BRIEF INTRO: It’s funny how I can, at times, look at a portion of scripture and, at least in my thinking, not see too much. What I am reading appears to be pretty straightforward, no doctrine to unfold, no theology to research and unpack, and the application is clear enough. But, I have learned over the years to “think again,” that is, I had to discipline myself to prayerfully look at the verses and meditate on what truth’s I could grasp from some seemingly “unimportant” text.
Such is the situation before me. These verses in Mark 1:16-20 appear, on the surface, to be all those things I just stated above. But thankfully, the more I reflect on these verses, or I should say, the main point of these verses, I have been blessed by the Holy Spirit as He has opened my mind and heart to some truths I needed to be reminded of. I think we all can benefit from such reminders. So, let’s get to it!
16 As He was going along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “(Follow Me,) and I will have you become fishers of people.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 And going on a little farther, He saw [a]James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, [b]who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went away [c] (to follow Him).
FOCUS ONE: THE OBVIOUS
At our first reading of these scriptures, we come across some simple facts:
- 1. Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee
- 2. He saw and later called two men to “follow” Him
- 3. These men were brothers (Simon and Andrew)
- 4. They were fishermen
- 5. Jesus calls them to follow Him and “be made,” or “have you” become something other than what they were currently: fishers of men!
- 6. Immediately they leave all and follow Him
- 7. Going a bit farther, Jesus sees James and John (brothers)
- 8. They were in a boat mending nets (fishermen)
- 9. He calls them to follow Him
- 10. They leave everything ( including the hired servants and follow Him)
Those facts assimilated reveal Jesus was seeking, Jesus calling, and Jesus being obeyed!
FOCUS TWO: THE NOT SO OBVIOUS
Is it mere coincidence that Jesus comes upon these men that day along the Sea of Galilee? What would compel these men to follow Him? Why would they forsake all to follow Christ? “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed you; what then will there be for us?'”
Jesus speaks of “those He has chosen” in reference to His disciples in John 13:18. In chapter 17 of the same writing, He references the disciples as “men whom thou gavest me out of the world” (v. 6).
It is evident from these scriptures that God had, by His foreknowledge and for “the praise of His glory,” chosen or by way of “election,” decided that these men would be disciples of His Son and ultimately fearless martyrs; for the glorious gospel of God! These men were not extraordinary by any means as you and I would think. Like you and I, they were working men, family men, husbands, fathers, etc. They were not wealthy men or intellectual types; they were not mighty men. But such are those God chooses to serve Him!
26 For [a]consider your calling, brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to [b]the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the [c]insignificant things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no [d]human may boast before God. 30 But it is [e]due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, [f]and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
Did He need them? No, but He was pleased to use them in His glorious work among men!
Another not-so-obvious observation is drawn out in this question: What was His purpose in having disciples?
This purpose is primarily expressed in Christ’s prayer in John 17:5:19. Jesus called these men unto Himself and invested approximately 3 ½ years into them so that they would, as they followed Him, experience Him in every manner of His life. By walking and talking with Him, listening to Him teach, watching Him perform many miracles, and by being with Him ALL THE TIME, they would get to know Him as thoroughly as any human being can know another! They would “come to understand that all things (the message and the mission of Christ) which Christ had were ultimately from the father.”
The ultimate purpose in calling these men unto Himself was so that they would be a witness and testimony to the gospel of Christ. So that these men, after Christ’s ascension, would continue the work that he began, the proclamation of the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 28:18-20)!
FOCUS THREE: OBSERVATIONS THAT DIRECT APPLICATION
In this section, I aim to point out several things that I hope will be “food for thought” as you close your iPad, exit your phone, or do whatever you will do when you finish reading this post.
The first item to point out is that nets are associated with fishing, NOT rods within this context and any I know of throughout scripture! This fact has important implications for us as we faithfully seek to fulfill the great commission.
Unlike a fishing rod that is cast into the water and then yanked back hard to hook a fish, nets are CAST out and open wide (depending on size) with the sole purpose of catching as many fish as possible. Any fish in the area can swim into this net, which can mean a large number will be caught within it. The imagery we often see of using a lure and a line and then waiting for a fish to strike is foreign to the Bible.
Some fish will get away when the nets are closed and pulled back into the boat, but the net will catch many. This has its parallel in our fishing for men!
- We are to cast our nets (the gospel) wide to draw in as many people as possible.
- Evangelism can be tedious and tiring at times, seemingly lacking results. We can feel we cast our net in vain, once again. But, as we learn in Luke 5:4, we are to rest in Christ, faithfully continuing to share the gospel, trusting Christ for the results!
- Only when we are with Jesus may we fully know just how many men were caught in our gospel nets!!
- Some people will reject the gospel (fish falling out of the net), we cannot keep them in, but we can pray for their souls!
A second item that stands out to me in this text that we are looking at is that Serving Christ requires our willingness to forsake all else.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find a situation in which some men stated they wanted to follow Christ, and others had several excuses not to follow Him (Luke 9:57-62). Contrast those people to these men in our text: what a stark contrast! Christ’s answer to them seems plain enough, even for our ears today: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62).
I noticed one or two other applications, but I will leave it up to you to search them out in your study. Have fun.