Four Fishermen Summoned

SYNOPSIS – In Galilee, Jesus summoned four men to leave their livelihoods and become his followers Mark 1:16-20

Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash
The summons to discipleship by Jesus differed sharply from the practices of the rabbis from Second Temple Judaism. He called his followers to leave everything and dedicate their lives completely to his mission. Moreover, they were called to follow a specific person, Jesus. In contrast, a Jewish student educated under the rabbis became a disciple of the Torah or Law, not of an individual teacher - A disciple of Jesus followed HIM. - [Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash].

Simon, Andrew, and James and John, the “sons of Zebedee,” were not poor by the standards of the day. Their families owned boats and nets. There is even mention of “hired help.” Fishing was an essential business that occupied entire families. Investments in nets and boats would have been substantial.

The fishing trade was important to the economic life of Galilee, and ancient records show that fish from the Sea of Galilee were exported as far as the cities of Antioch in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt.
  • (Mark 1:16-20) - “And passing by near the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea — for they were fishers; and Jesus said unto them— Come after me, And I will make you become fishers of men; And, straightway, leaving the nets, they followed him. And going forward a little, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, and them who were in the boat putting in order the nets; and, straightway, he called them — and leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, they came away after him” – (The Emphasized Bible) - (Parallel passagesMatthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-11).
Simon and Andrew had some level of education, at least rudimentary. They possibly spoke languages besides Aramaic, especially Greek, the language of commerce in the eastern Mediterranean. 'Andrew' is Greek and not a Hebrew name. The gospel of Mark describes the callings of the two pairs of fishermen with a vivid term - “Straightway” – Or, “immediately,” a favorite word in the gospel of Mark.

Fishers of Men
Both sets of brothers responded by leaving their occupations and family assets. “Immediately” suggests they left with little to no hesitation. Jesus instructed the four men to follow him and, thereby, to become “fishers of men.” The call to discipleship is a call to service.

In the more detailed account in the gospel of Luke, a multitude was present and "pressed upon him and heard the word of God, while he was standing by the lake." At that point, Jesus entered Simon’s boat from which "he sat down and taught the multitudes” - (Luke 5:1-11).

Afterward, Jesus commanded Simon to leave the shore and lower his nets. He and his compatriots had toiled all night with little to show for it. However, upon lowering the nets, "they enclosed a great multitude of fishes" and, consequently, the nets almost burst.

When Simon saw this, he prostrated himself at the knees of Jesus and begged him to depart – “For I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Simon, James, and John were amazed and confused, but Jesus told them, "Fear not; from now on you will catch men." It was at this point that the four men left all behind to follow Jesus.

This first instance of calling disciples to leave all and follow Jesus becomes the pattern for his ministry throughout the region around the Sea of Galilee.


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