Bible Study 1.9.12, 1.12.12, 1.15.12 For Worship 1.22.12

Bible Study 1.9.12, 1.12.12, 1.15.12 For Worship 1.22.12

Mark 1:16-20

Mark 1:16 And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in 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.


The opening chapter of Mark is powerful in its sparseness. Mark doesn’t warm up with a birth narrative. He begins with eight verses devoted to John the Baptist and then in three short verses Mark disposes of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus goes out into the wilderness and back in two verses, and Mark covers the arrest of John the Baptist in verses 14 and 15. Then Jesus goes looking for disciples. Simon, Andrew, James and John drop what they are doing and follow Jesus. Probably it didn’t happen exactly like that, but Mark’s style is dramatic. And the principle drama is in the invitation, “Come follow Me.”


Why did those first disciples follow Jesus? Mark tries to provide some answer to that question later in Chapter 1, when Jesus healed a demoniac in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Mark 1: 21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”

Jesus taught with authority and performed exorcisms and healings. He was hard to ignore. In the First Century illnesses of all sorts were attributed to evil spirits, and so someone who could command the spirit world possessed spiritual authority. The healing ministry of Jesus helped to serve as his credentials for claiming authority in wisdom. And we should not forget that Jesus’ teaching was often counter-intuitive. “You have heard that it was said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to you love your enemy.’ Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek.” The teaching of Jesus stands the wisdom of the world on its head.

Another reason the fishermen of the Galilee were so ready to follow Jesus is that Herod Antipas was commercializing the fishing industry, taxing it and slowly squeezing the fishermen into poverty. They were more than ready for the message of social justice, and the Kingdom of God.

Our “modern” minds have difficulty relating to Jesus’ ministry of exorcism. We are also living far removed from the oppression of the Roman Empire and the desperation of the Galilean peasants, although the “Occupy Wall Street Movement,” may help us to more nearly appreciate Jesus’ call for social justice in the Common Wealth of God and the Beloved Community. But we are still presented with the question of whether or not to accept the authority of Jesus’ counter-intuitive wisdom. Do we really believe the poor are blessed? Or do we really believe that all the meek inherit is the dirt?

Albert Schweitzer wrote eloquently about that invitation to follow Jesus: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

From Schweitzer’s own Auto-Biography, Out of My Life and Thought, we hear how Schweitzer answered Jesus’ invitation:

It struck me as inconceivable that I should be allowed to lead such a happy life while I saw so many people around me struggling with sorrow and suffering. Even at school I had felt stirred whenever I caught a glimpse of the miserable home surroundings of some of my classmates and compared them with the ideal conditions in which we children of the parsonage at Gunsbach had lived. At the university, enjoying the good fortune of studying and even getting some results in scholarship and the arts, I could not help be think continually of others who were denied that good fortune by their material circumstances or their health.

One brilliant summer morning at Gunsbach, during the Whitsuntide holidays –it was in 1896–as I awoke, the thought came to me that I must not accept this good fortune as a matter of course, but must give something in return.

While outside the birds sang I reflected on this thought, and before I had gotten up I came to the conclusion that until I was thirty I could consider myself justified in devoting myself to scholarship and the arts, but after that I would devote myself directly to serving humanity. I had already tried many times to find the meaning that lay hidden in the saying of Jesus: “Whosoever would save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospels shall save it.” Now I had found the answer. I could not add outward to the inward happiness.

Jesus still comes to us with his invitation: “Come follow me.”


1. In the text where did Jesus find the fishermen?

2. What did Jesus offer the fishermen?

3. According to the text, to whom did Jesus first extend his invitation?

4. What was the response of those people?

5. In the text to whom else did Jesus extend his invitation?

6. Do any people appear in the text to whom Jesus did not extend his invitation?

7. What were some of the reasons the fishermen may have responded to Jesus’ invitation?

8. According to the text did Jesus gather any disciples before the arrest of John the Baptist?


1. What events do you imagine leading up to Jesus beginning his ministry?

2. Do you think Jesus knew the fishermen before meeting them on the lakeside?

3. Where do you imagine Jesus might have been, when we received news of the arrest of John the Baptist?

4. What do you think it means that Jesus “taught with authority?”

5. How much of Jesus ministry was motivated purely by compassion, and how much do you think was informed by the social and political realities of his day?

6. Have you ever sensed Jesus or God calling you?

7. What do you think about the story of Albert Schweitzer’s “call?”

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