The Call and Commitment of the Disciples | Mark 1:16–20
“16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”
In v. 14, Jesus returns north to Galilee preaching repentance and faith in the gospel. While He had been south in Judea, he called for these men to follow Him (John 1:35-51), and so they followed Him and established themselves in Galilee. Now that they’ve spent time with Him, He’s calling them to ministry (in Mark 3, He’ll commission them as His apostles). He says, “I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17). Their primary duty as disciples is to also preach repentance and belief in the gospel, and He’ll prepare them for the task.
Note their response. They abandon nets, Zebedee, and a booming business. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). Those left behind may follow, as it seems that Zebedee became a high-profile disciple (cf. Jn 18:15), but the word here is commitment.
What does commitment to the Lord mean? They were willing to leave their hometowns, employment, and families to engage in Christ’s mission. Peter says in Mk 10:28, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Our primary commitment must be to the Lord, not to material wealth, as the rich young man in Mark 10 had to learn. We must be willing to put Christ first in all our endeavors, evangelizing even to the chagrin of those closest to us.
Don’t use lack of education or expertise as an excuse. These disciples simply knew and followed Him. Christ doesn’t need professional religious scholars. The fishermen knew what any believing Jew should, that they needed to repent and what it meant that Jesus is “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36–37). But, they also worked for a living, and God uses these unpolished men to turn the world of Christ-rejecters upside-down (Acts 17:6). He uses base and lowly things like you and me so that no one can boast (1 Cor 1:24–29). If you’re a believer, be committed to His mission.