On your Mark
The paradox of call
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. (Mark 1:19,20, NIV)
Several weeks ago I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in
Washington, D.C. Engraved into the long Memorial Wall are the 58,195 names of
all American military killed in that war. I looked for the one I knew, Phillip
A. Nichols. I found him at section 7W, line 133. I reached down and placed my
hand on his name.
Phil and I entered college at the same time. Both of us
planned to be ministers of the gospel: Phil through military chaplaincy and I
through pastoral ministry. We lived in the same dorm and attended the same
small classes. Phil married his college sweetheart, JoAnna,
at the beginning of their last year in college.
Time went by. Phil went on to seminary, as did I, only to
different schools. He received his chaplaincy appointment after two years of
pastoral ministry and headed off to Vietnam, leaving JoAnna and their three young children behind.
While bivouacking with his troops one night, someone hit a
tripwire and all the men in the company were killed in the explosion. To this
day, Phil is the only Assemblies of God chaplain ever to lose his life in the
conflict of war.
When I read the above verses from Mark about James and John, I think of Phil and me. The brothers James and John, and
two friends — Phil and I — were all called to follow Jesus.
You know the gospel history. James became the first of the
Twelve martyred for his faith (Acts 12:1,2), and John lived longer than all the
others. We are never told why. That’s the paradox of the call. Its beginning is
the same; the ending is different for each one called.
The fourth Gospel tells us John had actually been a follower
of John the Baptist when he and Andrew heard the Baptist say of Jesus, “Look,
the Lamb of God.” So, they asked Jesus where He was staying and He told them,
“Come and see.” Sixty years later, when writing his Gospel, John still
remembered the time of day of that call — about 4 o’clock in the
afternoon (John 1:35-39).
That first brush with Jesus had been down by the Judean
desert, just north of the Dead Sea. Evidently John did not stay with Jesus long at that time because in the verses above we find him up
north on the Lake of Galilee plying his trade as a commercial fisherman with
his brother James and hired help.
Suppose we could interview James and John today: “James, you
were killed early on, and John you lived longer than all the others, and spent
your last years as an exiled prisoner on a lonely wind-swept island. Do either
of you regret having obeyed so instantly Christ’s call? Looking back, would you
have taken more time for reflection before leaving everything behind to follow
“Absolutely no regrets!” I hear them answer. “Jesus gave us
the greatest privilege in life — to follow Him, all the way to eternity.
And if we had it to do over again, we would leave everything instantly to
Phil and I would say the same thing. His life was cut short.
I’ve lived long. But, following Jesus is the greatest thing of all!
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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