‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law’ (Psalm 119:18). Amen.
Jesus announces the good news
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
Jesus calls his first disciples
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
I was excited when we collected a hire car at the airport because we had been upgraded from a basic Ford to a swish BMW convertible – but then reality sank in. I had to drive through narrow streets whilst remembering to stay on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Complying with different rules takes a lot of care. For many years people had been longing for God’s kingdom to come, for his rule to begin on earth. Now, when Jesus announces that this change of ‘government’ is near, he challenges people to live according to new rules.
We often think of repentance as just saying ‘sorry’, but the Greek word used – metanoia – implies a change of mind. The arrival of God’s kingdom calls for a new way of thinking, and changed thinking leads to changed living. Paul would later challenge us to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2).
For Simon, Andrew, James and John, meeting Jesus and responding to his call meant a new set of priorities. Learning to fish for people was more important than catching fish (v 17); and following Jesus was more important than staying in familiar surroundings (v 20). Over the next few days Mark will show us ways in which Jesus challenged conventional wisdom, leading to new ways of living.
What changes might Jesus want you to make to your way of thinking?
Deeper Bible study
Thy kingdom come.
The summary statement of verses 14 and 15 (picked up and closed at verse 39) is packed with significance. John’s imprisonment reminds us of Herod Antipas’ presence – and the dangers of speaking for God. His removal from the public eye signals to Jesus that the kairos, the right time, has come for him to call his disciples and launch his ministry of teaching and healing, a ministry that inexorably leads to his death and resurrection. The ‘kingdom of God’ (v 15) announces the appearance on earth of God’s sovereign rule, alluded to in a thousand different ways in the Old Testament. The Romans studiously avoided any references to the word ‘king’ in their political discourse for fear of its connotations: Jesus boldly proclaims that God rules and that, for those with eyes to see it, he, Jesus, is King. Not Herod.
There has been much debate about what Jesus meant when he said ‘the kingdom of God has come near’: whether this means ‘now’, in the immediate future, or when he comes again. The truth is that it is all of the above. Jesus is not talking about a time frame, he is talking about a reality all around us. His teaching and his miracles will make it plain for all to see.
The second story is simple. We know from John’s Gospel that in fact the first disciples had had more interaction with Jesus than Mark would suggest. (We should remember that, with all biblical narrative, we don’t always know the whole story.) Mark’s emphasis is on the immediate and unhesitating response of the disciples to Jesus’ call. There was none of the dithering that we read about in Luke 9:59–62. On that day when they were irresistibly drawn to this charismatic preacher, little did they know where their discipleship would take them.
Jesus, our King, we hear your voice. Fill us with passion as we go out in your name to bring hope to the world.
Bible in a year
Rad the Bible in a year: Genesis 45,46; Acts 16
Pray for Scripture Union
Jenni Whymark is involved with Jeremiah Project, a Churches Together in Portsmouth initiative, to train young leaders; please pray for their growth and development as they plan a joint worship event and an outreach event and for a residential being planned for the February half-term.