Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Lesson: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm: Psalm 62:6-14
CLB Commentary on the Gospel Text by Rev. Matt Richard
(originally published in 2012)
Mark 1:14 begins Act One of Mark’s Gospel. Mark sets the stage with comments that are framed in the context of the Wilderness in verses 1-13 but now shifts to a new discourse where the events hover around Galilee. While people had to make a special journey to John the Baptist in the wilderness, here we see Jesus going to where people are in the province of Galilee.
The opening verses of verses 14-15 are incredibly important for us to consider. This whole pericope is not primarily about the calling of the disciples but primarily about what the disciples and Christ are going to deliver in the upcoming ministry. The following phrase is important to understand the main thrust of this pericope, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”
The phrase, “Kingdom of God” is open to a lot of varied interpretations; however, I have always favored a very Christocentric approach to this phrase. I have heard it stated, “Where the kingdom is, there you will find the king. Where the king is, you will find the kingdom.” In Mark’s text the kingdom of God is not like any ordinary earthly kingdom. The kingdom of God is drawing near; meaning that the kingdom is present in its fulfillment of Jesus. (See Daniel 2:44-45, 7:14).
The words Repent and Believe are not the Gospel; rather they are the response to the Word or the fruit of the Spirit working through the Word in the individual. R.C.H. Lenski states that they are both imperatives and durative presents, the one is to continue as long as the other. In other words, repentance and faith are not onetime events, but continue throughout the life of the believer. The word repent can be properly thought of in the narrow sense as personal contrition and sorrow for sin brought about by the Divine Law. The word believe is to receive and have confidence in the good news of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins. Faith is brought about as the Gospel is delivered and heard. Both repentance and believing are wonderful gifts of response that God works in us as He draws near to us in His Word.
As far as verses 16-20 we see that Jesus calls his first disciples to leave their fishing vocation to follow him. Two cautions in considering this portion of the text. The first is to realize that this is not the disciple’s first encounter with Jesus as we see with the context of John 1:35-42. Secondly, we need to be careful to notice that the disciples did not leave their possessions for the purpose of notching up good deeds, cataloging merit, nor did they abandon and sell everything they had. (Note: In Mark 10:28-30 Peter says that they left everything, not that they sold everything. Keep in mind that they returned to fishing after the crucifixion in John 21:1-3, most likely used their own boats to cross the Sea of Galilee several times with Jesus and went to the home of Simon and Andrew after being called as disciples.) They simply left their fishing business to practically follow the blessed call of being a disciple. The leaving of their possessions was a result of Jesus divine calling, a result of following Jesus and a result of joining in the mission to proclaim the Good News while journeying towards Jerusalem. In other words, one needs to be cautious not to hyper-spiritualize this leaving and possible selling of some of their stuff in following Jesus. Let me flesh this out a bit further. One could read verses 16-20 like, “Look how obedient the disciples are in selling everything they had in order to follow Jesus… am I that willing to sell everything to follow Jesus?” This is putting the cart before the horse, emphasizing the wrong syllable and exaggerating their leaving of possessions. Rather, it is better to see the text the following way, “Jesus called the disciples to join in proclaiming the good news, to follow Him and to be made into fishers of men… which resulted in them leaving stuff. Look at the Word, how it caused them to obey immediately! What a gracious invitation that is also extended to me. I get to follow Jesus, share the Good News and be made into a fisher of men… which means I may need to leave some of my prior stuff.” Focusing on what we are giving up puts the attention back on mankind and our actions rather than the divine calling and gracious invitation of Jesus. Keep in mind that the imperative of Jesus (i.e. follow) is what empowers the action of the disciples to follow. I humbly suggest that we focus on Jesus’ effective and gracious invitation to the disciples and our congregations where Jesus will make us become fishers of men in proclaiming the Good News. If all of this ends up in us leaving stuff, then so be it, it is secondary to the message of the Kingdom of God that draws near to us!
Possible Gospel Handles for the Text
- Mark shows us that the Kingdom of God drew “near” in Jesus. The Kingdom of God draws “near” to us today as Jesus meets us in the Word to grant us repentance, faith and call us into a following relationship with Jesus.
- Jesus called the disciples to follow Him in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. He invites/calls us into this opportunity to follow Him and share the blessed message of the Kingdom that gifts repentance and faith. (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Jesus, is calling you unto Himself where He will do a work of making you into a fisher of men!