Welcome back to our study of the “RED WORDS” in the Gospel of Mark. We are still in chapter 1 so let’s proceed.
1:16-18 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Simon and Andrew woke up that morning – like they did every other morning – expecting an ordinary day of fishing. It was how they made their living. They were skilled, most likely having begun to fish as young teenagers, probably trained by their father. That was how young boys in that day were prepared for adulthood. It would seem from the context of the Gospel at large that Simon and Andrew were well into adulthood so they’d probably been fishing for some years. Peter had a mother-in-law, you will remember; which means he had a wife and historical records indicate he had at least one daughter.
Jesus was relatively unknown at the time. He had very recently left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum. There is no indication in the text that He had preached yet or worked any miracles along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Had Simon and Andrew met the newcomer to the area? Had they heard about Him in any way?
If all we had was the Gospel of Mark, we might think that they hadn’t, but John’s Gospel fills in some details for us by recording an event from several months earlier.
Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). John 1:35-42 (NASB)
So in fact, they had met Jesus earlier. Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist and after John testified about Jesus, Andrew and another unnamed disciple of John’s had spend a day with Jesus. Andrew was clearly moved and on returning home to the Galilee went to his brother and told him about Jesus. Not only that, but he ‘brought him to Jesus’.
Was that in Capernaum? Or elsewhere? We don’t know, but from John’s Gospel we learn that clearly Simon and Andrew had met Jesus previously and had been sufficiently moved, touched, attracted that when He passed by them on the shores of the Galilee and called them, their response was immediate.
Mark adds in the next verses that the same day, shortly after calling Simon and Andrew, Jesus passed by another boat where three more fishermen, Jacob (James) and John, along with their father, Zebedee, were mending nets. Jesus called the two sons and again ‘immediately…they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after Him.’ vs. 20
So Peter and Andrew had already come to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah for they had accepted John’s declaration that the Messiah had come. But after their early encounters with Him, they had apparently returned to their work in Galilee.
We have here an illustration of the difference between being a believer and a disciple.
Peter and Andrew believed John’s testimony – they were ‘believers’ but it had not changed their lives. Some months had gone by since that early encounter and now instead of Simon and Peter going to where Jesus was, He came to where they were and called them to follow Him – to become ‘disciples’.
Many Christian teachers use the term “disciple” as synonymous with the word ‘Christian’. There is a difference. How does a person become a Christian? The answer is simple – A person becomes a Christian by faith in the redemptive and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ – His life, death and resurrection.
The Scriptures make it quite clear that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, but the Scriptures also teach that discipleship is costly. Let’s say it this way: salvation is our birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and spiritual maturity in the Christian life.
Follow me – this is a command. Discipleship was a common feature in Palestine. The Rabbis had their disciples who came and learned from them and followed them. But they did so by choice, and they were not specifically called on to leave all. Jesus’ call to follow Him was, however, all embracing and sacrificial. It was the call of One with sovereign authority.
Jesus did not issue an easy invitation. There was no ‘sign-up’ bonus; no advance promises of provision. (By the way, have you ever wondered what Peter’s wife said? Or his mother-in-law?)
Peter and Andrew could not say, “I’ll catch men, but I don’t want it to upset my comfort zone.” They left their boats, their nets, their fish, and their families to follow Jesus. They were not deserting their father in such a way as to leave him helpless. The fishing business was apparently doing well. It was doing so well that they were able to hire extra help.
But notice something: These men were totally unqualified for the job to which they were called. They were fishermen by trade. They were just ordinary people. They were not trained as the Scribes or Levites or Priests. They were not Rabbis. As a matter of fact, they were not even Pharisees or Sadducees. They were just common country folk, ordinary fishermen, people like you and me.
But apart from all others whom Jesus could have called, He called these. It is as if Jesus wanted to make a statement that anyone could be used by Him for His purpose. Jesus wasn’t looking for the “cream of the crop” but for He ordinary people – four fishermen -and He called them.
Those first four disciples – Simon Peter, Andrew, Jacob (James) and John – had no idea where that calling would lead them. They did not know that they would face persecution, prison, and even death for the sake of the gospel of Christ. They did not realize that they would be the leaders of an infant church that would eventually span the globe. They did not realize that they would have a part in the revelation of Holy Scripture.
They just knew that Jesus called, so they obeyed.
He still calls….to you and to me. Is our response as ‘immediate’ as theirs?
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