What Needs To Be Left Behind? – A Sermon On Mark 1:14-20

Sermon, Epiphany 3B, Mark 1:14-20, Letting go, Follow me, Detachment

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B – Mark 1:14-20

Sermon, Epiphany 3B, Mark 1:14-20, Letting go, Follow me, Detachment
Photo by Susmita Saha on Unsplash

Jesus said to them, “Follow me.” I wonder what that looks like and means for your life today.

Simon and Andrew were casting a net into the sea when they heard those words, and they “left their nets and followed him.” James and John were in a boat with their father Zebedee mending the nets. They got out of the boat, “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.”

They left their nets, their boats, their father. 

“Follow me,” isn’t only about going somewhere, it’s also about leaving behind. That’s the hard part for most of us. We’re pretty good at accumulating and clinging but not so good at letting go. More often than not, however, growth involves some kind of letting go. We accept Jesus’ invitation to follow, not by packing up, but by letting go.

We can never get to a new place in life unless we are willing to leave where we are. We can never hold anything new or different unless we’re willing to drop what’s already in our hands. That means letting go of our nets, getting out of our boats, and walking away from old man Zebedee.

Let’s not literalize the nets, boats, or Zebedee. They are symbols and images descriptive of our lives and they hold a key to the “follow me” moments of our lives. 

  • What are the nets in your life? What things or relationships are trapping and entangling you today? What patterns, habits, or beliefs have snared and captured you? What nets do you need to leave behind today and what would that take?
  • What are the little boats that contain your life and keep it small? Sometimes our boats can become illusions for control, security, or self-sufficiency. What fears keep you from getting out of the boat? In what ways do the routines, familiarity, and comfort of your little boat keep you sailing the same old waters of life? What would it take for you to get out of and walk away from that boat?
  • Who is old man Zebedee in your life? In what ways are you waiting for or depending on Zebedee to give you an identity, value, and meaning for your life? From whom are you continually seeking approval? How are Zebedee’s expectations of who you should be and what you should doing governing your life? And what would it be like to walk away from old Zebedee and reclaim yourself and your life?

Identify the nets, boats, and Zebedees in your life and you’ll find a “follow me” moment. “Follow me” is less about where we are going or what we have, and more about who we are becoming. 

“Follow me” is Jesus’ invitation to every one of us to step into the fullness of our life. It’s a call to become fully alive. It’s about becoming more authentically ourselves, living with integrity, and discovering our truest self. It asks us to engage the world and others with the heart of God. 

Look at your life today – the nets, the boats, the Zebedees. What is the “follow me” moment for you today, right now, in the current circumstances of your life? What do you need to leave behind?


  1. Thank you Father Mike for another thought-provoking, reflection-spawning sermon! I think I have a good handle on the nets and boats that are keeping me – and that is all – they are keeping me – and yet – I don’t want to leave them behind – they are all I know! And the Zebedee’s are the other half of me that holds sway over the kept me – where doubt and anxiety linger – Zebedee offers the illusion of control and comfort. Oh, indeed what would it take to be freed to follow? I am looking and listening for the great invitation to leave it all behind to become something new/ more / free – and yet I can’t for the life of me see or interpret just what that is. Maybe one of these days God will be forthright with me – no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and the road ahead will become clear, or at least I will have some concept of where I want to go!

    Blessings to you, this cold January day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Erika, yes, it’s difficult to leave behind the familiar and comfortable. I think we often leave behind not knowing what the future holds or will bring. Maybe the leaving behind of the old happens even before we know what the new will be or where it will take us.

      Blessing and peace on your journey.


    1. I am glad the reflection is meaningful to you Paulette. I too have things I need to leave behind. And it’s difficult, especially when it means leaving some good things behind with hope and faith that there is more and better in the future.

      Peace be with you,


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