“The Price of Discipleship”

Mark 1:14-20

24 January 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

| Centering Prayer |

Jesus crossed a boundary

And I’m quite certain

Zebedee was not a happy camper.

I mean, what father in their right mind would be?

Walt Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci is a wonderful read.

As you probably know

Leonardo was a famous painter, inventor, and scientist;

Born in the village of Vinci, outside of Florence, Italy

In 1452,

He died in 1519,

502 years ago

At the age of 67.

Leonardo was truly a renaissance man,

Gifted with curiosity and imagination.

He was born out of wedlock,

The son of Piero da Vinci,

A local notary.

In those days and in that time,

A notary functioned much like a para-legal in a modern-day law office.

He wasn’t a full-fledged lawyer;

But, he was empowered with considerable legal responsibility.

Notaries were held in high esteem in Italian renaissance culture.

Proud fathers passed on their training and professional credentials

From generation to generation.

Piero was at least a fourth-generation notary.

Notaries belonged to guilds,

Who maintained very strict morality requirements.

Because of this,

The out-of-wedlock son, Leonardo,

Was freed from the expectation of

Training for a profession in the law.

The guild simply wouldn’t allow it.

The expectation was that the profession was to be bequeathed to a legitimate heir.

The call, apprenticeship, and profession of notary

Would eventually fall upon Leonardo’s yet-to-be-born, legitimate half-brother.

Leonardo was freed up for other, more worthwhile endeavors.

From father to son,

Expectations have ebbed and flowed for centuries.

I recall from my youth

The time when I first spoke with my father

About the possibility of being called to ordained ministry.

I was in my second year at Clarkson, studying engineering.

I loved the science, math, and computer programming.

Yet, there was something more to life,

Still unexplored,

That led me to question

God’s will for my future.

Dad was a second career United Methodist pastor.

When I broached the subject with him

I remember him shifting in his chair, pausing,

Frowning, and furrowing his bushy eyebrows.

Then he began to explain to me how difficult it can be

To be an ordained pastor.

It was as if he was trying to talk me out of it.

I gave it time.

We talked about it on several occasions.

He couldn’t dissuade me.

Then, something broke.

He shared with me about his wonderful seminary experience

At Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

Dad encouraged me to immediately apply.

I recall vividly my astonishment at his near instant flip-flop.

I said to him “but, dad, I need to make my own way.”

(A comment my own son has said to me).

“Yep. I understand,” he admitted.

A son needs to make his own way.

From father to son,

Expectations have ebbed and flowed for centuries.

We can only imagine the conversation in the boat that day

Following a night of fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

Zebedee and his two sons, James and John,

Were mending their nets.

It was a routine every morning;

Repair the rips and tears from the previous evening.

Depending on the time of year and amount of overcast,

It could have been blazing hot or bone chilling cool.

If it was anything like a recently excavated first century fishing boat discovered in the Sea of Galilee,

Zebedee, James, and John would have been

Mending, working, cleaning, and carrying on

In a boat dragged on shore

That was 27 feet long and nearly 8 feet wide;

A considerable boat, indeed.

The boat represented the family business,

The primary capital investment,

Passed on from father to son,

From generation to generation.

Small talk and idle conversation

Was interrupted by an approaching stranger.

Jesus appeared to know them

Even though there is no evidence

That any of the three had ever met him.

The invitation “Follow me”

Shattered generational expectations

With revolutionary thunder.

The world would never be the same.

A new reality was at hand.

Zebedee was one who learned early on in Christ’s ministry

That Incarnation comes at a price.

Undoubtedly, he would have been thinking

“Where in ‘Honor thy mother and father’ does the Ten Commandments

Allow honorable sons to go tramping off

With the first stranger who says ‘Follow me’”?

Zebedee was left in a lurch!

He had nets to mend,

Fish to catch,

Bills to pay,

A business to run,

A family to feed!

And his two sons up and leaves him?

Zebedee wasn’t the first to bear the weight of God incarnate.

The Gospel of Matthew reported the slaughter of the innocents;

Certainly their grief filled parents would have understood

That Incarnation comes at a price.

Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt until Herod’s death

And it was safe to return home.

Certainly they understood

That the Incarnation of Jesus Christ comes at a price.

The Gospel of Mark,

In which we will spend considerable time over the course of this next year,

Paints a less than rosy picture of what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus.

The job description isn’t at all attractive.

The pay positively stinks, and

The pay is usually non-existent!

When Jesus calls the twelve on the mountain top in the third chapter of Mark,

His call is three-fold:

1. To remain with him.

2. To go out and preach.

3. And take his authority and cast out demons.

(Mark 3:14-15)

The first two requirements for discipleship are straight forward.

It’s the third that catches my attention.

The cost of the Incarnation for our Lord’s new disciples

Was to be an exorcist!

Who’s up for a good case of exorcism?

This is your chance to look the devil directly in the eye,

Call out Beelzebul by name,

And cast Satan out of every possessed Tom, Dick, and Harry

Spitting up pea soup and jerking with eye-rolling seizures.

Any volunteers?

The line forms here.

Not many applicants?

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ comes at a price.

There is a cost to discipleship.

It’s not free.

Neither is it cheap.

The faint of heart need not apply.

Still early on in Jesus’ ministry

His own mother and brothers call Jesus home.

You can understand their concern, can’t you?

You know how gossip spreads.

Word travels through small towns.
Jesus was preaching, teaching, healing, exorcising demons.

He was tramping around the countryside,

Attracting crowds and crowds and crowds of

Seekers, the curious, and the desperate.

Jesus hears that his family is calling him home.

“Who are my mother and brothers?” Jesus asks

“And looking at those who sat around him, he said,

‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 

Whoever does the will of God

is my brother and sister and mother.’”

(Mark 3:34-35)

So much for family values!

The price of discipleship depresses the value of the biological family

And inflates the value of those who do the will of God.

Those who do the will of God are considered by Jesus to be his family.

It’s no wonder Jesus’ own flesh and blood

Are whipped up in homicidal rage and

Attempt to throw him off a cliff.

(Luke 4:29)


God in the flesh,

Comes to the world,

Paying a price for our redemption and our salvation.

At the same time,

The world has a price to pay

To become his disciples,

To discern His will,

And to follow in His ways.

It’s evident that Jesus wants followers even more than believers.

Belief and faith will come later.

“Follow me,” is our Lord’s invitation today.

The price to pay for following Jesus is more than

Dropping your nets and

Leaving behind your dad, family business, and expected inheritance.

The price to pay for following Jesus is more than

Disappointing your biological father and mother.

The price to pay for following Jesus is

First, deny yourself.

Second, take up your cross.

Then, come and follow me.

(Mark 8:34)

Following Jesus, God Incarnate, comes at a price.

We see over the next three years of Jesus’ ministry,

Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension

The disciples struggle to come to terms

With paying the price of discipleship.

The disciples of Jesus live in denial,

Wanting to shout down Jesus’ promise of suffering,

Substituting in their own delusions of grandeur –

That one-day Jesus would ascend the throne.

Peter names Jesus as the Son of Man in one breath

Only to deny ever knowing him nearly a fortnight later.

When confronted with the call of Jesus to come and follow him,

To hang your hat on his Incarnation,

To assemble in line with this thing called “Christianity,”

It is important to enter discipleship with eyes wide open.

There is a new reality at hand.

Life as you and I used to know

Will be no more.

God has turned the world upside down.

God isn’t afraid of crossing boundaries;

In fact, at the very moment of conversion,

The Lord begins to make a habit of crossing boundaries.

Christ enters your life,

Turns over your tables,

And tramps mud all over your beautiful new carpets.

The emotional swell at the concluding verse of “Here I Am, Lord”

Has barely started to wane,

When the new reality of the price that must be paid

Is laid out in spades:

“You want me to do WHAT?”

“You have got to be kidding!”

“Jesus, you’ve got to be out of your ever-living tree!”

Yes, Jesus wants us to be his recruiters,

To bring to him new candidates for discipleship.

Jesus expects us

To teach his new disciples everything,


Everything we’ve ever learned about Him;

And, yes, Jesus wants us to pay for it, too.

Yes, Jesus wants to teach you and me about radical hospitality.

Jesus expects us to open our homes and our church

And to practice hospitality that knows no bounds.

Unlock the doors and

Open the cupboards,

Set the table and start cooking!

Clean the carpets,

Make the bed,

Tidy up and make necessary repairs.

Open the curtains,

Let the sun shine in,

And welcome the world to

Enter into God’s grace.

Anticipate the need.

Meet the need.

Exceed the need.

Do so, without being asked, and on our own dime.

Yes, Jesus wants us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

Yes, away the sword,

Reject violence and oppression where ever they present themselves,

And to only follow Him.

Learn and practice His ways of non-violence.

Speak up and advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.

Take a stand and make a stand.

Do it in the name of Jesus.

Be willing to pay the price,

And when the bill comes due,

Pick up the tab.

Yes, Jesus wants us to gather every Sabbath day,

To be with Him,

To proclaim His Word,

To celebrate His Sacrament.

Others may laugh and ridicule us.

“We’ve got better things to do Sunday mornings,” they may chide.

So be it.

Let our Savior’s love shine through

our smile,

our gentleness,

our grace,

our every response.

Sometimes I wonder if any sane person,

Who knew the true cost of discipleship before being called

Would still step forward and say, “Here I am, Lord.”

It amazes me that people answer the call.

It amazes me that people are willing to drop their nets and still follow Jesus.

The fact that new disciples are answering the call everyday

Convinces me

Of God’s continued presence,

Of God’s active participation,

And of God’s absolute power of conviction.

God isn’t afraid of upsetting the apple cart,

Stepping on toes, or

Ruffling a few tailfeathers.

Once the Lord calls you, there is no letting go.

Once the Lord claims you, you are transformed into

God’s forever.

Incarnation comes at a price.

Once we answer the call,

The price must be paid.

Are you with me?

Let’s do this together.


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