Lectionary Reading: Mark 1:14-20
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
John must be disposed of in this story. His death emphasises the subordinance which is placed in his mouth, when he says earlier that he is not worthy to untie the sandal of Jesus. Theologically, there is a another message; John is the end of the era. John ends, then Jesus comes. Even before there is opposition to Jesus, John meets opposition. He does not just leave, or retire. He is arrested by the ruling powers of the land. John is imprisoned by Jerusalem.
The time is fulfilled; now is the time; we are left in no doubt that Jesus is beginning something new. Repent means, to turn again, to change completely. Belief in Mark, the action Gospel is not about head knowledge. It is not about intellectual assent, but action. To believe in the good news means to act.
Mark always confronts me. I am cautious, ambivalent, conservative, always considering and rethinking. This gospel calls for a decision. Whatever your uncertainty, it says, you must repent. You have to make a decision. There is only one side to be on. You cannot be a contemplative bystander. You either repent, or you don't. The time for this decision is now! Which side will you be on?
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him."
In the movie Jesus of Montreal the Jesus figure chooses as his first disciple, an actor who we meet dubbing English subtitles over pornographic French movies. I took some people from church. Two of the elderly ladies laughed themselves silly as the actor tried to dub two voices at once in a hot scene replete with the four letter word. They told me it ''was lucky for me" that one of the other members of the congregation had not come.
The scene in the film nicely captures the scandal of the disciples. We don't see them as slightly dirty figures like a porn actor. But in their time fishermen were unclean and unsuitable for a proper Rabbi to have as his followers. Mark sets the gospel against what is proper. Disciples are not called on the basis of social respectability.
We see the urgency of the gospel here; and immediately is a constant refrain in Mark. Today's editor would say it is overused. It grates, which is exactly the idea. Urgency is hammered into us. The urgency of the Good News cannot be ignored in this telling of the Jesus story.
Jesus does not have long conversations with the fishermen. He saw them, said ''Follow me," and they went. They did not simply leave. They "left their nets" and "left their father." There is an emphasis on the leaving behind; an emphasis on the cost- and the totality of the break. The father was left with the hired men. It seems inappropriate. A son should not leave his father like that. There is not only an urgency, but a sense of almost fanaticism in this dedication to the call. In our time it is uncomfortable, and unreasonable.
Do we want to be this total in our commitment?
Andrew Prior. Adapted from postings at One Man's Web
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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