Summary: Are we willing to make his service the priority in our life? Are we proclaiming the gospel in the confidence that comes from knowing Jesus, who taught with authority, who cast out demons and healed people of incurable diseases?
Jesus begins his ministry with this clear announcement: “The time is fulfilled.” That is, it’s complete. Time’s up. We’re at the end of the line. Notice that John, the one who’s like Elijah, has finished his ministry. Mark wants to make it clear that the time of the Old Testament prophet is over. Now a new era, a new message has arrived.
I wonder, if you were here last week, did you notice that it was after John was arrested that Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God. Was that bit of information put in just so we’d understand when this happened or is there more to it than that? One of the things you discover reading Mark is that he’s very good at giving us pointers to things in Jesus’ life that are significant, We saw that two weeks ago with the word associations that Heather pointed out at the start of Ch1. And I think the same applies here.
You see, John is the last of the Old Testament style prophets. He represents the old covenant that’s now passing away - being replaced by a new covenant. Jesus represents a new order in God’s Kingdom. When he says “the time is fulfilled” the word he uses has the idea of completed, come to it’s conclusion.
So he comes proclaiming the good news of God, the news that announces a new deal for God’s people. We’re not told the contents of the good news yet, but that’ll become clear as we read through the gospel.
And it’s as though Mark’s saying that even as Jesus begins his ministry the work’s already as good as finished. Jesus, the Messiah has come and God’s plan hurries to its intended conclusion. It’s as though Jesus’ coming is part of a single event: his incarnation, his death and his resurrection all flow together into the one moment in history when everything comes together.
But if that’s the case then Jesus’ coming means that this moment, right now, is the appointed time, the time of decision. And so Jesus begins preaching to the crowds just as John had, “repent, and believe in the good news”.
Then one day as he’s walking along beside the Sea of Galilee he sees two brothers, Simon and Andrew, who are casting a net into the sea and he focuses his call on just them. He says “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Suddenly his message has become very personal, very costly in fact. He calls them not just to repent but to put that repentance into action. They’re to turn away from their current way of life and become Jesus’ followers in the most literal sense. In fact isn’t this how it mostly happens in Jesus ministry? He tells people to give up everything so they can follow him. He warns those who are getting enthusiastic that to follow him means giving up the comforts of home, giving up family and friends, giving up the excuses that we’re so quick at coming up with in order to avoid the cost of discipleship.
Jesus is doing more than just calling these people to follow him though. He’s calling them to become his apostles. He’s building a team to continue the work when his part is finished.
You see, Jesus could have gone on preaching the gospel on his own for the rest of his life but that wouldn’t have been enough would it? He’d still have died and risen again. He would have paid the price for all our sins. But that would have been it. The message would have ended there. No, Jesus was setting out to rebuild the people of God. He was planning to build a new Israel, a people who’d fulfill God’s plans for the world. He was calling men and women who’d form the nucleus of that people and who’d pass the message on, pass on the call to become his disciples.
So he calls Peter and Andrew, then James and John. He calls them to a new vocation: no longer to be fishermen catching fish for the markets but to be those who bring people into God’s kingdom.
And what’s their response? Immediately they left their nets and followed him. James and John, just down the lake a little, immediately left their father in the boat with the hired men and followed him. You see when God calls he generally means right now. Yes there’s a future aspect to it: “I will make you...” But the call is to act now. Now is the moment when we’re expected to respond to Jesus’ call.
And by the way, can you see what it is that makes them into disciples? Is it their innate character, their personal spirituality, their great potential, their leadership qualities, perhaps? Well, no. In fact the account we’re given is so lacking in references to their personal attributes that we’re left wondering whether their choice is just random. Whether Jesus just happened to see them working at the edge of the sea and decided to call them to follow him. Well, we can’t make that assumption either. But what we can say is that the important element in both accounts is not their personal attributes but the call of Jesus. Jesus’ words to them immediately result in them dropping everything and following him.