After the account of Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the desert, St. Mark continues to give the summary of his mission and message, that after John’s arrest, Jesus came to Galilee, where he started proclaiming the good news of God, declaring a time of fulfillment, calling people to repentance and asserting the need to believe in the gospel, in order to be converted to the Lord. In the urgency of his proclamation, Jesus called others to join him in his divine mission. As a result of this, as he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he called Simon and Andrew in the act of fishing, inviting them to follow him, and giving them the new vocation of being fishers of men. As he walked along further, he also called James and John, sons of Zebedee, to follow him. In all of these, they left their act of fishing and followed him.
From what Jesus has done, we see that he called the first four disciples to use their act of fishing on a higher level. He called them away from just fishing for their own economic goals. He called them to use the same endeavors, to fish for people, requiring them to work for the salvation of others, which entails to rescue them from the forces of evil, which, like rushing and violent waters, take hold of, and overwhelm them. As his disciples, they were not to fear the waves of the sea. They were to defy them even if they are stormy. They are to evangelize those, who are not yet members of the church. They are to be concerned with helping the members of the church, to live and grow in the Christian faith. They are to be caring shepherds of souls, bearing the daily pressure of anxious concern for the churches, etc.
In order to accomplish these tasks, and many others, called by Jesus, they are to first of all, be with him, be transformed into his image and likeness, embrace his person as his disciples and then go out to proclaim the kingdom of God, embodied by Jesus with his very life, death and resurrection. This is the reason for which Jesus tells them to come after him, and they followed him, not merely in the physical sense, but as disciples, learning from him and following his way of life, and giving themselves wholly to him. In this way, they will become ambassadors of Christ who as his instruments, represent him and do what he does.
In the Marcan account, the call of Simon, Andrew, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, all fishermen of Galilee, continues to show the importance of the peasants of Palestine in the ministry of Jesus. Christianity began as a religion of commoners, the marginalized, the trampled, the oppressed and the neglected of society. It was about people, who had no social worth or status in the society. These people did not belong to the elite of the time or the religious hierarchy of the period. Nonetheless, they became the vanguards, the avant-gardes of the social and religious revolution that took place in first century Judaism.
However, this early recruitment passed unnoticed because it was made from below, triggering a movement of the Church from below. This kind of recruitment did not create initial alarm, nor did it trip off the religious hierarchy of the day. Hence, the Church that Jesus began was not an elite church but the church of the poor. Since the fishermen of the period were almost nonentities in Palestine, belonging to the lowest strata of society, with questionable purity rating, this helped to mask the radical nature of the social and religious changes to come. Hence, their recruitment by Jesus showed a totally harmless move. We can see that Jesus operated on a peasant level and operated within this social parameter. This peasant template became the “template of revolution.” And indeed, it was a very shrewd move that eventually caught the Pharisees and the other religious authorities of Judaism completely off guard. By the time they realized what was happening, a great revolution was already unleashed on the Jewish nation and Christianity was already a “fait accompli” or a mission accomplished.
The choice of the disciples of Jesus from among the lowly and despised in the New Testament period, was consistent with the ministry-template announced by Jesus in Luke 4:18, where he was sent to preach the good news to the poor and other marginalized and neglected persons. In this way, Jesus began an inclusive movement.
The gospel of today reminds us that we must go back to the basics of our faith, and experience the power of God’s word. Our duty is only to say, ‘yes’ to God and his word takes over, using us only as his instruments.