passage is often quoted in reference to evangelism. In this lesson, however, I
would have you consider another aspect to it. The four men who are called here
are always listed as the first of the disciples. They are the closest friends
Jesus had on this earth. How does one become a close friend of Jesus, the
Christ, the Son of the Living God? Let us look and see.
The Holy Bible, New
14After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee,
proclaiming the good news of God. 15“The
time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good
16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and
his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” Jesus
said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18At once they
left their nets and followed him.
19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of
Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father
Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus
went into the synagogue and began to teach.
Mark 1:14 through Mark 1:21 (NIV)
The character of the friends
would be foolish to suppose that Jesus selected his best friends at random. We
must suppose that he gave it some thought; indeed, that this is a divine
selection. From that we may learn a few things.
Faith and obedience
first remarkable thing about this call is the quiet acceptance of these four.
There is, in this account (Luke gives more detail) no detail about casting of
the nets. Mark’s judgment was that this was unimportant; the call was
important. In that we see the primacy of faith.
most of us see faith as an end result, not as a starting point. We see it as
something we hope God will give us, if we work at it long enough. How does one
show such faith as this? By the simple act of obedience. As Bonhoeffer
pointed out, we all know that only those who believe, obey. But it is equally
true that only those who obey can believe. By the act of obedience they commit
themselves to faith.
it seems, comes in varying degrees – even among the closest friends of Jesus.
You will recall that when the women told the disciples about the Resurrection,
John and Peter raced to the tomb. Peter went in first – but wondered. John
believed. Jesus loved them both.
hard for us to think otherwise. We commonly have the impression that certain
types of people make “good Christians.” The impression is conveyed because our
eyes see certain types of people as good Christians – most of whom can speak in
public rather well. But it would be naïve to conclude that public speaking is
a prerequisite to being a friend of Jesus Christ.
we know, is the man of action. This is the one who sees his Lord walking on
the water and wants to do the same. At the last encounter, it is Peter who
jumps into the lake to go to him first. Action first, thought later (maybe
never) – that’s Peter. Heart and strength are his strong points.
is much more contemplative. Though not particularly a scholar (that’s Paul) he
is a deep thinking man. To this man is accorded the title, “the disciple whom
Jesus loved.” His is not so much intellectual skill as mystic vision. If Paul
is the representative of those who love with the mind, then John is the one who
loves with the soul. Apparently, the friends of Christ come in all types.
That is a comfort.
Men of labor
thing such men have in common: they are honest laborers at their craft. This
is not always the case – Matthew, also known as Levi, was a prize skunk – but
for those closest to the Carpenter, hard work is a necessity.
is not just hard work; it is diligence. These men are mending their nets,
taking care of their equipment. Jesus wants those who will take care of his
church. Faithful in small things, they will be faithful in much – and an example
Men of power?
One thing these friends of Jesus are not: men of power.
These are not the rich and famous, the influential – the shakers and movers of
the day. With twelve unarmed men Jesus would turn the world upside down. Not
one of them was a man of power. Why?
so that God’s glory might be seen. Anyone who examines the church from
the world’s view must be struck that its beginnings were made by those who
were so few and powerless.
so that our own pride might not overwhelm us. To be so close to the Lord
of Creation would be a temptation to pride – so we must be able to look
back at our roots and know that he chose us.
so that He may be lifted up. Nobody pays attention to a fisherman’s tale
– but if Christ be lifted up, he will draw all to him.
The One who calls
must also understand the very nature of the one who makes the call.
My call, my family
you will note what the disciples did not do, it will be clearer. They
did not consult with their families, in particular with their father – who
owned the boat! This call is one which is above such considerations.
that does not mean that the heartstrings were not pulled. Can you imagine
James and John leaving their father – who by now is rather old, in the standards
of the time – in the hands of the hired help? The call to serve the Lord cost
the house of Zebedee rather severely, and perhaps dad paid the biggest price.
It is a fact: if you would be the friend of Christ, your family will appear to
suffer for it.
then, can we say that following the call of Christ is a good thing, if the
family suffers for it? It is a matter of authority.
authority is given to Christ; in particular, all moral authority – the
definition of right and wrong – is his, by his very nature. The very authority
that tells you to care for your parents is the same authority that says he
takes precedence over them. So when the call comes – and eventually it will
come for most of us – to choose Christ over our families, the choice should be
clear. Painful – but clear.
The second call
is not clear from this account, but this is the second time Jesus has called
the disciples. The first was before John the Baptist was thrown in prison.
Evidently the fishermen went back to the boat after John was arrested. Peter
in particular likes fishing; after the Resurrection, it was what was on his
mind. As Chrysostom said, “You know how greedy a thing fishing is.”
the desire of our Lord is that all might be saved; he is, as some have called,
him, Lord of the Second Chance. So he does not just hint that it would be OK
to come back; he calls. It is in his very nature to stand at the door and
is also his very nature to forgive and restore those who answer the call. Remember
how he restored Peter at the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection? You may
think you were called once, but now it is too late. Consider again: your Lord
may return to you and call again. Be listening.
account includes the story of the huge catch they make at Christ’s command –
and Peter’s reaction. He was afraid, because he was a sinner. But Christ’s
call comes with the injunction, “Fear Not.”
of us are afraid because we have the cares of this world on our minds. What
shall we eat, if we follow him? It is foolishness and lack of faith! Is
the one who created all things so powerless to feed and clothe you?
often, we care what other people will think of us. We might get the
reputation of being a fanatic. Consider: if you are a child of the most
high God, should you care? Does your ultimate approval depend upon the
vote of the fashion police, or upon your Lord?
in a while we get the chance to see the opposition clearly. We know that
being a friend of Christ is to be enemy to the world – and the world is
very powerful. Do we really believe that “greater is he that is in me
than he that is in the world?”
call is personal. It is not to a system of doctrine; it is not to a
particular group of people; it is a call to follow Jesus, the Christ. Beside
this call, what else could matter?
almost two thousand years men have been hearing this call. It has attracted
the weak and the mighty, the rich and the poor, from all tribes and tongues.
Often it has resulted in sacrifice and death, willingly faced. In western
civilization, if you want a suicide squad, you must put a noble task before
interesting. Peter and Andrew are told that they will be fishers of men; a
great promise. James and John receive no promise at all. But the promises of
Jesus Christ are indeed awesome.
is the promise of the work in this life – a challenge that dwarfs all
others. The Christian must – quite literally – be willing to take on the
is the promise of reward in the life to come.
is also this promise: that Jesus will be with you, every step of the way.
truth is rather simple: you can buy good performance with money, prestige and
power. That’s the world’s method. Christ offers instead the pearl of great
price, which costs us everything we have. There are no half measures here.
Fishers of men
does it mean, to be fishers of men? A clue is given to us in the word used for
the net. This word is used only in this context. It is a huge net, shaped
like a giant balloon. You use it when you want to catch all the fish in a
given area. You throw it out, wait until it balloons out, and then drag it in
– and then separate the fish, good from the bad. The kingdom is like that; we
will bring in those whose love for Jesus fades quickly; we will face those who
will not listen; we will deal with those who endure only until it gets risky.
Our job is to use the net; he’ll sort it all out at the end.
It seems that our Lord rather customizes things. We know
the fates of three of these men:
was beheaded – rather early in the history of the church.
was crucified upside down, as an old man.
lived through much persecution to a ripe old age (approaching 100) and
died a natural death.
can say what the fate of a man might be? Only God, who works all things for
the good of those who love him.
Tests for us
you want to be a friend of Jesus, the Christ? There are some simple tests in
is your character? Are you faithful in little? Hard working? A man of
faith and obedience?
do you see Jesus – as a nice guy handing out celestial candy bars, or as
the Lord of All? Including you?
you willing to hear the call he makes to you? “Softly and tenderly” says
one hymn; he stands at the door and knocks. Will you listen?