Summary: Jesus calls his disciples to follow him to become fishers of people. To catch people we need to use the right sort of bait
I wonder how many of you are old enough to remember the refrain: "Time Gentlemen, please!" I don’t mean the phrase you might here on an English sitcom but the Aussie Pub cry that once rang out every night at 6 o’clock. It’s a bit before my time I hasten to add, but it was the phrase that engendered what was known as the 6 o’clock swill. It required an instant response. The pub was closing and if you wanted to finish your drink you’d better do it right away. Immediate action was required.
Well today we hear a similar cry, though it has nothing to do with drinking beer, you’ll be pleased to know.
Jesus begins his ministry with this clear announcement: "The time is fulfilled." That is, it’s complete. 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.
And in a sense, even as Jesus begins his ministry it’s as though his work is already finished. Now nothing more remains to be done. 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 to its natural conclusion.
But if that’s the case then Jesus’ coming means that this moment, right now, is the appointed time, the time of decision
Not that Jesus is saying anything new. His message is the same as John’s: "Repent and believe the good news, believe in the gospel." As we saw a couple of weeks ago this is an eternal message. But it’s an eternal message given new weight by Jesus’ appearance on the scene. John preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but now Jesus preaches repentance and an entering in to the gospel. Notice it’s not just believe the gospel, but believe in the gospel. He invites his listeners to enter into the mystery of God’s son become human, to enter into the mystery of Jesus taking our place, taking our sin upon him so we could be freed from the punishment we deserved.
This is a message for all people, yet at the same time it’s a message directed to individuals. So it can be an uncomfortable message to hear.
I think most of us would prefer to hear generalities rather than a specific call. We’re happy with the statement that all Christians should be generous. When we hear this as part of the pack, part of the herd, it’s not so confronting. With a herd mentality we can simply lump all Christians together and hope that our particular lack of generosity might be overlooked. But when I’m told that I need to be generous with my small income, my small amount of wealth, my few spare hours, I get a bit uncomfortable.
Jesus begins preaching to the crowds just as John had, but 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 people to follow him though. You all know where this story is heading don’t you?
They’re called 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 would 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.