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The Call of Four Fishermen (Mark 1. 16-20)

01 Feb

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Photo by Seemann on Morgue File.

Today we continue our look at the first chapter of Mark. Today’s pericope deals with the calling of the first disciples. Here is today’s verses:

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (Mk. 1.16-20)

Mark gives us an account of the call of these four fishermen. These four men are well-known by most Christians. Simon, that is Peter and his brother Andrew; both of whom were fishermen. The second set of brothers was James and John, the sons of Zebedee; or, as Jesus would come to call them, the sons of thunder!

It seems likely that these four men knew one another. It is likely they had grown up together and had fished alongside one another for a number of years. Based on historical records and the opinions of scholars, their fishing enterprise was not a small operation. More than likely, they had a thriving business there on the Sea of Galilee. In fact, we are told in the pericope that James and John left their father and the hired servants in the boat.

We know they are not anglers; rather, they fish with nets. It seems safe to assume these men were entrepreneurs and successful in their business. They were fishermen and they were good at what they did.

In our passage, Jesus comes walking along by the Sea of Galilee and first calls Peter and his brother Andrew to follow him. Then, as they walked a little farther down the shore he called James and John to follow him. Once again, Mark is pointing out to the reader the authority of Jesus. Just think about what Jesus is doing. He is calling these men away from their livelihoods. He is calling them away from their means of income, their means of supporting their families. He is calling them away from their families. He is calling them from their comforts and routines.

In essence, Jesus’ call is a disruption to their lives. For these four men, once they have heard the divine call, it can no longer be business as usual for them. It is akin to the vision and call of Isaiah the prophet, when all he could utter in response was, Here am I, send me. The call of God on a person’s life is a line of demarcation. There is no going back. You cannot un-hear the call. You cannot live as though the call did not come to you.

Calling these men away from their jobs, homes, families, security and the rest is something only God can do. Only he has the right and authority to do it. Only he has that prerogative. And this is just what Jesus does. Again, Mark is highlighting Christ’s authority; now, he is showing he has the authority over men, to call them to his service.

For their part, these four men drop their nets, exit their boats and willingly follow Jesus. What must be going on in their minds? Why would they do such a thing? There would be many who would deride them for such action. They would ridicule them for being irresponsible. Even worse, there might be those who claimed they had lost their minds!

When we look at the four gospels we see there are actually four passages that deal with the call of all, or at least some of these four men. Those passages are as follows: Matthew 4.18-22; Mark 1.16-20; Luke 5.1-11; John 1.35-51. The question becomes, are these four passages about the same event? This of course leads to more questions: Are there differences between these four accounts? Similarities? If so, how do we harmonize them? If they are the same event, and we detect differences, how do we reconcile the differences? If they are deemed to be different events, how do we understand their relationship to one another?

I have my theories on this, but I will not give it away just yet! I have asked my Sunday school class to ponder these very questions for this coming Sunday. It is interesting to consider. If nothing else, it will cause us to spend some quality time in God’s word and at the feet of the Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred text. Not a bad way to spend a few hours!

These men begin a journey. A journey that will stretch and test each one of them. A journey that will change their lives and countless others forever.

As I was studying this pericope a week or so ago, the Holy Spirit gave me some illumination. It is not earth shattering I do not suppose. But, it was something that really hit me. Here it is:

Jesus is the How of my life, the Who of my life, the What of my life, the Where of my life and the Why of my life.

That is to say, Jesus has complete authority! It echoes the apostle Paul’s words, paraphrasing, I am not my own, for I have been bought with a price!

What is the call of Christ in and upon your life? Do not think you do not have one . . . you certainly do. What is it he has called you to do? Are you doing it? Is Christ calling you to a transition in life? Is he calling you to leave your proverbial nets and boats behind to sacrifice all and follow him? The only things that will last for eternity are the things we do in the name of Christ. So, what are we waiting for? Why are we wasting time?

If you are living in the call of Christ, I say amen and continue on faithfully and humbly. The path is filled with landmines and traps set by the enemy: be eternally vigilant and rely constantly on the Holy Spirit to lead and give discernment.

The call of Christ is still the same: a call of discipleship, a call of sacrifice. Am I sacrificing for my Lord? Am I living a life of discipleship day in and day out? The call comes to you and me the same as it did those four fishermen some two-thousand years ago:

                                                          Follow me!

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