Last week we were introduced to two people, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, with a word from the Lord. We were also shown their purpose, and their message. For Jesus, after he was baptized, that Word from the Lord was “You are my son in whom I am well pleased.” Then he went into the wilderness further showing his purpose was to overcome Satan and all evil.
That fits with his message in verse 15…
15 “The time has come,” ... “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Now with a message like that it shouldn’t surprise us that the very next thing we see happening is Jesus calling of his disciples. He’s begun to build his kingdom.
The main idea Mark wants to get across in this section is that when Jesus calls, people follow.
Now, we know that’s not the way it normally works. When someone calls us our tendency is to want to ignore them. That’s why children need to be taught to come when called. It’s not natural to want to submit to any authority.
But when Jesus calls, he overcomes all resistance and they follow. Notice the speed at which they leave: They come “at once” and “without delay”, “immediately” they responded. That’s his main point and we could just stop right now but there’s a few more things for us to notice.
We need to notice that:
- Jesus’s Call is a Call by and to Jesus
- Jesus’ Call is a call to service
- Jesus’ Call is a Call to Fellowship
- Jesus’ Call is a call by and to Jesus
Jesus’ Call is done by Jesus. Jesus does the calling.
This may seem obvious but, normally the disciple would have chosen his teacher. He would’ve shopped around until he found the teacher he wanted to follow. But in this case Jesus does the choosing. That’s how it works for all of us. God calls and we respond.
Now, some of us might be wondering, what about those who resist the Call of Christ?
Well, I think that’s best answered by understanding there’s more than one type of call. See, there is a general call that goes out to all people and there is a more formal call.
We see this in the parable of wedding feast. The word goes out to come to the wedding. One man responds to this general call and comes to the wedding but doesn’t have the right attire on. Spiritually speaking he isn’t trusting in or wearing the righteousness of Christ. He’s heard the general call, even responded to some degree, but not in a saving way. The unfortunate verdict of this man is that “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
We also see, in the parable of the soils, the word is spread to all but sometimes it doesn’t land on fertile soil so it doesn’t take root (Matthew 13). That’s a general call and often it’s resisted. It doesn’t always result in salvation.
But there’s also a more formal, an inward call, that does result in a positive response. And It seems this is what Mark wants to emphasize here. When Jesus calls, people follow.
What we have here in this section is an example of how God’s kingdom grows. He pours out his Spirit on his disciples, hearts are changed and they immediately follow.
It has to be this way. If we are dead in trespass and sin, and are saved by grace alone (Eph. 2:1-8) then the only way for us to be saved is by Jesus overcoming our natural resistance.
Jesus must do the calling because as Romans 3:11-12 says…
None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
So Jesus (or more broadly God) does the calling. It’s done by him. The immediate response we see the disciples making is a result of who’s calling. God is the one who draws them. As John 6:44 says,
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
We aren’t drawn to him kicking and screaming. He changes our hearts so we want to go. It’s the only way.
Jesus is who they are called to.
Jesus says “come follow me.” He doesn’t tell them to go anywhere else but with him. The synagogue was nearby with all of its teachers. He could’ve sent them there but he doesn’t. He says to follow him.
Have you ever followed someone who didn’t know where they were going? I know many times I thought for sure I knew where I was going while my wife patiently sat next to me in the car while I did a u-turn. With Jesus there’s no chance of getting lost.
So Jesus is the focus of the call. We are called by him and to him.
Jesus’ Call is a call to service
It’s a call that requires a change in thinking and sacrifice.
Call to service requires a change in thinking
All four of them, Simon, Andrew, James, and John knew about fishing. It was their trade. They knew it meant hard work. Fishing for them wasn’t leisure. The imagery was of long, hard work with little results. That’s the way fishing for men is and they would’ve understood that.
But what would’ve required a new way of thinking is the idea of saving the fish. See these four didn’t fish to save them. They caught the fish to kill them, cook them, and eat them.
It’s interesting that nearly all of the OT references to fishing involve judgement. Here’s one reference in Jerimiah 16:15-17:
16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them… 17 For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. 18 But first I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations” (See also Ezk. 29:4; Am. 4:2; Hab. 1:14–17).
So to Jeremiah the fishermen are the bad guys. They catch people to bring them to judgement and punishment not to rescue them (See Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8).
Serving God requires a new way of thinking. Sometimes when a service opportunity arises our first instinct is to serve the way we’ve always served. We have our talents and abilities and we know what needs to be done so we serve with a get out of my way mentality--just let me do my own thing!
But when we serve as Christians we must think differently remembering it’s not always about results. The results are in God’s hands anyway. Serving is usually more about the process. In other words, serving is about discipleship.
Jesus in chapter 28 of Matthew told us:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
See it isn’t enough to just catch a lot of fish and then move on to the next fertile spot. Catching people is a new kind of fishing that requires a new kind of thinking.
Call to Service that requires sacrifice
Notice they left everything. Andrew and Simon “left their nets.” James and John “left their father.” They left their livelihood and their family.
Think about this for a minute. Jesus wasn’t exactly wealthy. Luke tells us…
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
Jesus had a lot to offer but financial prosperity wasn’t a part of the deal. So when they walked away from their source of income they most likely became homeless along with Jesus.
And they sacrificed their family, too. As bad as that seems in our day it would’ve been viewed as even worse in theirs. In their day honoring your parents was the greatest commandment.
The family was central unit God worked with. He saved Noah and his family. When God called Abraham to leave his home, his whole family went. Circumcision was done to all the males in the household, even the servants.
So family was very important to them but Jesus was calling them to be a part of a new family. Sacrificing your family in order to follow Christ isn’t easy but it has great rewards.
Later in this gospel, chapter 10…
28 Peter began to say to Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
So when Jesus calls us to serve it requires a change in thinking and sacrifice. But it’s sacrifice with a great reward. Eternal life!
And one of the rewards is being part of a new fellowship. Jesus just said that in the verse we just read. See this is what Jesus is doing: In starting his kingdom, he’s forming a new fellowship, a type of new family, one that’s even better than our physical families. It’s a spiritual family, or kingdom, with Christ as the king.
Jesus’ Call is a Call to Fellowship
The fellowship is made up of specific individuals
It’s not just made up of nameless people. In this section there are four disciples mentioned: Simon and his brother Andrew. James and his brother John.
Who were these guys?
Simon Peter, was the impulsive one (Matt. 14:28–33; Mark 8:32; 14:29–31, 47; John 18:10) who became the leader of The Twelve, and was mentioned first in every list of apostles (Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; and Acts 1:13).
Peter’s brother Andrew, was always bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40–42; 6:8, 9, cf. Matt. 14:18; John 12:22).
Zebedee’s son James, was the first of The Twelve to become a martyr (Acts 12:1, 2).
And his brother John, was called “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; etc.).
These individuals were family. Jesus could have chosen to work alone but he didn’t because forming a fellowship was why he called them.
He called them to join him and each other in fellowship. He didn’t call them to isolation.
This fellowship is the beginning of his church
It continues to this day. He still works in fellowships. He works with groups of people. In churches. That’s why it’s so important to be connected with God’s people. That’s what he calls us to.
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but many of us are in contact with those who are isolated from other believers more than they should be. I think we all understand that some don’t like being in crowds. Some are uncomfortable even in small groups. But that’s not something to be content with because Jesus calls us to be in fellowship with others.
One reason people stay away from other believers is hypocrisy. They look at us and they don’t see Jesus. They see sinners.
But look at the example of Jesus we see here in this section. Wouldn’t it have been less trouble for Jesus to just raise up stones to do his work? After being tempted, he could’ve just gone straight to the cross. No, Jesus saw the sinfulness of the disciples but called them anyway. He loved them. He spent time with them. He started his church with them and if we want to be a part of what Jesus started, then we need to be connected to his church, too.
So, when Jesus calls, people follow. They follow Jesus in service and fellowship. As Jesus’ disciples that’s what we do. May God enable us to be the kind of disciples he calls us to be.