this, yet, I must: No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation, movement—whatever—has changed the world for the better as Christianity has done.”
You may wonder, “How is it that a ragtag group of 12 individuals get a movement like that get off the ground?” How did that even happen?
We discover the answer in v.14-15: He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons.
We’re not surprised that Jesus commissions them to preach and to stand up against evil. If this movement is going to spread, you need to tell people about it and demonstrate its power.
But what is striking is the fact that before Jesus calls them to action, he tells them first simply to spend time with him.
Read v.14 again: He appointed the twelve that they might be with him.
The disciples’ first task is not feeding the hungry, healing the sick, or even sharing the gospel. Those things will come later. Their first and foremost priority is simply to be with Jesus.
To discover that he is the object of their greatest desire. To be with Jesus, to be loved by him, and to know him is that something more that we were all made for.
Over 20-years ago, when I was a youth pastor, I took a team of about 20 students on an mission trip to inner-city Chicago where we would be assisting a church with their vacation bible school to inner city children. Like a stodgy old youth pastor, I gave the missions team a dress code. A bunch of the girls on the team started pressing me: “Can we wear these shorts?” I told them, “No, those shorts are too short!” They said, “Can we wear a tank top?” I said, “No! We’re all going to wear T-shirts!” “Can I at least roll up the sleeves on my T-shirt so it looks like a tank top? If I wear a T-shirt, do you know what that’s going to do to my tan? I’ll have a farmer’s tan!”
Later as the bus rolled into the Humboldt Park area—one of the rougher parts of Chicago, all these white kids from Montana were plastered to the window as we passed prostitutes, gang members, and drug dealers in the street. Once we got settled in that night, we had a worship service. The next morning, we worshipped again. Opening the Word, Singing, and prayer—spending time with Jesus. That day, the team helped with a vacation Bible school. They spent the day with kids whose parents didn’t care that there were gone—who came from broken homes. They had older brothers in gangs. Parents doing drugs. Kids who were excited to be noticed, and loved, and who listened when we told them about Jesus.
I can still remember, that first night, when we did a team debrief. One of the girls stood up and said, “When we were driving to Chicago, all I cared about was my clothes and my tan. But after we spend time worshipping and praying and after seeing how much these kids appreciated us being here—it doesn’t matter. We’re glad to wear just a T-shirt. What we really care about are those children.”
What happened? When they spent time with Jesus—someone greater than themselves—their eyes were opened to a cause that was greater than themselves.
Participate in a Transformational Community
In v.16-19 we are given the names of the 12 appointed to be Jesus disciples. If you read through the names, at least three things stand out:
- These men are ordinary and even obscure
No one on this list was exceptionally popular, none of them was a high-ranking official, none of them were famous scholars. In fact, many of them probably couldn’t read or write. They were fishermen, tax collectors, and probably famers. In fact, some of the names on this list of 12 disciples are so obscure that we never hear about them again in the rest of the Bible.
It’s a reminder that if you want to make a difference in the world, it’s okay if there is nothing particularly extraordinary about you.
John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life: “The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one Great Thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you just have to know…one, great, all-embracing thing—and be set on fire by it.”
It’s exciting to be a part of a community that is set on fire for something. And that’s what the church is. A group of people who are set on fire by the fact that Jesus died for our sins, he rose again, and he’s making all things new.
- These 12 disciples are far from perfect
The list of 12 disciples in v.16-19, starts with Peter who denied Jesus 3 times and ends with Judas who betrayed Jesus. As we read through Mark, we discover that these disciples fail to understand Jesus’ teaching, they desert him. James and John argue about who gets to have the greatest place of power next to Jesus.
And yet this group of sinners is responsible for the beginnings of the church.
It’s a reminder that the church is filled with people who fall and fail. When I teach the membership class, I always tell people: I’m probably going to hurt you and disappoint you at some point. Other people in the church will do the same.
Earlier in Mark, Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mk 2:17)
The church is a transformational community in need of transformation.
- Jesus gives many of the disciples a new name
The first three names mentioned in the list of 12 disciples in v16-19 are: Simon, James and John. As you read through the Gospels, it’s apparent that these three disciples are particularly close to Jesus. And notice that Simon is given a new name: Peter which means “rock.” James and John are given new names: The sons of thunder.
In the Bible, to confer a new name is a divine act, expressing change in a person’s identity and destiny. Abram becomes Abraham. Saria becomes Sarah. Jacob becomes Israel. Saul becomes Paul.
And there is a sense in which you also receive a new name when you come to Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Apostle Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
The Beatles started out in obscurity in Hamburg, Apple began in Steve Jobs’ garage, Harry Potter began on a train with a single mom on welfare. And the church that changed the world started on a mountain in Galilee with Jesus’ calling the first 12 disciples.
It’s a humble call. But it’s a sacred call. What will you do with it?