And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
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.”
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.
Goodness, it’s hard to write about Mark because it hardly says anything! Three stories here that took me three days to write about in Matthew, and they only cover nine verses! But maybe that’s kind of the point. Take the temptation of Jesus. In Matthew the depth of the verses caused me mostly to think about the nature of temptation and techniques for fighting it. But here in Mark I think mostly of a more simple truth that I touched on in Matthew, but glossed over. Temptation is inevitable, and it is not a sin. Everyone WILL be tempted. Even Jesus was! How can we expect ourselves to be free from temptation when even Jesus was tempted? That’s ludicrous. Therefore there is nothing wrong or sinful about being tempted. It’s how we handle the temptation that can lead us to sin or not, that makes all the difference between angels waiting on you, or not.
And I think the simplicity of Mark’s writing really allows you to hone in on what is the most basic message of scripture. All the stuff I wrote about in Matthew about the nature of temptation, how we will be tempted, and how to resist temptation is great, and super important. But I think this most basic understanding of the inevitability of temptation, and the freedom that comes from knowing it isn’t a sin is probably important to understand first. And that’s why Mark doesn’t go in to details about everything else, maybe. So we can get the most basic message of the gospel and expand on it later.
When starting His ministry, Jesus makes His message clear right away. The time prophesied is NOW (read, I am the Messiah), repent of your sins, and trust in God. This is, essentially, the thesis of Mark, and of Jesus’s ministry. The rest of the book is built around these three points: 1) Proving Jesus is the Messiah (mostly through His actions in this book), 2) Instruction on how to repent (though there is a lot less of this in Mark than in the other gospels), and 3) Explaining in more detail what the Good News is.
The calling of the disciples is almost word for word what it was in Matthew. As in Matthew, the main theme seems to be the immediacy. They drop everything right away, without even first having a real conversation with Jesus. They don’t need to ask Him questions, they don’t need to think about it, they simply trust Him.
But this time I want to talk about what Jesus meant by “fishers of men”, as we are used to hearing in more traditional translations. Jesus’s first explanation of what a disciple is, and He is very clear that it is not just about following. It is about saving people, and ministering to them. When He explains discipleship to them, He doesn’t talk about learning or following or faithfulness. He talks about fishing. Our number one job as Christians is to cast out our nets of love and the Good News in order to change the lives of others. That should come first.
And I know this is one of the hardest callings. Believe me, I am a terrible fisher of men. I never know what to say or do, and I always feel like I am scaring them off rather than bringing them in. But when I think about this in terms of modern fishing, how we behave 24/7 is kind of like the bait on the hook. We lure them in by acting Christ-like. Nobody can see somebody living their life for Christ and others and not be drawn in. Once they’re hooked, THAT’S when the ministry, or the reeling in, starts. I think sometimes the reason I fail as a person-fisher is that I try to just walk up to them and start reeling them in without ever setting that bait. But regardless of how you do it, Jesus makes it very clear that our primary calling is to bring others to Him. It is a calling that cannot be ignored, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us feel.