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Tony's Reflection 28
Do you remember the BBC sitcom Citizen Smith?
It featured unemployed layabout Wolfie Smith, urban guerrilla, leader of the Tooting Popular Front. From the comfort of a middle-class flat living with parents, Wolfie worked for Marxist revolution in the London district of Tooting. The early episodes all opened with a scene of him causing chaos, as he raised his hand in a Che Guevara style salute and yelled out, "Power to the people".
The slogan "power to the people" brings thoughts of revolution.
When Jesus came calling out, "The Kingdom of God is near" it was also a cry of revolution. Except, in his day, no one was laughing.
Jerusalem had been a Roman colony for almost 100 years. Israel back then had it's own equivalent of ISIS. Just as revolutionary, just as violent and just as fanatically religious.
For them, Israel was the land God had promised to the Israeli people. God himself was the king of Israel. These Romans were invaders and usurpers who had no right in their land. They saw the promises of the Old Testament, that God's special representative would come and set up God's kingdom. When that revolution came, God's unique representative would kick out the Romans and set up the kingdom of God in Israel. Or so they thought.
Mark's biography sums up Jesus' message as,
"The kingdom of God has come near." (Mark 1:15.)
Back then, those words meant, "The revolution is here." This was an explosive slogan, in a tinderbox situation.
What do you do, when you hear a declaration of revolution? The fanatics were ready to rise up, pick up their swords and start killing off Romans.
Many had come before Jesus, declaring a “kingdom of God is here" revolution. Many came afterwards saying the same. They were all crushed beneath the Roman jackboot.
Jesus is certainly a revolutionary. He still is. "The kingdom of God has come near" is a manifesto for revolution. But it is not a "pick up your swords and kill the nearest Roman" kind of revolution.
Mark has established that Jesus was a revolutionary, just by using that phrase. But what sort of revolutionary was Jesus?
The Jesus revolution doesn't start as you pick up a sword. You need the same dedication and single mindedness as any political revolutionary, if you are going to follow him. But your zeal and enthusiasm doesn’t lead to violence and bloodshed.
Yes, the revolution is here. This is the time when it's all going to happen. But it starts, not as you pick up a sword, but as you
"Repent and believe the good news." (Mark 1:15)
"Repent" has a familiar ring. It is what John the Baptist told us to do, to get ready for Jesus. If we have listened to John, we are ready to take the second step. "Believe the good news."
Mark has already told us that Jesus is good news. Now he wants us to "believe" it.
What does this "believing" look like? What happens when we "believe the good news"? Mark tells us in his next little episode.
Imagine the scene. The warm wind is gently blowing across the lake, on an idyllic sunny day. The moored fishing boats are gently bobbing up and down on the water's edge. Two fishermen stand on the water's edge casting their nets into the sea, as they have done ever since they were strong enough to cast a net. As their fathers did before them. Their grandfathers, too. This was the only life they had known. The only one they could see, stretched out before them.
The religious teacher passes by. He looks those two gnarled, hardened fishermen in the eye. His gaze sees right through them, into their very souls. He speaks. His words reach deep, right into the very fibre of their being.
"Come, follow me. I will send you out to fish for people." (Mark 1:19)
He speaks with such authority, that this comes as a command directly from God. Yet there is such love in his eye and warmth in his voice, that they are strangely drawn to him.
The two men drop their nets and follow.
You drop your agenda and you pick up his. That's what “believe” meant for Peter. That's what it meant for Andrew.
Fishing was in the blood for these two. Under Jesus' agenda, they would still be fishers, but fishers of a completely different sort. "Fishers" who would catch people for Jesus, rather than fish for a plate. Jesus wants them to do for him what their upbringing had prepared them for - being fishermen - but in a way they would never have imagined possible.
The revolution has begun. At least it has for Peter and Andrew.
The Jesus revolution happens for you as you believe, too. As you drop your agenda and pick up his. What does his agenda for you involve? That agenda will take your upbringing, your interests and your life plans. It won’t throw them all out the window. It will transform them.
In this revolution, “Fishers of fish" became "fishers of men".
What might you become?