The gospel of Mark is a gospel about discipleship. It is through this book that one can learn what it means to be a disciple of Christ. From Mark 1:17-20 there is three elements we can learn from the text about discipleship.
The first element we can learn from the text is discipleship is not a choice. It is not a choice we make to follow Jesus. It is a calling. In other words, Jesus takes the initiative in making disciples. Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John. He didn’t call Zebedee and the hire servants. There is nothing we can do to be a disciple of Christ. God initiate the call.
Jesus says, “follow me,” literal in the Greek is “come after me.” In other words, the object of the call to discipleship is the person of Christ. Once a person accepts the call, the call to discipleship carries with it a demand of full commitment to Him. It is belonging exclusively to Him. Once a person accepts the call to discipleship there is no going back. It carries with it a readiness for the full surrendering of oneself to the Lord. Are you a disciple of Christ, if so are you willing to surrender all to follow Jesus?
The second element we can learn from this passage is discipleship involves a response and a sacrifice. When Jesus gave the call, the response of Simon, Andrew, James, and John was ‘immediately.’ Mark is trying to emphasize the importance of a quick response to Jesus’ call to discipleship. In other words, one must drop everything because entering the kingdom is more important than even life itself. When Jesus calls a person to follow after him the response should be immediately because eternal life supersedes all.
When a call to discipleship is given, people are to response immediately, yet there is an element of sacrifices. Discipleship involves sacrifices. Simon and Andrew left their livelihood. James and John left their business and their family to follow Jesus. To put it another way, Simon and Andrew left their possession (left their nets), and James and John left their possessions (nets and boats) and their family (father). The response to discipleship involves leaving anything that might come between the believer and God. Discipleship means leaving behind a way of life and former ties. The call to discipleship is a call to absolute obedience and surrender.
The third element we can learn from this text is the purpose of discipleship is to be fishers of men. Jesus says, “I will make you become fishers of men.” The idea here is there is an initial call to follow after Jesus and only after a period of preparation will a disciple become fishers of men. In other words, if you’re a disciple of Christ, you will become a fisher of men sometime in the future, after an initial stage of preparation. Christ will work in you, change you, and grow you so that you will perform through the Holy Spirit, the ministry of being “fishers of men.”
There is something amazing about this passage in the Greek language that I want to point out. In the Greek language the infinitive “become” is in the middle voice. The middle voice in Greek is the subject participates in the action of the verb or infinitive so that the result would affect the subject. In this case the subject is Jesus. Jesus participates in the action of making the disciples “fishers of men.” What does all this mean? We have no part in the call to discipleship. Jesus initiates the call to discipleship, but in becoming a fisher of men we play a role. God works with us to form us to be a fisher of men.
The imagery of being a fisher of men is not a lure and a line waiting for a fish to strike. This is alien to the text. The imagery of fishers of men involved says one commentator, “persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), snatching people from judgment, and strenuousness of evangelism.” In other words the purpose of the call is to save people from the coming judgment. It is to evangelize to non-believers in order for them to escape judgment when Christ returns. It will require long hours, dedication to the task, and sometime it is done with little results. Being a fisher of men is not an easy task, but that is the task we are called to. Are we fulfilling that purpose in our lives as disciple of Christ? We say we are disciples of Christ, are we performing the work of a disciple of Christ?
A disciple is a person who is fully committed and willing to surrender all to follow Christ. Once we accept the call, God will prepare us to become fishers of men. Are you a fisher of men?