Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 14. To follow Jesus
Mk 1:16-18 they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
I fear that sometimes, for some of us, the Scriptures become so familiar that we lose the dramatic nature of what we read. I feel sure that that is so here. We observed in the previous meditation that these were ordinary men. Now John’s Gospel tells us that Andrew at least, had been a disciple of John the Baptist (see Jn 1:35-40) and had gone on to meet Jesus and then introduced Simon to Jesus, so they clearly had a spiritual awareness before this incident. Luke gives us a fuller picture of what happened (see Luke 5) which indicates that it was a rather more dramatic incident than is recorded here.
Yet, whether we take the shorthand version here or the longer version in Luke, this is a dramatic incident. These two ordinary fishermen encounter Jesus again and when he calls them to follow him, they just get up and leave their livelihood to go after him. Note that it is a calling to follow a person, not a religious way of life, in fact if you read on through these Gospels you will find that life with Jesus was far from the normal view that people might have of a religious life.
The key thing about following Jesus is having to place complete trust in him without knowing where he is going. There are one of two places in the Gospels where Jesus indicates where he is going next (e.g. Lk 4:43 Mk 10:33), but mostly the role of the disciples was to just go with Jesus wherever he went.
Of course the word ‘disciple’ not only means a follower but it also has the sense of a learner about it. A disciple followed a master and learnt from him. He was a master mentor. The only thing Jesus told these two men is that he would make them ‘fishers of men’. How do you ‘catch’ men? That is what they were about to find out, but I am fairly sure that at that point they really didn’t have a clue what was coming. Today we ‘follow’ Jesus by surrendering our lives to him at conversion, seek to obey the teaching of the New Testament, and respond to the prompting and leading of his Holy Spirit.
Lord, when you call us, you call us not to follow a set of rules, but to enter into a living relationship with you. Open my ear so that I may be alert to your leading in my life. Teach me and guide me and take me where you will.