Summoning Disciples

The disciples of Jesus are called to leave everything, if need be, and dedicate their lives to his mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom on Earth. Though the story as recorded in Mark is brief, in it we glimpse the cost of following Jesus. He began to build his new covenant community in “Galilee of the Nations” by inviting four fishermen to leave their livelihoods and follow him on the way that would lead to his death in Jerusalem.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John were not poor by first-century standards. Their families owned boats and nets, and there is even mention of “hired help.” Fishing was an essential business that occupied entire clans and towns, and investments in nets and boats could be substantial - (Mark 1:16-20).

Four Fishermen - Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash
[Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash]

The fishing trade was important to the economic life of Galilee, and ancient records show that fish from the Sea of Galilee were exported to cities as far away as 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 fishermen. And Jesus said to them: Follow me, and I will make you 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 the nets in order. And straightway, he called them and leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, they followed him” – (Parallel passages - Matthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-11).

Simon and Andrew had some level of education. They probably spoke one or more languages besides Aramaic, including Greek, the language of commerce in the eastern Mediterranean region. “Andrew” or ‘Andreas’ was a Greek name.

The Gospel of Mark describes the reaction of Simon and Andrew to the invitation of Jesus with the vivid Greek term translated into English as “straightway” or “immediately.” They responded by leaving their occupations and family assets. Likewise, James and John “straightway” left their father in the boat with the “hired men.” All this suggests a hasty departure by these four new disciples with little hesitation and preparation.

FOLLOWING JESUS


The Greek noun translated as “disciple” originally referred to one who was a “learner” or “student.” It is derived from the Greek verb manthanô, meaning, “to learn.”

By following him, Jesus would make them “fishers of men” who would proclaim the Good News far and wide, bringing many men into his Kingdom.  With the arrival of the Messiah, preaching the Gospel was more important than any other task or occupation.

Discipleship means service to the Kingdom of God. It may be necessary when called for the disciple to forsake everything he holds dear. Nevertheless, there will be great rewards for the man who forsakes all to follow Jesus “wherever he leads,” if not in this life, then in the “age to come.” This is a way of evaluating life that is contrary to how the existing world order values things:

  • He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He that finds his life will lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake will find it” – (Matthew 10:37-39).
  • And everyone who has left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands for my name's sake will receive a hundredfold and inherit everlasting life” – (Matthew 19:29).
  • Moreover, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse that I may gain Christ- (Philippians 3:7-8).

In the more detailed account in the Gospel of Luke, the multitude present that day “pressed upon Jesus and heard the word of God while he was standing by the Lake.” At that point, he entered Simon’s boat and “sat down and taught the multitudes” along the shoreline - (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 their efforts. Upon obeying Jesus, “they enclosed a great multitude of fishes.” So much so, that their nets were at the point of bursting.

When Simon saw this, he prostrated himself before Jesus and begged him to depart “since I am a sinful man!” Simon, James, and John were amazed and confused, but he told them, “Fear not. From now on, you will catch men.” At this point, the four men left all they had and began to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

This first instance of calling disciples became the pattern for the Nazarene’s ministry. The “Kingdom of God” was at hand, already it was invading this fallen world. Therefore, it was the time for immediate and decisive action in response to the Messiah of Israel.


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RELATED POSTS:

  • Suffering for Him - (To follow Jesus requires the willingness to suffer for his sake, and enduring persecution is the highest honor imaginable in his Kingdom)
  • "Rejoice and Exult!" - (When disciples are persecuted for their faith, they should rejoice for being accounted worthy to suffer for Jesus and his Kingdom)
  • "I never knew you!" - (At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus claimed absolute authority for his words. Disciples who ignore them risk his rejection – Matthew 7:21-28)


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