A reflection on Mark 1:14-20 for Sunday, February 5, 2023 at Mosaic Baptist Church, Gungahlin.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Mark 1:14-20 (NRSVA)
This Sunday we begin a series entitled ‘Empowering for the Extraordinary’. It is a title that taps directly into our Mosaic Mission Statement which reads:
‘Empowering Ordinary People for God’s Extraordinary Mission’.
Perhaps there is not better story in the Gospels for us to explore as we open this series than the account of Jesus calling the first disciples. After all, here we have four ‘fishermen’ who epitomise the common, working-class, and ‘ordinary’.
Unlike his contemporary Rabbis, Jesus did not select the cream of the crop to become his followers. Common practice dictated that only the most promising young men, and occasionally women, were given the rabbinic invitation to become followers. This would occur only after a Jewish teacher’s attention was caught by the promise of an exceptional student. To be chosen was a rare privilege and revealed the Rabbi’s belief that his understanding of the Torah could be safely entrusted to the chosen one.
They took little risk with less anyone less than par.
So, by the time Simon, Andrew, James, and John are learning the family trade, the odds are on that they have already been rejected by the local religious leaders. In the opinion of the local priest they are just not up to the task.
They are ‘ordinary’.
Here, however, these same young men are also chosen. Although the local leaders may not have elected to entrust their life’s teaching to these four, Jesus does.
It tells us something vital about the Kingdom of God – or the the realm of reality – that Jesus is busy ‘proclaiming’: This is a radically inclusive, welcoming, and gracious mission that is entrusted to the common people.
The response of these four fishermen is also informative for anyone seeking to understand the ‘good news’ – and it taps into the first of our values here at Mosaic:
‘Jesus Front and Centre’.
Make no mistake, as it became clear that these four were not going to receive the local Rabbi’s invitation to “Follow Me”, the families of these four young men moved on to Plan B. In their case, this was a life of fishing. They were apprenticed and their liane and expectations were mapped.
As Jesus steps into the picture, however, his call puts all this on hold. Mark characteristically uses the term ‘immediately’ to describe their response. They leave ‘nets’ and ‘Father’ along with plans and expectations.
We would be wrong, however, to only highlight what Simon, Andrew, James, and John left. This would be like only calculating the cost of a purchase and not remembering the treasure gained from the transaction. These first of all disciples left their boats for the opportunity to Follow Jesus.
Surely they are the perfect example of what it looks like to put Jesus front and centre.
At Mosaic, like these first disciples, we are a community always asking what this means for us. We have not arrived at. A place where we do this perfectly. We are not claiming to know everything about Jesus or what his Spirit will ask of us. We are not people who have arrived.
Rather, we are a people perpetually learning what placing Jesus front and centre looks like. To follow the gospel language more closely, we are a people always asking what Jesus’ invitation to ‘Follow Me’ entails.
If we keep such a perspective on the hard-to-pin-down Jesus we will find ourselves becoming humble, life-long-learners on this surprising journey Jesus invites us on.
And that is a beautiful possibility indeed!
How do you think these first disciples would have felt hearing the invitation “Follow Me” from Jesus after they had resigned themselves to a life of fishing? In what ways does Jesus’ call to the ordinary surprise you?
In what aspects of life do you find it easy to put Jesus front and centre? In what aspects to you find this challenging? What would it look like for you to entrust both these successes and disappointments to Jesus?