One of the major themes in the Gospel of Mark is discipleship. What does it mean to follow Jesus? As the reader we follow Jesus and his disciples through the ups and downs, through the victories and failures, through the moments of misunderstanding and the “aha” moments where things finally clicked. In essence the disciples are a model to us of how Jesus disciples people. Mark doesn’t pull any punches in letting us see the side of the disciples that just didn’t get it from time to time. I wonder if that has anything to do with the tradition that says Mark heard these stories from Peter?
Mark 1:16-20 (New International Version)
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Jesus defined their mission and calling on the front end and it had two parts. The first was to follow Jesus – implying that they are to be his students, his disciples, to learn from him, and even to be like him (Thanks John Alan Turner for this link that helps us see how traditional Rabbinic practices parallel Jesus’ relationship with his disciples.). The second part of their mission/calling was to redefine what they were fishing for. They would no longer fish for fish. They would begin fishing for people. With the kingdom of God breaking into the world and the liberation from the old order of things (the ways of the world – darkness, lies, death, etc) the disciples are called by Jesus to call others to a new identity in the kingdom. This commission bookends Jesus’ time with his disciples. It is one of the first things he calls them to do and among the last things he calls them to do.
One of the most difficult things to do in reading the Gospels is to read like you didn’t know what was going to happen. These disciples have an idea of what it means to follow a Rabbi but I am quite certain they don’t have a clue what it means to follow the Christ. He is not like the other teachers. He teaches with authority. He acts with authority. He exerts power over the spiritual realm by forgiving sins and casting out demons. How many other Rabbis out there were walking on water, spoken to from God in an audible voice, or healed the blind? As we journey with Jesus, alongside these disciples, let us share in their surprise, cringe with them as he interrupts the synagogue, realize the fear and chaos that came in the garden, feel the defeat of seeing Jesus on the cross, and feel the relief of seeing him alive once more.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? It starts with these words, “Come, follow me.” When we take those words seriously get ready for the ride of a lifetime. The next 15.67 chapters will inform us of how that call is lived out.