25 January 2015Mark 1:14-20
“And immediately...” (v. 18)
Psalm: Psalm 62
Prior to these verses, in the 'prologue' section of Mark's Gospel, John the Baptist served as Jesus' warm-up act, preparing a way for the Lord. Now, after John's arrest for daring to criticise the king's decision to take his brother's wife as his own (see Mark 6:17-18), Jesus provides his own introduction to his ministry - "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near" (v. 15). This is the beginning of a ministry (outlined in the first half of Mark's Gospel) in which Jesus demonstrates his authority over established laws and boundaries - the powers of sickness, demons and even nature itself. Before this first chapter draws to a close, Jesus will already have "cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons" (Mark 1:34) - actions that would serve as the grand finale of any other story merit only a sentence in the opening chapter of Mark's breathless Gospel. The kingdom of God was sufficiently close at hand that Jesus was able to bring glimpses of the earth as it will be when creation is restored and death and crying and pain are no more (see Revelation 21).
At the start of his ministry, Jesus relocates from the town of Nazareth in the hills to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, where he calls four fishermen - the first of his disciples. Mark's Gospel is famous for its urgency - when Jesus calls Simon (later renamed Peter by Jesus), Andrew, James and John, all respond "immediately". His call to "fish for people" (v. 17) is reminiscent of Jeremiah 16:15-17, where God calls for "many fishermen" to catch God's beloved people who have strayed and begun to worship idols. The fishermen's task is urgent - God's people have drifted away, but must hear the good news "immediately" because God's kingdom is at hand.
- This week is Poverty & Homelessness Action Week. How does a belief that "the kingdom of God has come near" (v. 15) influence our giving and our campaigning? How do you marry a sense of urgency with the need for security?
- "Fishing for people" (v. 17) is perhaps a slightly uncomfortable metaphor - fishing is very much a one-way process, and one on which the fish themselves aren't too keen! Why do you think Jesus chose fishermen as his first disciples?