Prepare to listen. Be silent for as long as you need. Pray: Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9)
Read Mark 1:16-20
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
The scene shifts to the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus often went. His first act there was to summons the four fishermen to follow him. Mark tells two parallel call stories, highlighting the importance of Jesus’ calling followers. Most of us are familiar with these verses and tend to ignore them a bit today. Some of us sang the children’s song, “I will make you fishers of men… if you follow me,” and were taught this meant we were to invite others to believe in Jesus, become a Christian. We presumed that Jesus’ call to these fishermen was a call to evangelize the lost. Unfortunately, our teachers weren’t entirely correct, as Ched Myers notes, writing, “There is perhaps no expression more traditionally misunderstood than Jesus’ invitation to these workers to become ‘fishers of men’.”
We therefore need to look to the Old Testament prophets to guide our understanding. They used fishing and fishhooks as a warning of judgment (see Jeremiah 16:16 and Amos 4:2) not an invitation to ‘come to Jesus.’ Thus, when Jesus called those four fishermen to join him, it was a call to join in the operation to “overturn the existing order of power and privilege” (Myers. 2015, p. 132), to bring in judgment on the world rulers. In other words, Mark is pointing us to the revolutionary role Jesus came to play, a role that meant the end for those with social and religious power and privilege. There was a new order in town and the old must go. This is a challenge for us to repent, ‘change our minds’ about what we think and believe about Jesus’ call to be ‘fishers of people.’
There is a second challenge for us to reflect on. The word disciple literally means student, follower, servant. It was normal in Jesus’ society for a would-be student, to take the initiative and seek out a rabbi they would like to follow and learn from. The teaching and learning lasted until the student was ready to become a rabbi himself (they were all men in that culture). Jesus overturned that common tradition and took the initiative himself. He called four apparent strangers to follow and learn from him; they didn’t ask him first. We don’t know whether they’d ever heard of Jesus before that invitation (more a command they dared not disobey) or even knew who he was. They were fishermen, not aspiring rabbis. Yet, their response was instantaneous. They left their sole means of livelihood, their economic security, their families, and followed Jesus. They never knew then that they’d never graduate from Jesus’ ‘school.’ They’d always be followers and learners of Rabbi Jesus. Following Jesus, they discovered, isn’t about assent with the head or even the heart. It’s about a fundamental change in how we live our lives and for whom.
What effect does following Jesus each day have on the way you live now? In what ways might it be affecting the ordering of power and privilege in your world?
What do you think it was about Jesus, a man they appear to know nothing about, that made the four fishermen immediately follow him? What would make you follow, sacrificing everything you know and rely on?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Following you, Lord, isn’t always comfortable and often takes me out of my comfort zones. I need your grace to help me remain a true disciple to the end. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, following behind Jesus.