You’re Not Far, Part 1: What Jesus Meant by “Good News” // Andy Stanley

– So one day Jesus is teaching and he was surrounded
by religious leaders for the most part, and they’re
always trying to trick him. We’re gonna talk a lot about
that, it’s so fascinating. This sort of running gun battle between Jesus and the
religious leaders, and all four Gospels
document this. But on this one
particular occasion, as was probably often the
case, we just don’t know. There was one guy in
the audience who was really, really sincere,
and was listening hard and Jesus was kind
of getting to him. And Jesus had just
finished debating with the religious leaders
about the feasibility of life after death,
because there was a group of religious leaders that said, “We’re just here
to entertain God, “we’re here for the
goodness of God, “and then when you
die, it’s over.” This teacher was impressed with the mind-bending
logic of Jesus as it related life after death. So he’s so impressed
with Jesus’ answer, he raises his hand, he
kind of loses himself, and he asked a sincere question, and he asked a question,
if you grew up in church, you’ve heard this before. He said, “Jesus, of
all the commands, “because there are
so many in Torah, “which one of the commands do
you think is most important?” And this was a question
specifically about priorities. In other words, Jesus, of
all the things we could do, of all the values,
of all the things that we’ve been told to do, what’s most important
because, you know this, when values collide and
every single one of us have experienced
this season in life or decision in life
where our values collide, like this is valuable
and this is valuable but I gotta make a decision. And when values collide,
we have to prioritize, because everything can’t be
the most important thing. So he says, “Jesus, of all the
commands, of all the things, “which one is most important?” And Jesus begins with sort of the Sunday school
answer or the church answer to this question,
because this was not the first time anyone
had asked this question. And Jesus says back
to this gentleman and back to the audience what
they’ve heard so many times, he says, “Hear, O Israel, “the Lord our God,
the Lord is one,” and they knew what
was coming next. Love the Lord your God
with all of your heart, and with all of your soul,
and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. And then Jesus
leaves the script, and he says, “And the second,” or in some translations, and the second one
is like that one, the second one is this, the second one being this
isn’t second in importance, this is just second in sequence, and the Greek here indicates
that Jesus is saying, “What I’m about to tell you next “is as important
as the first one. “You asked for one but
there’s not one, there’s two, “and together these
two are the one. “And the second is this, love
your neighbor as yourself.” And then Jesus says this, “There is no greater
commandment,” singular, even though there’s two, there is no greater
commandment than these. Now, the teacher’s response, the teacher who
asked the question, his response is really kind
of funny and we miss this, but here’s what he says, because
he considers Jesus a peer, he doesn’t know who he was
talking about, to rather, this is just another rabbi
who’s gotten a big crowd, but he’s just a human being. So this teacher says
to Jesus, imagine this, “Well said, teacher,”
the man replied. Good job, what was
your name again, Jesus, good job, Jesus, you got
it right, we’re peers. Imagine saying to Jesus,
“Good job, good answer.” This is what he’s saying. I think Jesus must have smiled. He said, “Well said,
teacher,” talking about Jesus. The man replied,
“You are right,” there it is again,
Jesus you’re right. Jesus thinking, “Of
course I’m right, “but I’ll go along with this.” You are right in
saying that God is one and there is no other but him. And then this teacher
begins to sort of just emote all these things
he’s had on his mind and his heart for a long time. He’s finally found somebody
who agrees with him. “To love God,” he says, “To love God with all your heart “and with all of
your understanding, “with all your strength, “and to love your
neighbor as yourself.” Then he says this,
“Even I know,” and maybe he’s kind
of outing himself in front of the audience. He says, “I know that
all of those two things “are more important than, “more important than.” In other words, if we
have to prioritize things, if everything can’t
be most important and I have to decide
what’s most important, Jesus I think you’ve
given us the right answer. Those things are
more important than and this teacher agrees
with Jesus’ priorities. This man in this moment,
even though he doesn’t know who Jesus is, he
actually recognizes and has embraced
Jesus’ value system. He says, “Those things
are more important “than all the burnt
offerings and sacrifices.” Now, this guy doesn’t
know who Jesus is yet, but he’s on a trail,
he’s on a track, he’s on a path, and
Jesus recognizes if this man will continue
to follow this logic, and if this man will
continue on this path, and if this man will
continue to think the way he’s thinking, he is in for the surprise of his life. And he’s gonna arrive
at a destination that will change
his life forever. And the text says
that when Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, that he had thought it through, that he put two
and two together. And, again, we don’t know
what happened physically, but I picture in this
moment Jesus leaning in, maybe calling him
forward out of the crowd, and whispering just
to this one gentleman, not everyone in the audience, “You are not far “from the kingdom of God.” You are not far from the kingdom of God, which means, the kingdom of God is not far from you. For the next few weeks, I wanna tell you a true story. It’s a true story
that should have died in Nero’s Rome, but it didn’t. It is the story of Jesus
as narrated by Simon Peter, Jesus’ most famous
apostle, the Apostle Peter. Now, Peter’s story for Peter
is an embarrassing story, it’s a story that just
does not make him look very good over
and over and over, and yet he tells this story, and he told this
story for 30 years. He followed Jesus for Jesus’
entire earthly ministry, and then for the
next about 30 years Peter traveled around
telling his story, and the reason he
told it anyway. And the reason he documented
his greatest failures is because Peter’s story was
part of the greatest story ever told, the story
of Jesus of Nazareth. And when Peter documents
his story, he’s in his 50s. Again, he has followed Jesus
when Jesus was on planet earth, and then for the next 30
years he traveled around in and out of trouble, dodging
being arrested over and over, suffering for his
faith in Jesus, being beaten for
his faith in Jesus. So for 30 years
he’s told his story. Any time he would enter
a village or a town, he would be invited into
the homes of Christians or curious people or
God-fearing Gentiles, who’d say, “What was it like? “What did he say? “What was he like up close? “And tell us your story, “tell us about the time when,
tell us about the time when, “tell us about the time when.” And so know he’s
imprisoned in Rome, he’s awaiting a
trial, Nero’s Rome. And chances are he knows
that he will not leave this city alive,
and so he decides to tell his story one last time. But not to an audience of many, to an audience of one, his
traveling companion John Mark. We know him as Mark,
the Gospel writer Mark. Now, Peter was an
uneducated man. He did not have formal
education, we know that, and if he was like
90% of the people that lived in rural areas, he could not read or write. It’s possible he could
read a little bit, but it’s virtually
impossible to think that he was able to write, because as you know
writing takes practice and writing takes
time, and in this world that they lived in there
was not time to practice, and besides that, writing
utensils were expensive, so if he could read at all,
he certainly couldn’t write. And he was a fisherman,
he was a fisherman who became a fisher of men. And in the first century,
he was a big fish because he was the
leader of the church, and now Nero had him. And Mark knows that
the story of Peter, and the experience
of Peter with Jesus is not simply a story
for his generation, it’s a story for
every generation. So one last time,
Peter has travel I mean, excuse me, Mark
has traveled with Peter for the last year
or two, at least, he’s heard him tell these
stories over and over, perhaps he’s written
some of them down. But now they’re
in Rome together, and he coaxes his story
out of Peter one last time, and it comes to us as
the Gospel of Mark. It’s chaotic, it’s out of order, in some cases there is
excruciating detail, because he’s a fisherman. He’s a storyteller,
he’s not a teacher, he’s not been
trained at teaching, so he just calls
up these memories. It’s out of order,
there’s parables, there’s conversation,
then it skips over, it’s chronologically
out of order. But it’s just like somebody who’s downloading
their experience, and Mark is taking it
in as fast as he can to make sure that
the next generation and the generation after that would know these
extraordinary stories from the lips of someone
who spent time with Jesus. And Peter, interestingly enough, begins his account
with his conclusion. It’s almost like he says, “Look, “I don’t know if we’re
gonna get to the end “so let’s eat dessert first.” Life is uncertain,
begin with dessert. Hey, I don’t know how
much time I have, Mark. I don’t know how long we’re
gonna have this time together. I don’t know how many times we’re gonna get to sit
down with each other. So let me just begin
with the conclusion. So as I read from
the Gospel of Mark coming from the lips of Peter, this is so important, especially
if you’re not a believer, you’re not a Christian, or maybe you used to be, you
lost faith, or whatever reason. In fact, if you were
to tell us your story of how you lost faith, I think all of us
would say, wow, if that had happened to
me, if I’d heard that, if that’s what I’d been told, I would probably have
lost faith as well, so that’s not a criticism. But if for whatever
reason you’re back, or for whatever
reason you’re curious, what I’m about to say next
maybe the most important thing I say to you today. As I read this text and as
we read this text together, please don’t hear me
reading the Bible. Mark wasn’t writing the Bible. Mark was documenting Peter’s
experience with Jesus, this is two men sitting
perhaps in a cell or in a home together. Their time is limited
and Mark is like, “Just dump it out and
I’ll write it down.” These are the experiences of
someone in the first century who spent two and a half
to three years with Jesus, and then spent 30 years
recounting these stories even though his life was at risk almost every single
day following. Now, when we get to certain
parts of Peter’s story and when Mark begins to
document some of this, our modern sensibilities, we’re gonna kind of
roll our eyes at points, and say, “Peter,
wait, wait, wait, “seriously, you expect
me to believe this. “Peter, really that happened?” To which Peter
would shrug and say, “Hey, look, I’m just
telling you what happened.” This is not something
I read about. This is not something
I was told about. This is something
I heard myself. This is something I saw
with my very own eyes. And the stories I’m telling you, these are the reasons
I’m in chains, and it’s also the
reason I have no fear, and it’s also the reason I can say with confidence
that God is near, and not only is he near
me, he is near you, it is why I’ve spent my
life retelling these stories over and over and over, and I hope my story makes
it out of Nero’s Rome, and I hope it makes it
into the next generation. Little did he know
2000 years later we would be reading the account of his time and his life
with Jesus of Nazareth. So here’s how he begins. He begins with the end, he says, “Mark, here it is,
here’s the best way to say it.” The beginning the beginning, the beginning, the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,
the Son of God, Mark 1:1. To which again, us modern
skeptics would say, “Wait, wait, wait, we have to
stop you already Peter, wait. “I just wanna make sure “we’re not reading
this incorrectly.” You actually believe you actually believe
that your rabbi you actually believe this
man that you had meals with, you actually believe this
man that you spent time with, that you actually
believe this man that you saw on his worst
days and his best days, you’re absolutely convinced
all these years later that he was the Son of God? Are you sure, I
mean, come on, Peter, you’re in Rome, you’re
awaiting probably execution? Are you so sure
you are right about who you believe this man is, and he would just smile,
and say, “Am I sure? “I was there.” Listen, I was there when I
saw this with my own eyes. When they hurled
their insults at him, this is something he would
write later for Christians, or he’d written
earlier for Christians. When they hurled their
insults at him, I was there. He didn’t even retaliate. Am I sure? When he suffered
he made no threats. In fact, I saw this with my
eyes over and over and over, he entrusted himself, he entrusted himself. This is what Peter is
gonna call us to do later. He entrusted himself to
him who judges justly. Peter would say,
“Listen, are you kidding, “when he was arrested,
I resisted his arrest.” He didn’t resist his arrest,
I resisted his arrest, but he just entrusted
himself to the hands and the providence of
his heavenly Father. And am I sure, of
course, I’m sure, because even though I didn’t
understand it at the time, as I stood in the
back of that crowd with tears streaming
down my face, thinking, “I’ve been deceived, all hope
is gone, all hope is lost,” I was there, I saw it that he bore our sins. I didn’t understand
it at the time. Later it all comes together
for us, so of course I’m sure. This is why I’ve spent 30
years talking about it. He bore our sins. Peter would say,
“He bore my sin.” And I gotta tell ya,
there was some times when I was with
Jesus, I didn’t know that I was such a sinner now. Now, we met some
sinners, in fact, one of the most difficult
things about following Jesus were the people he kept
inviting to follow us. And I thought I was so much
better than many of those people but at the end I realized
what a sinner I was, and I was there
when he bore my sins in his body on the cross. Am I sure? Absolutely I’m sure
because I’ve experienced over these 30 years that
he has given us new birth into a living hope, through
the resurrection from the dead. Of course, I’m sure,
I had conversations with my living, breathing,
resurrected Savior and rabbi, I peered into the empty
tomb, so yes I’m confident, and no we haven’t lost,
actually we’re winning. I’ve been fishing for men
and women for 30 years, and the Gospel is spreading
all around the empire, all around the
Mediterranean Rim, in provinces, in
towns, in villages all over this known world, men and women are
gathering in the mornings and the afternoons to worship
the resurrected Savior, so yes I’m convinced, and no I wouldn’t have
chosen this for my end, but I’m not about to give
up hope now, I can’t, not because of what I believe,
it’s way better than that, because of what I’ve seen
and what I’ve experienced. And it’s spreading
now, he would say. Let me get back to my story, one of the first times that
I actually heard Jesus teach he was sitting next to me on
my boat, and then Mark is like, “Okay, we’re gonna get the
story of how you met Jesus.” And then Peter leaves it, he just can’t stay
with the storyline, again, he’s just
all over the place. He just tells stories. And instead of describing
the incident in detail, he skips it and he goes right to the bottom line
of Jesus’ message. He goes right to the
sort of the big idea, and it’s easy for us to miss, because when we read the Gospels
we kind of get fascinated with the chaos of the story. In fact, our challenge
in reading the Bible, if you read the Bible is that when you read the Bible we
read it devotionally basically, we don’t like to
follow the storyline unless it’s an Old
Testament story and it’s kind of encapsulated
into a couple of chapters. When we read the Bible we
go looking for application. What do I do? We read the Bible, we
look for inspiration, how can I find hope in the
midst of a difficult time? Or we go looking for direction, God I need to make a decision. Pick it up, open it, we’re gonna show me what to do. So we like the story
of the prodigal son, because God forgives and
God is like the father who took the son back. We don’t wanna be like
the older brother. We like the story of the
woman caught in adultery, because Jesus forgives her
and says, “Don’t sin anymore.” He doesn’t allow the religious
people to condemn her. We love that story. We love the story of
the good Samaritan, because this person shows mercy to someone who may not
have shown him mercy, and it’s like a great
example for all of us. But those are just illustrations
of the bigger picture. Those are just illustrations
of the overarching message of Jesus pointing to this
broader more cohesive message. Those are just
illustrations that point to the big idea of
the message of Jesus. And the individual
narratives that we love, some of our favorite stories
in the New Testament, are all like puzzle pieces
that fit into a grand picture or a grand narrative. And at the very
outset of his story as he’s giving,
dumping his story out, and it’s being coaxed
out of him by Mark, he decides that he
wants us to know how all the pieces fit
together at the very beginning. There’s a sense in which he holds up the lid to
the puzzle box to say, “Hey, when I’m finished
with my account, “this is what it’s
gonna look like.” This is the context for
everything that follows. Now, back to us for a minute. See, when I was growing up, and if you grew up
in church like I did, I grew up in a great church. If somebody has
asked me growing up, or maybe even in
college, “Hey, Andy, “what’s the big idea
of Christianity, “what’s the big idea of Jesus?” I would’ve said what
many of you would say. Well, the big idea
of Christianity is that Jesus died for my sin, and if I put my
faith in him I get to go to heaven when I die. Oh yeah, and in the meantime
I’m supposed to be a good boy or a good college student,
or a good husband, or a good father. So Jesus died for
my sin, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. And then if I put my faith in
Jesus I get to go to heaven. In the meantime, I just
need to behave myself. And if we had said to Peter, “Peter, we don’t even
need you to tell us “what the big idea is,
we know the big idea. “Jesus died for our sin,
we put our faith in Jesus, “and then when we die we go
to heaven, I mean, we got it.” And Peter would’ve looked
at you like you’re crazy, not because that’s not true, but because that’s
not the point, so right up front
Peter let’s us know, here is the point, here
is the big picture. “If you don’t hear anything
else I say,” Peter would say, “If we get interrupted, “if I’m executed before
I finish my story, “please understand this is “what the arrival of
Jesus was all about.” And yes it’s personal, and yes there is an
eternal component, but there is something for
you in the here and now. You can live every
single day of your life with this assurance that God is near. So, he says, “Okay,
Mark, let’s back up, “after John the Baptist, “after John the Baptist
was put into prison “Jesus went into Galilee.” Now real quick, how
many of you love maps? Any map lovers, you love maps. My wife loves maps, yeah maps, so we’re gonna use
a map in this series and here’s why, here
this is super important. This is kind of the holy land, the way we think about the
holy land, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, Jordan River, got it, Mediterranean Sea,
everything got your bearings. What’s so interesting the way
that Peter tells this story is he basically takes Jesus
after John has been beheaded. John the Baptist baptized
somewhere around here. If you got up way
early in the morning, you cold walk from Jerusalem
to where John was baptizing but you would get
there after dark. It was a long way,
it’s a long walk. So John the Baptist
is baptizing somewhere down here on the Jordan River. He’s arrested and
he’s actually put into one of Herod’s prisons, and it’s somewhere down
here in the desert. When this happens, Jesus
begins to make his way all the way back up to Galilee and all the way back into
this region right up here above the Sea of Galilee. So after John was
put into prison, Jesus makes his way to the
top of the Sea of Galilee, and all along the
way Peter tells us, “He was proclaiming the
good news of God,” which is and again here is where we get
confused, because if I were to say to you, “What’s
the good news of God?” We would all give
the same answer. Well, the good news of
God is that Jesus came to this earth and
died for my sins, and if I put my faith in him I get to go to
heaven when I die. But that wasn’t Jesus’ message, because that hadn’t
happened yet. In fact, the death and
resurrection of Jesus, as we’re gonna see
in this series, that Peter is gonna
make it so clear to us. The death and the
resurrection of Jesus simply punctuated what Jesus taught throughout
his earthly ministry, and what he taught throughout
his earthly ministry is to impact the way we live
our lives on planet earth, because God is near. So here’s the message, here’s the message that
Peter heard Jesus preach over and over and over. Here’s what Jesus said everywhere he went all the way
from the Jordan River Valley all the way up to Galilee and all around the
Sea of Galilee, and eventually in
the city of Capernaum here was the message
that Jesus taught. “The time has come,” Jesus said. The time has time,
in other words, the world has been
waiting for this. The world has been
looking for this. Everything in every
pagan religion and everything in
the Jewish religion actually pointed to
this moment in time for what’s about to
happen on planet earth. Everything before
was preparation, everything before was a hint, everything before
was foreshadowing. The time has come, are
you ready for this? The kingdom of God has come near. The kingdom of God,
God’s kingship, that’s the best way
to understand the
phrase kingdom of God, God’s kingship, his
rule, his right to rule. The kingdom is near because
the king is in town. And wherever the king goes,
the kingdom goes with him. To which Peter would
have stopped and said, “And I’m telling
you, the first time “I heard Jesus preach this “I didn’t know
what he was about.” What do you mean, the kingdom
is now, the kingdom is here. I mean, Rome is here. We haven’t been an independent
state in hundreds of years. I mean, what do mean the
kingdom of God is here? I thought the kingdom of God
was the kingdom of Israel, and very quickly we understood Jesus is talking about
something entirely different. He wasn’t talking
about a future event. This was no longer something we were to hope
for, to look for. He was saying, “The future
is now, this is fulfillment.” It’s a kingdom without borders. It’s a kingdom without
a common language or even a common ancestry. We would discover later that the kingdom of God
was a kingdom of the heart. It was a kingdom of conscience. It was a kingdom of conscience, informed by the
teachings of a king who had come to reverse the
order of just about everything. And in fact, Peter
is gonna tell us that time after time we sat and
listened to Jesus teach, and we would think, “Surely,
you don’t mean that? “Surely, you can’t
be saying that?” And when we would
withdraw from the crowds, we would say, “Jesus, “explain that to us,
did we hear you right?” And throughout their
time with Jesus they had such a difficult
time like we do, because they’d grown up
with an understanding of what authority was and
what a kingdom was about. And now he was introducing
the kingdom of God and they were so different. He was a different kind of king introducing a different
kind of kingdom, a kingdom that is now, not in the future, because the king
had come to town. A kingdom, as he let
that teacher know at the beginning of the message, a kingdom where loving
God and loving others a kingdom where loving
God and loving others a kingdom where loving
God and loving others was the ultimate priority. And he would say,
Peter would say, “This is the picture into
which all the pieces fit, “including the final piece, “the death of a king, “the death of a king who
came to give his life “for his subjects instead
of requiring his subjects “to give their life for him.” We miss this, but
the arrival of Jesus was the beginning
of a brand new age, a brand new era, the
old was passing away, something new had come,
something better had come. It would culminate in
a brand new covenant that we’ll talk about in
the end of this series, a brand new covenant,
a new arrangement between God and all of mankind. In fact, one of the
shocking things for Peter and the disciples was, when Jesus introduced
the new covenant, he didn’t say it’s a new
covenant between God and Israel. He said, “This is a new
covenant between God and many, “between God and the world.” And, again, they weren’t
as shocked at the end as they would’ve been
at the beginning, because throughout his time
and throughout his teaching, Peter saw Jesus
continue to open, open, open, open, open, open the gates
of this new kingdom and invite all kinds of
people to participate in it. But there’s a gotcha. The good news of the
arrival of the king who came to establish a
brand new kind of kingdom, it required something, and the message that Jesus, we’re taught over and over, and the message that Peter
heard and teach over and over, the message that Peter
puts right up front so we don’t miss in
case he doesn’t get to finish his story,
two imperatives, two imperatives
or two thou shalts that no one should
take seriously, no one should try to apply until you get to the
end of the story, because it’s just too
much without knowing how the story ends. He said, “Here are the two
things that you have to do.” “The time has come,” he said. This is Jesus message,
this is his whole sermon reduced down to a few sentences. “The time has come,” Jesus said, “The kingdom of
God has come near.” And what’s our response? Peter said, “We heard it
over and over and over.” Jesus was saying to
the audience, “Repent, “repent, repent, and
believe the good news.” Now, when we see the word
repent, we immediately hear you see a prophet
rattling and shaking and calling thunderbolts
out of the sky, repent, repent, you
shall not pass, repent. Anybody get that? Anyway, repent, and so
we think about repent as turning away from sin. Peter says, “It can mean that “and there were times
when it meant that, “but that was not the
point of Jesus’ message.” That was John the
Baptist’s message, get ready, get ready, get ready, something great is coming. The great that was
coming was now here, and when Jesus said repent, he was saying, “Look, I want you “to change your way of thinking, “I want you to change
your worldview, “I want you to turn in
a different direction, “I want you to turn in the
direction of a brand new kingdom “with a brand new kind of king “that is establishing
itself on planet Earth, “because you’ve been invited
to participate in it, “and until you change your mind, “and until you change
your worldview, “and until you embrace
this, you’re gonna miss it.” Embrace this radical new
way of viewing the world. Embrace this radical new
way of viewing yourself, and embrace this radical new way of understanding and
experiencing the presence of God because the kingdom is
near and you’re not far. Then it uses this
interesting Greek word, he says, “And I want
you to believe.” (speaking in foreign language) It means, “I want
you,” Jesus would say, “Not only do I
want you to believe “that it has happened
and that it has come, “I want you to entrust
yourself to it and with it. “I want you to give
yourself to it. “I want you to fully
surrender and submit “to the new worldview, “and the new rules of
this brand new kingdom “led by a brand new king.” And what this
change of direction and trust entailed was
the focus of the rest of Peter’s account of
his time with Jesus. But, again, one thing
would become abundantly, painfully clear, in fact, what became abundantly, painfully clear may be
the best news for you, depending on where
you are in your life and what’s going on right now. What became abundantly clear and it was so
disturbing to Peter, and it was so disturbing to
Andrew and to James and to John was that this brand new kingdom, one thing about this
brand new kingdom, was that everybody was
invited to participate in it. Now, again, Peter
is just chaotic, when you read Mark he’s
kind of all over the place. So I think Mark is, he’s
trying to get this down, he’s trying to put it is some
sort of chronological order. He’s like, “Peter, stop with
all the introduction, go back, “tell everybody
how did it happen “that you became one
of Jesus’ disciples. “You spent all of
your time with him “when Jesus was on earth, “you spent the last 30
years talking about it, “so how did this start?” And I think Peter probably
sat back, and said, “Oh yeah, “the day that
changed everything, “here’s how it happened.” “Jesus was actually walking
beside the Sea of Galilee, “not too far from where
I live,” Peter would say. He was walking along
beside the Sea of Galilee, and he saw Simon Peter and
he saw his brother Andrew casting their nets
into the lake. Peter said, “We’re casting
our nets into the lake, “because we were fisherman, “and Jesus just walks up to us,” according to Peter’s
synopsis of this occasion, and says, “Hey, come, follow me, “and I’m gonna send you out,
Peter, to fish for people.” And Peter says, “And when
Jesus invited us to follow him, “we just dropped our
nets and followed.” Peter smiled because he knew there was more to this story. But for whatever reason, Peter
doesn’t wanna focus on Peter, and he skips the details, he skips the details
that Luke captures for us that there was
more to the story, because before Peter dropped
everything to follow Jesus, he actually took Jesus fishing. Peter’s like, “That’s
not important, “we gotta get back to
the main storyline.” And I wasn’t the only one, because after we’d walked
a little bit further, he saw some friend of mine, and when he had gone a
little further he saw James. And maybe, I don’t know, when Peter says, James, maybe he pauses, because about 20 years before Peter gives
his account to Mark, James had been
executed by Herod, one of Herod the Great’s sons. And Peter had to have felt
a little bit of remorse, because there was
this strange incident where James had been taken
prisoner by Herod Agrippa. I think it was Herod Agrippa. And decides to have
James executed, one
of Jesus’ apostles, and then everybody the people who were anti-Christian
at the time, anti-this new Nazarene
sect were so excited that Herod actually killed
one of Jesus’ apostles, he has Peter arrested, and Peter, of course, assumes, and all the Christian
community assumed that if they took out James
they were gonna take out Peter. And Peter was
miraculously freed, and Peter thinks
back and he wonders, like you wonder and I
wonder, why me, why not him, why him, why not me? And suddenly the normal mystery of the randomness of life, things that don’t make any sense they settle in over Peter, and yet it did not
undermine his faith, because a king had come and
a brand new kingdom had come, and he had not been
called to understand it, he had been called
to embrace it. And he says, “30 years later, “it’s still the thing
I’m most excited about, “30 years later I’m more
confident than ever, “30 years after losing James, “30 years after losing
multiple of my friend, “30 years wondering when
is the world gonna wake up “and realize what’s happened,
I’m still confident, “because of what I saw,
because of what I heard.” He saw James son of Zebedee
and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. And without delay
he called them, and they left their father
Zebedee in the boat, wish we knew more about story, with the hired men
and they followed him. And Peter could’ve added,
“And, Mark, we had no idea “what we were getting
ourselves into, “but how could we say no, “the king had come.” They went to Capernaum, they walked over to
this major kind of city right here at the top
of the Sea of Galilee, they went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue
and they went with him, and they’d been to
synagogue their whole lives. They knew exactly
what the protocol was. In fact, this was
probably their synagogue, because their little
town was so small, it probably didn’t have one. They show up with this new
Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth to the synagogue and they know
pretty much everybody there, in fact, they know
their families. I used to date her sister. This is like a very
small community, everybody knows everybody, and for whatever reason
the people who ran that particular
synagogue asked Jesus if he would like to speak,
he’s the new rabbi in town, and Peter says, “It
was unbelievable, it
was unbelievable.” It wasn’t just
unbelievable to me. This is what happened,
Mark write this down, the people were amazed
at his teaching. We’d heard teaching
all our life. We had heard Torah
all of our life. We’ve been over and over most of us had memorized
so much of this. But when Jesus stood to teach, it was like we were hearing
it for the very first time, because he taught
not as they did, but as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. And it was so extraordinary that news about
him spread quickly, and the whole region, the
entire region of Galilee heard about the new
rabbi from Nazareth. And so it began. Now, I don’t know what
kind of religious home or what kind of religion
you were raised in or brought up in, if
any, maybe none at all. And, obviously, I
don’t know what version of Christianity
you were raised in, and as you know there
are multiple versions and approaches to Christianity, but here’s what Peter who
spent time with Jesus, and then spent 30
years living it out would have you know
and have me know that the arrival of
Jesus was good news. So if your version of
Christianity is not good news, you don’t have Peter’s version. If the version of Christianity
was such not good news that you left it
a long time ago, or you left it recently, my hunch is this,
Peter would say, “If it was that easy to leave, “if it was that easy
to walk away from, “if it was that easy
to stop believing, “would you just give
me one opportunity “to let you know what
my version looked like, “because it’s not
something I heard about, “it’s something I experienced.” And the reason Peter would
say it’s such good news is because God came near, which means you are never far, that God came near to
establish something here and the here and now, and whether you
recognize it or not, realize it or not, feel it
or not, you are not far, and if you have doubts,
I understand that, but we’re just getting started. And I think Peter
would raise his hand, and say, “Can I say something?” I’d say, “Sure, Peter,”
Peter would say, “Look, if you’ve had doubts, “let me tell you, I
had doubts as well. “If you’ve walked away,
you need to understand “that’s part of my story,
I walked away as well, “and then I experienced
the mercy of the king,” but that comes later. For now, it’s enough to know that the time has come. The kingdom of
God has come near. The question for you,
the question for me is will we turn
in that direction, will be open enough to explore, would we be willing to
turn in this direction and repent and
believe the good news? And if so, everything changes. And we will pick the
storyline up there next time in part two
of “You’re Not Far.”

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