The Gospel of Mark was likely written while Mark was living in Rome. It has a sense of urgency, repeating the word “immediately” 36 times, 9 times just in chapter 1. It’s as if Mark is driven with a deep understanding of the importance of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus to all people.
There is no time to waste.
(vv. 17, 20)
These common fishermen were called by Jesus. Before this, these brothers and friends fished the Sea of Galilee like all of the other fishermen of that area. This was a family business and James and John worked alongside their father, Zebedee. But Jesus called them. Before we go further into this story, we need to establish that everything else flows from this source: Jesus called. That is, in part, what this event tonight has been establishing. If Jesus does not call, everything continues as-is in this story: they enjoy the life they have in the family fishing business. But, because Jesus does call, everything must change. It begins with a clear call from Jesus.
(vv. 18, 20)
Notice that they “immediately” follow Jesus. Their obedience was not delayed until some further time. These four, called by Jesus, followed Jesus. They, left the nets they were mending. They left their fishing boats. They left their father and the hired servants in the boats. Because Jesus called them, they immediately took steps of obedience. When you clarify the call of Jesus on your life, begin to take steps of obedience. Talking with trusted spiritual leaders, determine a course of action. Do not delay, thinking that you will follow the call sometime in the future. Obey immediately.
As these fishermen were called to be fishers of men, they followed Jesus immediately, but they followed as disciples. In the next verse the band of brothers enters a synagogue. Jesus teaches; they listen. Even as they followed immediately, they entered a season of preparation. For the next few years they followed Jesus around, listening to Him teach, watching Him work with the crowds, asking Him questions. As they learned, Jesus gave them more and more responsibility, but never more than they were able to handle at that time. Jesus stretched them, increasing their knowledge, their experience, their faith. At the right time, they became the leaders of the spread of Christianity across the region, the Roman empire, and the world.
In all of this – calling, obedience, preparation – there was no promise that life would be easy. In fact, read again how this all began: John the Baptist was arrested and eventually executed by beheading. Mark himself was there when Jesus was arrested. He traveled with Paul on a disappointing mission trip that ended in his own personal failure. Later he traveled with Barnabas and overcame his previous failure. Tradition tells us that his friend and mentor, Peter, was executed by hanging upside down. Mark understood the risk of following Jesus. We do not follow in obedience because we believe this will be an easy, safe life. We follow because we love Jesus and believe that a lost and dying world desperately needs to hear that God demonstrates His love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And for this message, when Jesus calls we lay down our lives at His feet for Him to do in us and through us whatever He desires. Our lives are His.