Pastor David B. Curtis


A Call to Discipleship

Mark 1:16-20

Delivered 11/06/2005

Thus far in Mark we have seen that John the Baptist was the Messenger predicated in the Old Testament to be the forerunner of the Messiah. John was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah, the messenger who would announce the coming of the Messiah. He introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God.

As Jesus comes on the scene, He is baptized and tested. Then He begins His public ministry with the words:

Mark 1:15 (NASB) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

In our text for this morning we see Jesus calling four men to discipleship:

Mark 1:16-18 (NASB) And as He was going 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 they immediately left the nets and followed Him.

The first two brothers called by Jesus to be His disciples were "Simon and Andrew." They had a fishing business on the Sea of Galilee. Simon is known as Simon Peter, who later became the chief spokesman for the disciples of Jesus.

Jesus meets these brothers at the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee was known for an abundance of fish, the only freshwater lake in the area. This lake is 13 miles wide and 7 miles long. At its deepest point the lake is only 150 feet deep. Located 700 feet below the Mediterranean Sea and surrounded by mountains, the Sea of Galilee was also known for sudden, violent storms.

If you didn't have the other gospels, and you had only this information that Mark gives us, you would think that Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee and happens to come across some men fishing. Jesus calls out to these men to follow Him, and they walk away from what they are doing and begin to follow Jesus. But if we compare the other gospels we learn much more about this event. We learn that this wasn't Peter's first encounter with Jesus.

In John's gospel Jesus first encounters Simon Peter and Andrew as disciples of John the Baptist who attach themselves to him at that time.

John 1:35-42 (NASB) Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said^, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" 37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said^ to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?" 39 He said^ to them, "Come, and you will see." They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He found^ first his own brother Simon, and said^ to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

So Peter and Andrew had already come to know Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Christ. They had profited by the ministry of John the Baptist and believed his declaration that the Messiah had come. They had accompanied Jesus at a marriage in Cana, at a Passover in Jerusalem, and then they apparently returned to their work in Galilee when He came seeking after them.

In John 1 the calling of the disciples was a call to believe in Christ unto salvation.

Approximately a year later in our passage, we see a call to follow Christ and become his disciples, his students. Here the emphasis is on learning and growth.

Many Christian teachers use the term "disciple" as synonymous with that of a Christian. I think there is a difference between a Christian and a disciple. How does a person become a Christian? What do you have to do to be a Christian? The answer is simple - believe the gospel! A person becomes a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ.

John 3:36 (NASB) "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 20:30-31 (NASB) Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

A person becomes a Christian when they understand and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. At that moment they are placed into the body of Christ, given Christ's righteousness, indwelt by God, and are as sure of heaven as if they were already there. They are "in Christ."

The Scriptures make it quite clear that salvation is a free gift of God's grace, but the Scriptures also teach that discipleship is costly. Salvation is our birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and maturity in the Christian life. Compare these two texts:

John 3:16 (NASB) "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Eternal life is a gift of grace to all who believe - do you see any cost involved here? But now notice:

Luke 14:33 (NASB) "So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

Discipleship is a call to forsake all and follow Christ. Can this be talking about the same thing as John in John 3:16? I don't see how. I see discipleship as a conditional relationship that can be interrupted or terminated after it has begun. All Christians are called to be disciples, but not all are.

In our text this morning Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to be His disciples. I believe that they were already Christians, and He was now calling them to follow Him.

Mark 1:17 (NASB) And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."

Follow me - this is a command. Discipleship was a common feature in Palestine. The Rabbis had their disciples who came and learned from them and followed them. But they did so by choice, and they were not specifically called on to leave all. Jesus' call to follow Him was, however, all embracing and sacrificial. It was the call of One with sovereign authority.

Mark sees this as a further step in the revelation of the kingly rule of God. The anointed representative of the King, indeed the King Himself , has the right to call men to leave everything and follow Him, to assist in the task that is now His. He deliberately makes His account stark and demanding. The One sealed by God, has the right immediately to demand what He will. Mark is stressing the authority of Jesus.

"I will make you become fishers of men" - Implying a gradual process of training. Is Jesus just using "fishers of men" because He is talking to fishermen? Or is this another allusion to an Old Testament text? I think this could take us back to Ezekiel where in the restored kingdom, which is a reference to the church, Ezekiel sees a river flowing out of the kingdom. Whatever this river touches lives. Let's look at that passage:

Ezekiel 47:1 (NASB) Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar.

I see this as the water of life that John talks about in:

Revelation 22:1-2 (NASB) And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:17 (NASB) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
Ezekiel 47:2-10 (NASB) And he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side. 3 When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles. 4 Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the loins. 5 Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded. 6 And he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he brought me back to the bank of the river. 7 Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 Then he said to me, "These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. 9 "And it will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there, and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 "And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many. 11 "But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. 12 "And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."

In verse 10 he sees fishermen fishing for "many kinds," which would imply not just Jews, but many kinds of men are going to come into this kingdom.

This vision of Ezekiel is the living waters of the gospel, which began on the day of Pentecost to flow out from the Temple at Jerusalem. Our Lord uses the expression "rivers of living water," in John 7:38, and the meaning of the expression is given in the next verse: "But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive."

It was in the Temple that the Holy Spirit came "suddenly" upon the company of the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and from the Temple the proclamation of God's Good News began to go forth to all the world. It was the outflow of the gospel that was prefigured by the vision of "living waters" issuing from the Temple. The beginning of the building of the spiritual House began on the site of the material House.

On Pentecost, when the Spirit rushed in a mighty way upon the band of believers, the trickle of living water began as Peter preached the gospel. As Peter and John went to the temple to pray, a lame beggar asked for alms, and instead they gave him something greater. A crowd ensued, and the gospel was preached once again. They were thrust before the Jewish Sanhedrin, and again they testified of Christ. One opportunity after another in the daily course of life led them to be fishers of men.

When we follow their story in the Acts of the Apostles, we do not find the disciples using gimmicks or trickery or slick techniques or deceitful schemes. They preached, taught, and conversed on the gospel of Christ, and thus fished for men. Everywhere they were scattered they fished for men.

Matthew 13:47-48 (NASB) "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.

Jesus' disciples will be used of God to gather His "fish" into the Kingdom of God, His church.

Being fishers of men does not require that we follow a particular routine or course of study or planned out program. It happens when we use the normal events of daily life to engage others in gospel conversations.

I think that some of us are so geared in our thinking that witnessing takes place on a visitation night or on a mission trip or a visit to the local prison, rather than seeing all of life, in a variety of settings, as opportunities for the gospel to be set forth to some degree. You are already in the marketplace and on the mission field at your job and at school and in the community. Believing this is critical!

What was Peter and Andrew's response to Jesus' call:

Mark 1:18 (NASB) And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.

Why did they leave everything and follow Jesus? It may be difficult to understand with only the information that Mark gives us, but if we look at Luke's account we can understand their reaction to the call of Jesus.

Luke 4:38-41 (NASB) And He arose and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever; and they made request of Him on her behalf. 39 And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately arose and waited on them. 40 And while the sun was setting, all who had any sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on every one of them, He was healing them. 41 And demons also were coming out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Son of God!" And rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.
Luke 5:1-11 (NASB) Now it came about that while the multitude were pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the multitudes from the boat. 4 And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5 And Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets." 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break; 7 and they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

Luke describes the whole incident in great detail, but in Mark we have the bare bones. Mark is concerned to express the stark demand and the response to the kingly rule of God. When Peter and Andrew see the authority of Jesus, they drop everything to follow Him.

They considered this call so important, that they were willing to leave everything behind to answer it. In leaving their nets, they were leaving the very means of their livelihood. They made the spreading of the Gospel a priority in their lives, not something that ranked second, third, or fourth.

Why is the Church so weak and ineffective in the world today? Because the Gospel is not a PRIORITY in the lives of its members. If we are Disciples of Jesus, our priority should be the advancement of His kingdom:

Matthew 6:33 (NASB) "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

The "kingdom of God" signifies the rule of God; to seek the kingdom of God, to come under His kingship, to come into subjection to Him as King.

The word "righteousness" comes from the Greek word dikaiosune, which means: "a pattern of life in conformity to God's will. This is not speaking of positional, but practical righteousness.

Not only must we seek His kingdom and righteousness, it should be our supreme priority. The word "first" in this verse comes from the Greek word proton, which means: "first in order or importance, first or chiefest of all, holding the highest place in all our affections." The Lord is saying the first place in the priority of our affections must be the will of God.

Mark 1:19-20 (NASB) And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

Two more brothers, "James and John," are called by Jesus. They are the sons of Zebedee. Along with Simon Peter, they became part of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples.

We saw in Luke 5 that Simon, James, and John were all partners in the fishing business:

Luke 5:10 (NASB) and so also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."

There was a cost to following Jesus. They could not say, "I'll catch men, but I don't want it to upset my comfort zone." They left their boats, their nets, their fish, and their families to follow Jesus. This is the cost of discipleship. It is the cost of one who fishes for men.

They were not deserting their father in such a way as to leave him helpless. The fishing business was apparently doing well. It was doing so well that they were able to hire extra help.

Now I want you to notice something. These men were totally unqualified for the job to which they were called. They were fishermen by trade. They were just ordinary people. They were not trained in the Jewish religion, as the Scribes or Levites or Priests. They were not Rabbis. As a matter of fact, they were not even Pharisees or Sadducees. They were just common folk, ordinary fishermen, people like you and me. But apart from all others whom Jesus could have called, He called these. It is as if Jesus wanted to make a statement that anyone could be used by Him for His purpose. Jesus wasn't looking for the "cream of the crop." He was looking for ordinary people. Here he found four, and He called them.

The call of Peter and Andrew, James and John began the formation of a team that would eventually number twelve. Why twelve? Jesus is reconstituting Israel. We have seen John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord, which is drawn from the Isaiah context. Then we saw Jesus going out into the wilderness, which gives us the Exodus context. Now Jesus calls the 12 - the New Israel -to be fishers of men, which is from the Ezekiel context. The new Exodus is well under way- the time is near.

The twelve were to be Christ's witnesses in the world after He Himself had left it; it was to be their peculiar duty to give to the world a faithful account of their Master's words and deeds, a just image of His character, a true reflection of His spirit.

When Jesus Christ called four fishermen from Galilee to follow him, they had no idea of the magnitude of where that calling would lead them. They did not know that they would face persecution, prison, and even death for the sake of the gospel of Christ. They did not realize that they would be the leaders of the infant church that would eventually span the globe. They did not realize that they would have a part in the revelation of Holy Scripture. They just knew that Jesus called, so they obeyed.

The same is true of us today. When Jesus calls, and we follow, we do not know what He might be pleased to do in our lives. We do not know where we will serve, or how we will serve, or the cost that following Christ will demand.

What does it mean for you to follow Jesus Christ? Do you look for the easy road? Do you avoid difficulties and demands? Let me share with you a story from the Sudan of one particular Christian and what it is costing him to follow Christ in that country. His name is Aladi Omer Agabni Mohammed, a former Muslim, but now a follower of Jesus Christ. When he came to faith in Christ eleven years ago, he was branded an "apostate" and was put under the Sudanese death penalty for his faith in Christ. His family denounced him. His university expelled him. He spent time in jail, faced grueling interrogations, and beatings, and has been injected with impairing drugs. He has lived under threat of death. Mohammed has tried to leave Sudan, but each time the police have pulled him from the check-in line at the Khartoum airport. Now he is in hiding, moving from one location to another, occasionally checking in with Christian friends, but letting no one know his whereabouts. He is a follower of Jesus Christ, willing to pay whatever the price might be, even if it means death.

While it is true that very few American Christians are called upon to give their lives, yet everyone of us is called to take up his cross - this is discipleship:

Luke 9:23-25 (NASB) And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

Now we've all heard a zillion devotionals about taking up your cross. Some say, "My wife is my cross, or my husband is my cross, or I've got this teenager- she's my cross." These are not crosses. When Jesus said, "Take up your cross," they knew immediately what He was talking about. He was talking about dying.

How did they know that? Well, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, they were all from Galilee. There had been a recent insurrection in Galilee led by Judas of Galilee. Judas had gathered a band of men together to throw the Romans out, but the Romans crushed Judas and his insurrection. The Roman general, Varus, decided to teach the Jews a lesson, so he crucified over two thousand Jews. Then, he put their crosses all along the roads of Galilee so everybody would see them. Also, every Jew that was crucified carried the crossbeam for his own execution on his back. Now these Galileans had seen this. So Jesus talked to them in a historical context.

The cross was a symbol of a painful, torturous death. The disciples understood that to take up the cross meant abandoning themselves to the Lordship of Christ, even if it meant their lives.

Discipleship is costly, and we are all called to make some very costly choices. John Bunyan had to make a choice. He was told to quit preaching, but he said, "I cannot quit preaching, because God has called me to preach." He was warned, "If you preach, we'll put you in prison." So he said to himself, "If I go to prison, who cares for my family? But how can I close my mouth when God has called me to preach?" So he committed his family to the care of God and was obedient to the call of God. He preached, and they put him in prison. Since then, he's blessed millions of families, because it was while he was in prison that he wrote Pilgrim's Progress.

Look at what the author of Hebrews told his readers:

Hebrews 12:1 (NASB) Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

"Let us run with patience the race that is set before us"- This is addressed to believers, and is a call to discipleship. Unfortunately, many believers could hardly be described as running the race at all. Some are merely jogging, some are walking slowly, and some are sitting or even lying down. Yet, the biblical standard for discipleship for holy living is a race. "Run the race" - the Greek word translated race is agon from which we get our word agony, it means: "a contest, conflict, or fight." The life of a disciple is not a thing of passive luxury, but is demanding, sometimes grueling and agonizing, and requires our utmost in self-discipline, determination, and perseverance.

Unlike Mohammed or John Bunyan, we may never be physically persecuted for our faith; we may never have to give our lives for the cause of Christ. But we are all called to live as a disciple in the environment where God has placed us. That being said, let me ask you: What is the distinguishing mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ?

John 13:35 (NASB) "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Another term for discipleship is what the Bible calls "Abiding in Christ." All believers are called to "abide" in Him. How do we do this? If we are going to abide in Christ, we need to live as He lived according to:

1 John 2:6 (NASB) the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked

How did Christ walk? He walked in love:

John 13:1 (NASB) Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

To love "to the end" literally means: "to the fullest extent." Jesus did this by dying in our place.

It is LOVE that makes Christianity unique. Think about it. What other religion is based on the founder's infinite love for His followers - a love so extreme that He would give His life for them? Can this be said about Islam, or any of the Eastern religions? And Jesus didn't die for His followers only - He died for all who would believe in Him, including those who hadn't yet heard of Him, those who ignored Him, those who were apathetic, those who despised Him, and those who killed Him:

Romans 5:8 (NASB) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Love is the most basic tenet of the Christian faith:

John 13:34-35 (NASB) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Jesus told us emphatically that we are to love one another. The problem with passages like this one is they require no interpretation - only application. You can't argue about "Love one another." Denominations differ in their opinions about baptism, communion, eternal security, music, whether or not church members can vote, and on and on - but this is one subject on which we cannot disagree. Jesus didn't give us an opportunity to. He told us in plain, simple language that we are to love one another. Love is the distinguishing mark of His disciples.

Tertulllian (155­230), who was a church leader and prolific author during the early years of Christianity, said: "The heathen are wont to exclaim with wonder, 'See how these Christians love one another, and how they are ready to die for one another!'"

Does the world say this of us today? Does our love identify us as Christ's disciples? As believers we are called to not only believe on Christ, but to follow Him- to be His disciples. The command that Jesus gave to Andrew and Peter - follow me - is just as relevant to us today. Christ's words to all believers is: "Follow me."

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