Reading: Mark 1:14-20
Last week we began our journey through the Gospel according to Mark. Following on from his introduction the gospel breaks out into four main areas. Part one begins by the kingdom going public; from the disciples to the crowds who follow from a safer distance and then those who oppose Jesus teaching. He tells us about the crowds who gather around the edges, tilting their head trying to hear a word or stretching their neck trying to see some kind of show. There are those in the crowd serious about wishing to hear and see and follow just as there are those who will in the end turn against Jesus in a very public way. One could argue a picture from day one about the life of the world in relation to Jesus. Part two presents the mystery of the kingdom; we are led through those tensions of faith and misunderstanding and how these may or may not sit side by side. Part three sees that mystery unveiled through the cross and the way of discipleship for those who follow, not only at that time in history, but in later generations too, including our own. Part four guides us through Mark’s account of the king coming to Jerusalem to die. Of course just as there was introduction so to there is an epilogue which tells us the story is not over. I said last week that 90% of the Gospel according to Mark can be found in the other gospels. This morning’s reading is one such case as it appears in all the others. Similar to Mark it appears in the first chapter of John’s but in the other two it appears a few chapters in. We begin then by unpicking some of part one the kingdom goes public. John is arrested and in prison, Jesus takes to the countryside. The tensions in the city would have increased somewhat because of John. Throughout the gospel we are told Jesus spent his time in the more rural settings. Almost two thirds of his adult life and ministry was in the more remote northern regions. Which are in stark contrast to the city with its temple courts and market places with its political toing and froing. Jesus found much more solace in the lush, picturesque villages and surrounding country. He only really visited the city areas during the festival times. Jesus calls the first of his disciples and we/they are on the move. This is where we will concentrate our thoughts this morning as Mark reveals the disciples who journey close by Jesus. Notice how Jesus speaks in ways that people understand. He knows these men are fisherman and the work that entails. The long hours, the uncertainties, the reliance on one another and the work that goes on by others once their catch has been landed. Elsewhere Jesus uses farming examples and terminology for example, when he speaks about the harvest being ready but the workers are few. Or the farmer sowing seeds and the different ground it can fall on. Using terminology and phrases that those who hear him would be familiar with and indeed most likely speak in similar ways. Except of course Jesus adds to it. Now these disciples will become fishers of people. Often when looking at this well-known passage the normal train of thought centres around the calling and what all of that means. This morning I want us to do something slightly different.
I want to stop and have a look at who these four men are. If being called by Jesus is a call into personal relationship, then surely it would be good for us to know something of the ones Jesus first called. Simon and his brother Andrew, brothers James and John who were the sons of Zebedee. Andrew’s name comes from the Greek, meaning ‘the virile one’. A native of Bethsaida he lives with his brother Simon in Capernaum. John’s Gospel says that Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist before becoming one of the first disciples of Jesus to be called by him to follow. It is Andrew who informs Jesus of the young boy who has the bread and the fish at the feeding of the five thousand. Together with Philip the brothers act as mediators between those of a Greek background and Jesus. We know so much about Simon who is to become renamed Peter by Jesus. It is Peter who will be the rock upon which the church is built. He has his struggles when following Jesus. Remember he is the one who denies knowing him three times and then is reinstated by the risen Christ three times. He is there at all the pivotal moments of Jesus life, the highs such as the transfiguration, as well as the lows such as Jesus arrest. The other brothers are James and John. They are always referred to and associated with each other. These are the two who will later ask Jesus if they can have the best two seats in his new kingdom at his right and left hand. Later in the gospel according to Mark we will find them in Simon’s house at Capernaum. Later still we discover that they will be given instruction on the fall of Jerusalem. They are indeed part of this first group of four, arguably privileged disciples as they, like Simon, are to be found in all the dramatic events that unfold. Jesus calls these men, he tells them to leave everything behind and follow him. As I said earlier, he makes reference to what they already know as fishermen and tells they will become fishers of people. Jesus takes what is natural to this group, their abilities and talents, their knowledge and transforms all of it for the kingdom of God. In the same way we are invited. In the same way Jesus takes our skillset and transforms all of that for the same kingdom of God as those earliest disciples were called to serve. I can image Jesus this morning inviting all of us to insert our name where the names of the two sets of brothers are that we might accept the invitation to follow him. Across our congregation and others God recognises our gifts and calls us accordingly.