After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20, NIV)
This Gospel lesson is straightforward with two main points:
- The call of Jesus on our lives.
- The message Jesus gave us to proclaim.
The call of Jesus is to pursue him, and he will develop us. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” The simple truth here is that this is neither a suggestion nor really an invitation but a command. Jesus did the same with James and John, and all the original disciples. They listened to Jesus, dropped everything they were doing, and immediately followed him.
I am wondering what would make you drop everything to pursue an entirely new life. I am curious what could cause you to follow Jesus without any conditions attached. I am impressed that Peter and Andrew immediately obeyed Jesus. They did not question Jesus as to whether this was a short-term project or a long-term assignment. They did not seek a contract with Jesus or ask how he would impact their stock portfolio.
The first disciples simply dropped everything and left with Jesus. I suspect they followed Jesus for the same reason I originally decided to follow him – because Jesus is such a compelling person, so gracious, interesting, and loving that it was really no decision at all. Everything else pales in comparison with Jesus.
Read all four Gospels and the book of Acts in the New Testament and you will find that believers in Jesus follow Jesus; and those who do not follow Jesus are not believers. It really is that simple. Followers follow, and those who do not follow are not Christ’s disciples.
Jesus calls us, commands us, to follow him and he will make us fishers of humanity. You might be concerned and retort, “I have no idea how to fish for people.” The good news is that Jesus said he would make us fishers of people. Jesus is not looking for people with skills he can use. Instead, Jesus calls people and develops them into fishers. Christ forms people with the ability to follow his call.
Jesus will train us, which means we only need to answer the call to follow. When I was five years old my Dad took the training wheels off my bike and told me to ride it. I told him I couldn’t. He told me to get on the bike and he would run beside me. I got on the bike and started to ride with him holding it. When I began to panic approaching a tree I started talking to my Dad. He didn’t answer… because he wasn’t beside me. He dropped out from shagging me a long way back. The same thing happened with learning to swim. I insisted that I needed to be supported or I would drown for sure. Dad didn’t keep his hands underneath me. Yet, I’m still here – I didn’t drown.
We are not called to follow Jesus based on our skills, but on the lack of them so that Jesus will do in us a work of total allegiance and loyalty to the kingdom of God. Jesus will make sure to develop the competence we need to do what he has called us to do. We only need to hear and answer the call of Jesus to follow and to make us fishers of people.
The following is a parable about the church and being fishers of people: “Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. Week after week those who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. They discussed the importance of fishing and that fishing is the task of every fisherman. They listened to special speakers talk about fishing and they promoted fishing and looked at all the latest equipment for fishing. They built large buildings called ‘Fishing Headquarters’ so that they could tell as many people as possible about fishing. They organized boards of people to send out fishermen to other places. They offered teaching and classes on how to fish and the best and latest fishing methods. With much training a good many persons got their fishing licenses and became upstanding members of Fishing Headquarters. There was just one thing that they did not do: they didn’t fish. When one person dared to suggest that those who do not catch fish are not really fishermen, the group became angry and kicked that crazy person out their group.”
The call is not for a few but for everyone to embody and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. Therefore, we are to repent and believe this good news. Even though this is a simple straightforward message, it deserves some attention because we do not typically use this kind of language. Instead, we tend to say something like “Accept Jesus into your heart and someday you will go to heaven.” That sort of language you will not find Jesus saying. So, let’s stick with what he did say.
For Jesus, the word “kingdom” means God’s intentions and will for this world to come true. When Jesus said the kingdom is near, every pious Jew understood. They anticipated a coming Ruler (king) with themselves as the ruled (subjects) and a realm (land). They thought beyond a mere spiritual kingdom and did not use kingdom as a synonym for heaven. Instead, Christ’s disciples considered Jesus as King, ruling his followers over the sacred space of the entire world.
Thus, Jesus was saying he is creating a new society, thoroughly biblical to the core – which meant Caesar was not Lord and that people’s loyalty was not ultimately to the Roman Empire. It is the kingdom of heaven, God’s dream society, which will eventually spread across the entire earth so that the whole world is God’s sacred space, devoted to love, shaped by justice, living in peace, and abounding with wisdom. Jesus encouraged us to pray consistent with this idea by encouraging us to pray, “May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
If we find ourselves not really working toward Christ’s idea of kingdom, then we need to repent and believe the good news that God is working toward restoring all things to their original beauty and luster. “Repent” means a change of mind which leads to a change of behavior. “Believe” means to put all our eggs in God’s kingdom basket.
None of this is a suggestion. It is a forthright call to follow Jesus in his kingdom building enterprise on this earth. And so, it would be a travesty to just think about the message for a while and follow Jesus if we feel like it or get around to it whenever.
We are being called to live for Jesus continually each day by fishing for people – and to make this our life’s work. Wherever you are, Jesus wants to make you a fisher in your family, workplace, neighborhood, and all the places within your normal sphere of living:
- Go where the fish are. Fishing would be easy if we could put a basket by the water and have the fish jump into them! But that is not how it works. Rather, we need to intentionally choose activities that put us in contact with people in our communities.
- Cast the nets. Peter and Andrew did more than take their boat out to the middle of the lake. To catch fish, they threw their nets into the water. Here is what I believe this means for us: We do what is fair and just to our neighbors. We extend compassion to them and are steadfast in our love, even when others are unlovely. And we do not take ourselves too seriously—we take God seriously, instead.
- Obey Jesus and walk with him. After Christ’s resurrection, Jesus came to some of the disciples, who had fished unsuccessfully all night. He told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat – which seemed like nonsense, but they did it anyway. It brought a great catch (John 21:1-14). During the three years of Christ’s earthly ministry, the disciples did everything with him – they walked, talked, and ate with Jesus. And when he ascended to heaven, they acted on the Great Commission given to them by Jesus to make other disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).
May God cleanse our lips and our lives so that we might proclaim the good news of Christ’s kingdom with glad and sincere hearts to the glory of Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.