Becoming Fishers of Men (and Women)

“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”” (Mark 1:17 ESV)

Mark paints an extraordinary scene when he describes the calling of Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John.  The four soon-to-be disciples are working in separate pairs alongside the Sea of Galilee as they are fishermen.  Jesus finds Simon and Andrew and says “follow me,” which is probably better translated, “Come!” or “Come with me!”  Followed by the cryptic comment “I will make you become fishers of men (and women)” [such is the Greek translation of the word anthroœpoœn].  On down the beach he goes and presumably says the exact same thing to James and John.  Both pairs of men drop what they are doing, leave their profession and follow Jesus.

This is extraordinary.  First of all, Jesus is no ordinary Rabbi.  The custom at the time was for a prospective disciple to listen to the teaching of a prospective Rabbi, watch how he lived, and then for the disciple to decide which Rabbi he wanted to follow.  Jesus reverses this procedure and powerfully! “Come after (me)” he says and the disciples leave their profession, leave their extended families, and commit their lives (literally as they will come to find out) to the call of this Man.

This Man is not an ordinary Rabbi and this call is not an ordinary call. This call looks much more like the call Elijah made to Elisha (1 Kings 19.19-21).  Jesus’ calling of the disciples is more like a prophetic call, then a rabbinic call.  R. T. France in his commentary on Mark writes: “Jesus’ peremptory summons, with its expectation of radical renunciation even of family ties, goes far beyond anything they would be familiar with in normal society. It marks him as a prophet rather than a rabbi.”

At Jesus’ call, the four men leave all and become his disciples.  It will profoundly change their lives and they, in due time and after much failure, will change the world.


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