Here is the outline of the message taught from Mark 1:16-20 on October 21:
Introduction: Mark has already told us that he is writing the good news about the person and work of Jesus. This good news puts a demand upon us: repent and believe.
There are two important themes we can identify so far in Mark:
1. Jesus’ identity: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This theme is again found in chapter 8, verses 27-29, when Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ. Yet the disciples don’t understand that as the Messiah, Jesus “must suffer many things and be rejected…and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
2. Discipleship: Discipleship is basically following after Jesus. Understanding discipleship is entirely dependent upon understanding Jesus’ identity. You can’t follow Jesus if you don’t know who he is. A lot of people claim to follow Jesus, but are they following the Jesus of the Bible? Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Being his disciple means you have to die too. This theme of discipleship gets introduced in this passage, and is continued throughout the Gospel. As we watch the Twelve and others too, we will come to understand our own discipleship.
Today we will focus on three truths about discipleship:
1. Jesus calls his disciples with absolute authority (the CALL of disciples)
Jesus comes by two pairs of brothers—Simon and Andrew, and then a little later James and John, engaging in the family business of fishing. And he calls to them and commands them: “Follow me!” This call is quite shocking for a couple of reasons.
First, it is shocking is because there are no qualifications. He simply says, “You, follow me.” This emphasizes the power of Jesus’ voice, and the authority of his person. This is different from the rabbis of Jesus’ day, whose students willingly came and adopted their teacher. But Jesus simply calls his disciples. They took no initiative with him; he simply came to them. The same happens in chapter 2, verse 14 with Levi.
The closest parallel we find to this call in the Bible is in 1 Kings 19, where Elisha is plowing in the field, and the prophet Elijah passes by and throws his cloak on him, calling him to follow him. Elisha immediately leaves his home and his livelihood and becomes the prophet’s assistant and successor. Jesus calls these men as a prophet, and yet more than a prophet. The authority with which he commands them is the authority of God’s promised Messiah. Daniel 7:14 speaks of this: “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” This call is the good Shepherd calling his sheep, and they know his voice. No one else in the world has this sort of absolute authority.
A second reason why this call is shocking is that Jesus makes the call intensely personal. He hand-picks people and calls them to himself. In the Old Testament, God’s people are mainly called to follow God’s commandments. Deuteronomy 5:32–33 is an example of this: “You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.” Under the Old Covenant, God’s people were primarily told to follow the way that God commanded. Jesus comes and says, “I AM the way—follow ME!” Jesus’ call to these fishermen is shocking because of the authority that dwells in his person.
Now I also want to say a word about the type of people Jesus called to be his disciples. These four men were ordinary fishermen. They weren’t of noble birth; they were men of their trade. Nevertheless, Jesus is calling them to confound the wise of the world. In the book of Acts, Peter and John are arrested for preaching the gospel without fear. When they are called before the religious leaders to give an account for healing a crippled man, Peter proclaims Christ to them. Listen to how Acts 4:13 describes these men: “Now when [the religious leaders] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” What mattered for them was not their family or education but that they had been with Jesus. These followers of Jesus would form a new community of God’s people called the church.
And what about you? Jesus is still in the business of calling disciples. Have you heard the authoritative voice of God’s Messiah saying, “Follow me”? This call comes as you read the Bible. It comes as you hear the good news proclaimed that Jesus was sent of God, that he died for sinners, that God raised him from the dead, and that he reigns as king of the universe. When you hear that message, do you hear the voice of Jesus, bidding you, “Follow me”? Jesus still calls ordinary people, like Peter and Andrew and James and John. This is what Christ Community Church will be: a community of those who have been called as Jesus’ disciples.
2. Jesus’ call to discipleship is a summons to radical life change—namely, to leave an old way of life and follow Jesus by faith (the RESPONSE of disciples)
This truth is from verses 18 and 20. Jesus’ call to follow him is one of total commitment. These men are literally leaving everything behind to follow Jesus: their families and occupation, which in the first century was all you had to rely upon. Does this mean that if we are going to follow Jesus today, we must leave your family and quit your job?
Let’s first look at what kind of disciples Jesus is calling these men to be. Mark 3:13-19 tells of Jesus calling these men as apostles. These men are always with Jesus, and Peter, James, and John are named as the closest. The four men in our passage are called not only as disciples, but also as apostles. They will carry a unique responsibility to bear witness to the resurrected Christ and lay the foundation of the church. But they do still serve as examples of discipleship for us—not always positive examples, but in some ways typical examples. Because of their unique roles, I would say that not all disciples of Jesus must literally leave their families and jobs.
However, all disciples of Jesus are called to follow him. This means that if you are to be a disciple of Jesus, you must choose him over all worldly endeavors. Jesus cannot be merely one more thing you fit into your life like you do a hobby or joining a club or exercising. He demands that he be your all in all. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44).
Now for some today, who are not apostles, this still does mean leaving families and jobs. It may mean moving several states away from families to plant a church like this one. Or it may mean moving 7,000 miles away from the closest family to a new culture and language as a missionary—all because you count Jesus to be worth more than worldly comforts. Not every disciple of Jesus will need to literally leave everything to follow Jesus. But the call of discipleship means that this must be the disposition of your heart. The Bible will give you wisdom as you treasure Jesus to know what the implications of this call are for your life.
Jesus will provide everything you need to glorify him with the calling you receive. These men might have asked: “If I stop fishing, what will I eat?” The answer to this is found in Mark 6, where Jesus feeds five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and Mark 8, where he feeds four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish. Remember who is calling you: you can trust him!
3. Disciples of Jesus capture souls to save them from destruction (the WORK of disciples)
This truth comes from verse 17. Here, Jesus describes a little of what the new life will look like: “I will make you become fishers of men.” Instead of catching fish, they will learn how to catch men. This requires a clear shift in thinking: catching fish means their death, but catching men means salvation from certain judgment.
In Jeremiah 16, where we find God using similar language saying that he will send fishers and hunters after his exiled people to catch and hunt them for judgment. Yet there is a promise in the passage that after this judgment he will bring restoration: “I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers” (v. 15). Now, turning our attention back to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus no longer says that the people who are being fished must be repaid for their sins. Why? Because something new has happened with Jesus. The key to understanding this comes when Jesus says in 10:45 that he has come to give his life as a ransom for many. The judgment for the sins of these men being caught up in the net of the gospel comes upon Jesus when he lays down his life on the cross. The fishing of Jesus’ disciples is not a fishing for judgment. Rather, it is a rescue from the judgment of certain destruction that comes as a just penalty for sin. Fishing for men is what we often call evangelism: it is telling people the good news of the gospel and making them into disciples with the hope of their salvation.
Mark 3 records where he gives these men a mission. It says in verses14 and 15 there that “he appointed [the] twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” In short, their mission was to fish for men. As I mentioned earlier, the apostles had a unique foundational role in the church. But fishing for men is not for apostles only; it is for all disciples.
Are you a disciple of Jesus? Then cast that net widely and speak the gospel to people in all areas of your life. This is a struggle for many of us, and I will readily admit that it is for me. But part of the difficulty is when we try to do it all by ourselves. Yes, we need to be about one-on-one evangelism. But these men did not fish alone, nor did they go about preaching alone in many cases. So we must encourage one another in personal evangelism, but we also must do it together. You should labor side-by-side with brothers and sisters in sharing the gospel with unbelievers. All of this assumes you are already a disciple. If you don’t yet believe in Jesus, then you can’t even begin to think about fishing for people until you first begin following Jesus yourself.
A British pastor from nineteenth century named J. C. Ryle said that fishers of men were to “labor to draw men out of darkness into light, and from the power of Satan to God. They were to strive to bring men into the net of Christ’s church, so that they might be saved alive, and not perish everlastingly.” He says these words “labor” and “strive” because fishing for people is difficult. And we must persevere as we use all means and toil and hope in the gospel. Do you still feel inadequate? That’s because you are. Take heart. You cannot make yourself into a fisher of men. Jesus didn’t say, “Follow me, and make yourselves fishers of men.” He said, “Follow me, and I WILL MAKE YOU BECOME fishers of men.” John the Baptist said that Jesus is the one who would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit whom Jesus gives will make you become a fisher of men. God will do it. You only need to trust him. And follow Jesus.