We are continuing in our study of Mark and we left off last time in vs 13 with the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. That temptation happened directly after he was baptized by John the Baptist. Today we pick up in Mark’s account with vs 14, which begins with the phrase “Now after John had been taken into custody…” What that indicates is that there is an interval of about one year in between vs 13 and vs 14.
So Jesus’s ministry began with His baptism, and He has been preaching and teaching for about a year in both Judea and Galilee. But after John the Baptist was taken prisoner, Jesus went into Galilee to preach the gospel, and will only travel to Jerusalem at certain times. So Mark says in vs 14, “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
So Mark says Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God. He was publicly proclaiming the good news of salvation as God’s gift to mankind. Salvation is of the Lord. Man by his own efforts was unable to attain to the kingdom of God, so God came down to man, and made it possible for man to be reconciled to God. And He that proclaimed this good news of salvation, was also the same who made it possible, by presenting Himself as the atoning sacrifice for sin.
The scriptures tell us that if we believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall become sons of God. To believe requires that we know who He was, and what He accomplished. And so we study the account of the gospel of Mark so that we might learn the truth about Him, and having learned it, we believe in Him unto salvation. The truth then about Jesus Christ is the gospel of God which Jesus was preaching.
This manifestation of the gospel of God was appointed for a specific time and place in history. And that was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…”. It was the time prophesied in Isaiah 9:1-2 which says, “But there will be no [more] gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make [it] glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.”
Jesus preaches that the kingdom of God is at hand. The King of the kingdom of God is revealed. Matthew speaks of the same events by saying the kingdom of heaven. Both phrases mean basically the same thing. What Jesus is proclaiming is that God’s reign in the hearts and souls of men would be manifest more clearly than ever before. The supreme blessing of life in the kingdom of God will be given to all who would confess Jesus as Lord and forsake their sins and live in service to God.
It’s important to understand correctly the concept of the kingdom of God. It could just as correctly be translated kingship of God. It speaks of the rule of God in one’s heart, the sovereignty of God over the lives of His people and ultimately God’s sovereignty over the world.
There are really four concepts implied in the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven. First, God’s kingship, rule and sovereignty over the individual. I think that is what Paul was referring to in Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That Christ is your Lord, your sovereign. This is the immediacy of the kingdom of God being in you, or near you.
Secondly, it speaks of complete salvation. When the scripture speaks of blessing, or blessedness it often is synymous with salvation. When God is king in our hearts, all the blessings of life in His kingdom are imbued to His people.
The third application of this concept is realized in the church. The church is the kingdom of God, the community of people who recognize God as king in their hearts. The church is the called out ones, the people of God’s kingdom. The church is not an edifice, not an institution, but the people of the kingdom, called out by God to live under His reign.
And fourthly, the kingdom of God speaks of the future redeemed universe. Peter said we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, or reigns. Jesus spoke in Matthew’s account of us inheriting the kingdom which God has prepared for us. At the second coming of Christ, He will usher in the eternal kingdom of God in a new heaven and new earth.
But these four meanings are all related to the central idea of the reign of God, and His sovereignty in salvation. It is an eternal kingdom; past, present and future. Jesus preaches that the kingdom of heaven is at hand in order to teach the supernatural character of our salvation. Salvation is of the Lord. Our salvation begins with the purpose of God, it is proclaimed in the preaching of the gospel, it is delivered by the call of God, believed on in the hearts of men, and lived out in the discipleship of those that believe in Him.
Let’s consider though what else Mark includes in his summary of Jesus’s message. The first two points of Jesus’s message, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” speaks of the sovereignty of salvation. The third and the fourth points, “repent and believe in the gospel” speak of man’s responsibility to respond to the preaching of the gospel.
Some commentators say that the word rendered repent would be better translated as be converted. Repent only stresses the negative aspect, looking backwards, whereas be converted is positive, looking forward, and indicates a radical change of heart, a complete turnaround of your life. Repentance then is a confession that you are a sinner, in need of forgiveness, in need of being changed, converted, made clean, made new. So though it is the responsibility of the sinner to repent, it is God who converts, who forgives, who cleanses, who changes the heart.
And that positive side of conversion is given more emphasis by the phrase, “and believe the gospel.” To believe is to put your trust in someone. Believing includes three elements; knowledge, assent, and trust. Not just having the knowledge of the truth, nor just giving an intellectual assent to the truth, but a commitment to and a confidence in the one trusted. A person truly believes when he acts upon the message.
And that commitment is what is pictured in the next section, in which Mark tells of the calling of four of the disciples. Vs 16, “As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.”
It was not uncommon for rabbi’s or teachers in those days to have disciples. John the Baptist had disciples. It was even true in the pagan world – philosophers like Socrates had disciples for instance. The Lord had even a more particular point to calling His disciples. They were to eventually become His apostles, and after His death they would be the foundation of the church, and the primary source of the writings of the New Testament, by which we can know the truth about Christ.
However, it’s important to understand that Mark does not include all the events that have occurred prior to this calling of the disciples to follow Him. A year earlier, Andrew and another disciple had been invited to come and see where Jesus was staying. They had at that time become His followers. And then Andrew brought his brother Simon, who becomes known as Peter, to see Jesus. It’s possible that John might have done something similar for his brother James.
So now about a year later, Jesus calls them to a closer walk with Him, and they are made conscious that He has a plan for them to take on a greater ministry. That ministry is what Jesus refers to as “fishers of men.” These men are to be trained by Jesus to be like Him, to speak what He speaks, to do the works that He did, to be the ones who will continue HIs ministry when He is taken away into heaven.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus calls common fishermen to become the ministers of His kingdom, the foundation of His church. It is not in accordance with pedigree, nor education, nor wisdom, nor attractiveness, nor charisma that God chooses His ministers. But as Paul said in 1Cor. 1:26-29 “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” And yet these uneducated, common fishermen would turn the world upside down.
The four fishermen that Mark mentions are Peter, Andrew, James and John. Peter we all are very familiar with. He was the impetuous one. Without a doubt, he was the leader of the twelve. In every account of the disciples, he is always listed first. Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, which means Rock. Peter was the one who cut the ear off of the servant of the high priest with a sword at the Mount of Olives. I can relate to Peter more so than any other. I’m constantly having to quell the urge to swing a sword at people. Peter had a lot of faults, but he had a great love for the Lord.
Andrew, Peter’s brother is known for always bringing people to Christ. That’s such a valuable characteristic, to be able to point people to Christ. Most Christians have no trouble talking about themselves, and bringing attention to themselves. But having the ability to bring people to Christ, to point to Christ is a great attribute. That’s what made John the Baptist great.
James the son of Zebedee was the brother of John. To John and James Jesus would late give the nickname Boanerges, which means “Sons of Thunder.” That’s a pretty cool nickname. I can almost imagine it emblazoned on the back of a motorcycle jacket, “Sons of Thunder.” So far you got the Rock and the Sons of Thunder.
But James has another distinction, that of being the first martyr of the disciples. Acts 12:2 says that Herod had James put to death with a sword. I imagine that meant he was beheaded. That seems to be a popular method in those days of killing the prophets of the Lord. John the Baptist would soon be beheaded. Peter, we know, was eventually hung on a cross upside down because he did not think himself worthy of being crucified like Christ. These guys knew the cost of following Jesus.
And then John, the brother of James, one of the Sons of Thunder, who became known as the one whom Christ loved. Of course, Jesus loved all his disciples. But there must have been a special relationship between Jesus and John. Some Bible scholars have said that it’s likely that they were cousins.
So Jesus, walking along the beach at Galilee, sees two brothers fishing, throwing a net in the sea. It might have been one of those nets you see where they throw it out and it makes a large circle and then they pull a string or rope and it gathers it up. Sometimes you see guys doing that at Indian River. They use it to catch bait fish.
Mark says, “they were fishermen.” I really like the fact that Jesus chose real men to be the leaders in His kingdom, not some limp wristed academics, or pious prunes, but just regular working class guys. I’ve known a few commercial fishermen in my time. Just looking at their hands you realize that these guys are gnarly. Maybe that’s where the word gnarly comes from, the gnarled, arthritic hands of these guys that constantly use them to pull heavy nets and ropes out of cold water.
These men had known Jesus for about a year. They had believed in Him, they had a relationship with Him, but not of the type to which He was calling them. Jesus was calling them to a deeper relationship, a relationship of trust, of trusting Him with their life, even to the point of leaving their livelihood. So Jesus says, “Come, follow me.” And they dropped what they were doing and followed Him. They left their nets. They left their source of income, their livelihood. Instead of catching fish to feed their families, they would catch souls for the kingdom of God.
James and John were a little further down the beach mending their nets with their father when Jesus called them. And at once they left their father in the boat with the hired men and followed Him. They weren’t fishing like Peter and Andrew, but it’s a certainty that they knew one another. Maybe they were sort of rivals, two brothers trying to out fish the other two brothers. It sounds like James and John might have come from a little more wealth than Peter and Andrew. Their father was also a part of their crew as well as hired men.
And yet without seemingly much concern for what they were leaving, these men dropped everything and followed Jesus. They too begin their training for a leadership position in the church, of becoming apostles.
At the end of Jesus’s ministry, He would task the apostles with making more disciples. In Matt. 28:19-20 Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I would suggest that the call of Jesus to be HIs disciple is made to all who have believed in Him. To not just have the knowledge of the truth, nor just give intellectual assent to the truth, but to trust in Him enough to follow Him, to walk with Him, to learn from Him so that we might carry on HIs ministry on earth. That we might participate in fulfilling the prayer He taught us to pray – “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
To be a disciple is to walk with the Lord, to be conformed to His image, to walk in the paths of righteousness, to commit your way unto the Lord, to walk in the Spirit, to walk according to His word. It’s an active lifestyle, a manner of life that emulates the life of Christ. And if we are walking as He walked, and walking with Him, following Him, then we will also be fishers of men. We will be catching souls for the kingdom of God.
I can assure you that there is no higher calling than to be a fisher of men. There is no career with any greater reward than to be a fisher of men. It is worth it all to leave everything behind for the greatest blessing of being counted a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. I pray that you hear His call to follow Him, and that you will count all that this world offers as loss for the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ your Lord.