*The Call to Discipleship*
*Mark 1:16-20 October 24, 1999*
Jesus abruptly appears by the Sea of Galilee and without warning calls unsuspecting fishermen to be disciples.
Jesus is not going to be a lone prophet wandering in the desert but a leader, whose task as Messiah is to create a community of followers.
Since Peter and Andrew cast nets from the shoreline, they are possibly too poor to own a boat while the Zebedees are more upscale, with a boat that can take them anywhere on the lake and hired hands to help with the labor.
Whatever their circumstances, these men show their repentance, their desire “to turn,” by dropping everything to heed Jesus’ call.
Their repentance is more than just a matter of an internal transformation; they turn into something that they are not now, from fishermen to fishers of men.
Jesus does not call them to be shepherds gathering in the lost sheep of the house of Israel, or to be laborers bringing in the sheaves (Matt 9: 36-38), but to be fishers (Jer.
29:4; 47:10; Amos 4:2; Hab.
1:14-17), and we should understand that Jesus does use fishing here as a purposeful reference to mission.
When the fisherman hooks a fish, it has fatal consequences for the fish; life cannot go on as before.
This image fits the transforming power of God’s rule that brings judgment and death to the old, yet promises a new creation (see Rom. 6:1-11).
The disciples are called to be agents who will bring a compelling message to others that will change their lives beyond recognition.
Jesus’ call has the same effect on the disciples themselves.
What is striking is that Jesus calls them to “follow /me.” /
Prophets did not call people to follow themselves but to follow God (compare I Kings 19:19- 21).
The teachers of Jesus’ day never called people to follow them, only to learn the Torah from them.
Jesus’ call of the disciples is therefore dramatically authoritative and matches the biblical pattern of God’s calling of people: a command with a promise, which is followed by obedience (see Gen. 12:1-4).
The call so overpowers these disciples that their lives will never be the same again.
The Power of Jesus’ Call*
Jesus preaches to the crowds, but the call to follow comes to individuals.
Mark does not tell us why Jesus singled out Simon and Andrew and James and John as disciples or why they decided to respond instantly.
The accounts of the calling of the first disciples in the Gospels of John and Luke make more sense to us because we typically want some rational explanation for their behavior.
In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist tips off the first disciples (John 1:35-37).
In Luke, Jesus gives them a remarkable preview miracle (Luke 5:1-11).
Nothing in Mark’s narrative, however, has prepared us to expect these fishermen to drop their nets and leave everything to follow Jesus.
How do they even know who he is?
We may be tempted to supply some psychological basis for their rapid response.
Perhaps they were having bad times in the fishing business and were ready to make a career change.
They had been longing for some time for the Messiah to come to relieve foreign oppression and to bring the new Jerusalem or whatever restoration they might have imagined.
They had an itch for some kind of action and jumped at the chance to take the plunge and follow him.
They had made a decision during one of his sermons to rededicate their lives.
But Mark provides no such explanations, and we are not allowed such psychological speculation when studying Mark’s Gospel.
These men have witnessed nothing of Jesus’ powers and have no idea what his battle plans might be.
They do not take a few days to mull over their decision, to ask their families’ permission, or to seek counsel from a panel of religious experts.
To us it may seem an incredibly hasty decision to take off after someone who happens to pass by and abruptly beckons people to follow him.
We know that something more must have happened - and we learn such details from Luke and John.
They must have heard and believed his preaching that the kingdom of God had come.
But Mark’s Gospel presents us with a sudden call and a response that is just as sudden.
The only explanation for the sudden response of disciples is that Mark wants to underscore the force of Jesus’ call.
It alone propels them to follow him.
He chooses whom he wills, and his call comes like “a sharp military command” that produces obedience.
His call, however, is much more than a dramatic summons.
“He commands as God commands…He makes of the fisherman something new, that which he wills (Lohmeyer).”
Psalm 33:9 exalts the mighty creative word of God, “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm,” and provides the backdrop for understanding the response of these disciples.
Like God, Jesus speaks, and it happens.
Jesus speaks, “Come, follow me!” and it creates obedience that compels people to follow and join his band.
They are willing for their identity and support to come from being his disciples, not simply from being a member of this or that family, this or that profession, or this or that village.
Jesus speaks, “Be quiet!
... Come out of him!” and unclean spirits are routed (1:25).
Jesus speaks, “Quiet!
Be still!” and the wind stops, and there is a great calm (4:39).
Jesus speaks, /“Talitha koum!’ /(which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’)” and the dead are raised (5:41).
Jesus speaks, /“Ephphatha!’
/(which means, ‘Be opened!’)” and ears are opened (7:34).
Jesus speaks, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again,” and a fig tree is withered to its roots (11: 14, 20).
Jesus cries a great cry, and the temple veil splits from top to bottom (15:38-39).
The power of the one who sees persons long before they see him and calls as God calls is the only explanation why these disciples respond immediately as they do, and it may escape our notice.
There is a Christological dimension here, and this first incident immediately raises the question: Who is this who can create such immediate obedience?
The miracles that Mark records immediately following prompt a similar question:
Who is this who can do these things?
When interpreted from a biblical perspective, they reveal that Jesus, the bringer of the kingdom, has unique power as God’s Son and can overmaster demons, offer forgiveness of sins, and effect healing of disease.
The powerful call of Jesus can still transform lives today.
The Particulars of Jesus' Call*
God's Initiative Toward Us*
The Kingdom of God is something that only God creates; it is not something built by valiant human effort.
But that fact does not mean that we need only to sit passively by and to wait for God.
God has already acted.
The kingdom of God that invades history in the ministry of Jesus requires submission in discipleship to him, and demands all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (12:33) - our whole being.
The calling of the first disciples shows that we must not only repent and believe the gospel (1: 15) but we must also be ready to leave and follow.
Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus does not wait for people to come to him at some chosen site.
He takes the initiative by seeking out followers with the command, “You!
Come, follow me!”
He does not put up a sign-up sheet (like church softball) asking for volunteers (“Messiah: Interested in a few good men and women”) or post office hours when he will be available to discuss the kingdom of God with those who might be curious.
The disciples also do not join him as a pupil might select a rabbi to learn the law and absorb his religious wisdom.
Jesus selects his disciples, not vice versa (1:16-20; 2:14; 3:13-14, “those he wanted”).
We can conclude from this that becoming a disciple of Jesus is more of a gift than an achievement.
Jesus models what he calls them to do as fishers of men.
They have been caught in the nets of God’s grace, and it will transform their lives.
God's Preparation of Us*
A second noteworthy element in the calling of disciples is that those who are drafted apparently have no special preparation.
Jesus does not choose the most socially prominent, the best trained, or even the most religiously devout.
He does not find them in some hallowed religious setting, such as the synagogue, but he is just passing by (1:16; see also 2:13; 37; 4:1) and finds them in the midst of everyday life, going about their daily routines.
His command, however, shatters that comfortable everyday world.
The call and the instant response of these fishermen reveal something of what discipleship to Jesus actually involves and should shatter our comfortable world of middle-class discipleship.
Disciples are not those who simply fill pews at worship, fill out pledge cards, attend an occasional Bible study, and offer to help out in the work of the church now and then.
They are not merely eavesdroppers and onlookers.
When a person is hooked by Jesus, their whole life and purpose in life are transformed.
Results of God's Initiative and Preparation*
* 1. Unconditional Acceptance *
To be a disciple means accepting Jesus’ demands unconditionally.
Jesus requires absolute obedience and sacrifice.
Discipleship in Mark is not part-time volunteer work on our own terms and convenience.