(…continued) Part three (of Mark 1:14-20) is the response of those who first heard Jesus utter these words. First, Jesus spoke to Simon, later called Peter, and his brother Andrew. After Jesus’ invitation, verse 18 says “at once they left their nets and followed him.” Going a little farther, Jesus saw James and John. He called them to follow him, and they “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him” (verse 20). You have to wonder how they could just get up and leave everything. Peter and Andrew left their nets, so it sounds like it was their business. Did they just leave their nets on the ground, and not even have a liquidation sale or rent out their boat? We know Peter had a wife, because later on Jesus’ healed his mother-in-law. What about his family? And James and John were working with their father. Did they not even the old man give a two week notice. I wonder what Zebedee thought about Jesus taking away his boys. This was a huge sacrifice and commitment.
We don’t know what preceded this dramatic leaving of everything to follow Jesus, but we do know what came next. From then on, the four men never looked back. The decision they made that day became a lifelong commitment. First, they were with Jesus for three years, and then just before Jesus left them, he gave them the command to go into all the world with the Good News. They had indeed become the ‘fishers of men’ Jesus called them to be.
There are different ways to follow Jesus, and not everyone who followed Jesus made such a dramatic break with their past. Most continued on with what they had been doing, but did so in a way that was obedient to the ways Jesus taught and lived.
Whatever response we make to this call of Jesus must be done in the context of that first part of the story, the proclamation of the message: “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news.” It is the ‘Kingdom of God’ Jesus was offering, and it was the to do work of that kingdom that the four men left their nets. They would leave much to follow Jesus, and in the end, three of the four would lose their lives in that work. But as Jesus said in Luke 12:31: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these other things will be given to you as well.” Seek only the kingdom of this world, and in the end you will lose everything. But seek the eternal kingdom of God, even if that means giving up everything in this world, and in the end, Jesus said all of these other things will be given to you as well.
We often make the mistake of thinking that following Jesus is something we do as a favor to God, and it would be better for us if we did not have to bother with such obedience and such a different way of life. But if we really did believe in God and trust in him for all things, we would understand that he commands only what is best for us, and as we seek him and his kingdom, we do, in the long run, receive what is best, now and forever.
There once was a rich man who wanted to do a good deed. He knew a carpenter who lived a miserable life of poverty, and so he hired this poor man to build a beautiful house. “I want it to be an ideal house,” said the rich man, “so use only the best materials, employ only the most skilled craftsmen, and spare no expense.” The rich man was leaving on a long journey, and left the carpenter a large amount of money, telling him to use it all on the house, including a fair wage for himself.
The carpenter had been an honest man, but without any supervision, the temptation to make some extra money became too great for him. He had always been poor, and this would be his chance to get ahead. So along with keeping the fair wage for himself, he also skimped on spending for materials, and often hired less skilled, but cheaper workers. The house would last at least until he could get out of town, and then he would have enough money to afford his own house.
When the rich man returned, the carpenter showed him the house and gave him the keys saying, “I have followed your instructions, and here is the finished product.” Then he lied and said, “This is the best house that money can buy.”
“Good,” said the rich man. Then, handing the keys back to the carpenter, the rich man said, “It is all yours. I had this house built for you. You and your family can have it as my gift.”
The house that the carpenter had built so cheaply, in the end, turned out to be his own. Then it was his family that was cold in the winter because of the poor insulation, and he was the one who had to always be replacing fuses because of the poor wiring, and in no time at all he had to put on a new roof because he had used the very cheapest shingles.
In the same way, God doesn’t need us to seek his kingdom for his sake, but for ours. When we follow Jesus and obey him, we are the ones to benefit by living life as God intended it to be.
Mark 1:15 — (Jesus said), “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Matthew 6:33 — (Jesus said), “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Mark 1:17a — “Come, follow me,” Jesus said.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.
–Richard, Bishop of Chichester, (1197-1253)