Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
- Mark 1:14-20
Construction on the waterfront
Passing alongside the sea of Galilee
Remember, Mark’s profession was a fisherman. That being the case, all the references to the sea or water shouldn’t surprise us. Sometimes, the references to the sea seem insignificant, “Hey, if you look off in the distance that way, you’ll see the sea.” With every reference to the sea, something significant happens.
- The calling of Andrew, Simon, and James and John (our text today)
- The calling of Levi (Mark 2:13)
- Jesus healed crowds of people by the sea (Mark 3:7-12)
- Jesus commanded the storm at sea to stop (Mark 4:39)
- Jesus casts out thousands of demons into a pig, and they drown themselves into the sea (Mark 5:13)
- Jesus cured a woman of perpetual menstrual bleeding and raised the daughter of a synagogue leader from the dead (Mark 5:21-43)
What’s up with Mark’s focus on the sea? Why does he always make sure to mention when the sea is near or seen? Some scholars had said that these references are pointing back to creation. When the Spirit was hovering over the waters, and God was calling creation into existence to obey Him and conform to His purposes.
What is the connection between Jesus’ ministry by the water and the creation of the universe? Jesus was calling out the disciples from their vocations to fulfill His purposes. He was healing, restoring, and raising people from the dead, which is a sort of re-creation activity. The connection is the origin of the new creation. God’s Kingdom will invade the world and grow until all creation is redeemed.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- Isaiah 9:6
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
- Isaiah 60:2
For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
- Habakukk 2:14
On the job
Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
We now see Jesus begin His recruiting process for the war effort. Jesus is out by the sea and comes across two brothers out fishing. Simon will have his name changed to Peter. The same Peter, who puts his foot in his mouth, will later preach a sermon at Pentecost where 3000 people become Christians (Acts 2:14-41). As far as dialogue, scenes, or actions go, Andrew does not play a prominent role in the Gospels. He is not mentioned very often. However, one interesting note is what he is doing when his name pops up. Andrew continually brings people to Jesus (John 1:40-42; 6:8-9; 12:20-26).
The common denominator between the two is that they were both fishermen by trade.
Vocation and Calling
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.
The phrase “follow me” could be translated as “be placed behind my back.” Jesus, as the husband of His Bride (the Church) and as the anointed one (King of kings). He is always in front of His people. He is forging the way for His people to follow in His good works.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- Ephesians 2:10
In leading, guiding, and protecting those who follow Him, Jesus does not promise a lazy life. Jesus did not do away with their work, He merely transferred their labor. Their vocation became their calling, which would become their full-time endeavor. The transformation of labor was signified in them no longer fishing for fish, but becoming “fishers of men.” Jesus’ promise to the fishermen-Apostles has not failed. To this day, the work of the twelve apostles is still catching men from every nation and bringing them into the Kingdom of God. May we expect more from God than we could ever hope.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
- Ephesians 3:20-21
The sacrifice of calling
And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
We do not know much about their thinking process. We do know their actions. They obeyed the voice of their new employer and placed themselves behind the back of Him who made both man and fish. Earlier, we looked at the significance of moving through the water to God in baptism. This was the baptism of Simon and Andrew. This was the beginning of their new creation — the genesis of their transition from the household of Adam to the household of Christ.
On the job: the sequel
And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
Jesus finds his next set of trainees, and guess what? They’re on the job. This might be a lesson we should take. When looking for people, disciples, etc. look for the ones already working. They are already putting their hand to a plow. They aren’t afraid to expend effort. Those disciples can become a weaponized tool for God’s supremacy.
The two He comes across now are brothers, James and John. Jesus refers to them as “sons of thunder.” (Mark 3:17) This gives a clue for understanding their usual dispositions. They were powerful in action and thought. Their view was power focused, and you might suggest they had an idol of power. We can see this when they wanted the town that rejected Jesus to be burned down (Luke 9:54). Also, this was evident when they wanted the good seats next to Jesus in the Kingdom (Mark 10:35-45). Did Jesus neuter the sons of thunder?
No. Jesus took their thunder and trained it in submission to godliness (a.k.a. meekness). Their power was restrained and refined. They were a part of the inner circle of disciples (three in total) who were often taught privately by Jesus. James and John became powerful for the Kingdom. James was the first Apostle to die in the spiritual battle between the City of God and City of Man. John was the last apostle alive and wrote 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation.
The new plan
And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Jesus also called them to “follow me.” Whereas the last brothers were standing in the sea, James and John were in the boat with their father.
Do you remember when we talked about John the Baptist being the new-Elijah, and Jesus being the new-Elisha? We see this theme again. When Elisha received Elijah’s cloak and a double-portion of his spirit (the Spirit of God), he started acting as the new Elijah and doing the same works. Now, Jesus is the new-Elisha turned perfect Elijah and is calling on others to follow Him as new-Elisha’s.
What do Andrew, Simon, James, and John all have in common? They all left to follow Jesus while working. The same thing happened when Elijah called Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21). Elisha said goodbye to his parents, but the disciples of Jesus left immediately to follow him. This shows us both the authority of Jesus’ call and the importance of His ministry for the next three years.
No more gloom
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.
Everything that has transpired to this point in Mark has taken place in Galilee. All the Galilee-focused activities were wrapped up in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1,
There will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
The Kingdom spreads through the work and teaching of God’s people, under the authority of Christ the King, according to His Law. We have seen only Galilee so far, and Christ’s cosmic mission is no localized event!
What does this tell us about Jesus?
- Jesus is transforming the world by bringing people into His Kingdom, training them, and sending them out to repeat the cycle. This is how nations will be changed.
- Jesus is the Fisher-King who sends out the dragnet of the Gospel and captures men’s souls through the gift of faith.
- Jesus is bringing in the new-creation Kingdom through new-creation people.
- Jesus is the Lord of our vocations and callings.
Separating calling and vocation
Gary North has some excellent material on calling and vocation. I would recommend that every Christian read the section on Calling and Vocation in North’s Christian Economics: Activist’s Edition. He defines vocation as what you do to put food on the table and calling as “the most important thing that you can do for the kingdom of God in which you would be most difficult to replace.” He lists out questions to ask yourself to narrow down what your calling may be. He suggests that we should be willing to work (vocation) for 50 hours a week and devote at least 10 hours to fulfilling our calling.
I plan to write more on this in the future. At this point of time, you should read his larger treatment.
Kingdom service begins now
The time for service to God is now. If you are His, your calling is to build His Kingdom.
This text does not tell you to quit your job, leave your family, and forget your current responsibilities. The Apostles were a particular case in this sense. What is required is that we wrestle with our calling and vocation – what is our mission and what is our job. For most of us, it starts with being:
- A helpful child
- A hard-working student
- A 100% employee
- A servant-leader husband / father
- A godly wife / mother
- Using singleness to serve others and not fall into lustful imaginations, sleeping with men and women (adultery), or being addicted to porn.
- A widow should not spend her time being lazy or gossiping but train younger women in the faith.
- A person who loves and studies God’s Word, trusts in Christ for salvation, obeys His commands and trains others to do the same.
The goal of local churches is equipping the saints for these tasks.