We know by comparing John’s Gospel with Mark’s that the Lord Jesus had first made contact with Andrew and Peter prior to the events recorded in Mark 1:16-20 . John 1:35-42 reveals that Jesus had met the first of His disciples shortly after His Baptism and prior to His Temptation in the Wilderness. Thus the calling of the first four apostles in Mark 1 is to be differentiated from their initial coming to Christ.
Mark’s Gospel records the call to service and discipleship of the two sets of brothers, not the call to Salvation. It is their invitation to ministry and the office of apostleship (though they certainly knew not at this time to what end their call to follow the Master would lead).
With this in mind, let us consider a few features of this portion of Mark’s narrative with regard to the call of the Lord Jesus to serve Him:
First, it is the Lord Jesus Who calls people into service, it is not something that people simply decide to do on their own. Notice that it was Jesus Who came to them and told them to follow. Although they pursued Him in the first encounter in John’s Gospel, they were simply going about their business here. To want to serve the Lord is a commendable virtue and one that every Christian should possess to one degree or another. But we must never think for a moment that the desire to serve is a product of our own ingenuity. If Jesus had not come to the fishermen, they would have continued doing what they were doing.
Before we endeavor into any form of ministry, it is wise to make certain that we are following the Lord’s calling and not pursuing our own agenda by means of that ministry. I am hesitant to discourage any Christian from serving the Lord in any legitimate capacity, for truly the harvest is great and the workers few, but many a preacher has seen their ministry shipwreck simply because they had never listened to the Lord’s calling and had decided to enter into a vocation that God had never intended for them. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, it was not uncommon for talented students to be encouraged to enter the ministry because it was viewed as a desirable profession, one that would keep a person indoors and out of the elements while affording ample leisure time and a respectable salary. In other words, people would become clergymen, not to serve God and His people, but because it was a “good job” to have.
There are many, many ways in which a Christian may serve the Lord and He intends for every one of His children to do so. But it is important that we make sure that we are answering His calling on our lives, not attempting to serve Him in our own strength.
Which brings us to the fact that Jesus told the disciples that He would make them become fishers of men. He would do it. God has never called anyone to serve Him in their own strength and ability. His callings always carry with them the qualifier that it is He Who will strengthen and enable the person He is calling to carry out the work. “Apart from Me you can do nothing“, Jesus would tell the disciples (John 15:5). It is only through Christ that a person may really serve the Lord; but this should bring comfort, not despair. This means that whatever service God has called us into He will also give us the strength and ability to carry it out.
Next, let us consider that little word become in our Lord’s call to the would-be apostles. “I will make you become fishers of men.” This carries with it the implication that it is a process that will occur over time. Jesus did not say that if they followed Him He would instantly fill them with the skills to be successful. No, their ministries as apostles were filled with moments of doubt, fear, reluctance, and failure. Their pride would often overshadow their faith as the fishers of men seemed more interested in who was the greater fisherman than in actually casting their nets into the water. But in all these things the Lord Jesus was not yet done with them and He would ultimately finish the work in them which He had started.
Finally, we have that wonderful little word of which Mark the evangelist is so fond: immediately. James A. Brooks writes in the New American Commentary, “The disciples do not again appear in so favorable light as they do here”*. The fishermen immediately leave their nets and answer the call of the Lord. Verse 20 tells us that James and John left their father, Zebedee, with the hired workers and utterly abandoned their vocation in order to pursue another. What a perfect response for a child of God! The sons of Zebedee were not being rash or irresponsible, no, the family business would continue without them by means of the laborers employed by their father. But they were being wise and prudent, recognizing that the Lord of Heaven desired to use them for a far greater purpose.
The Lord Jesus has a calling to service and ministry for everyone who belongs to Him. For most Christians, this calling is realized within the context of their local church. To serve our brothers and sisters in Christ by teaching a Sunday School class, singing in the choir or playing an instrument, baby-sitting in the nursery, giving financially to missions work, or joining the prayer team are among the many ways that God calls His people to serve. Sometimes, He even calls us to write a Bible study blog.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
*New American Commentary, Volume 23: Mark. Brooks, James A. – General Editor: Dockery, David S. (c) 1992 by Broadman & Holman Publishers. All rights reserved.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]