Before starting this study, take a moment to read Mark 1:16-20. Although I’ll primarily be using the NIV version for the preparation of this study, you can read from whichever version you prefer.
In these five short verses, we see four men made a decision that will radically change the courses of their lives. Jesus calls out to the men to follow him. They immediately follow.
Although this story is very familiar, it can leave a lot more questions than answers for older readers. With the burdens of a job and family, many adult readers might ask how these men could just get up and leave everything in an instant.
The First Disciples
Jesus calls his first disciples and they aren’t who most people would expect. A Jewish reader from the time would expect the story of the Messiah to go a different way. The religious elite would expect Jesus to come to them as his first picks.
Here again, we see Jesus subverting expectations. He walks beside the sea and when he sees the fishermen, he calls them to be his first disciples. Some commentators suggest that Simon and Andrew were likely poorer fishermen, as there was no mention of a boat or hired men. They suggest that James and John were likely wealthier fishermen.
Regardless of how successful these two sets of brothers were in their work, the fact remains: Fishermen aren’t who most people would expect the Messiah to call as his followers.
It’s striking here how quickly these four men respond to the call of Jesus. They don’t say, “Let me sell these fish so today’s work isn’t wasted” or “Let me run home to put my affairs in order.” Instead, the immediately get up and follow Jesus.
These weren’t men who didn’t have anything better going for them. Sometimes we have a tendency to emphasize how mundane their lives were, while forgetting that they still had lives and livelihoods. It’s no small thing for a person to get up and leave their entire life behind to follow Jesus.
This story reminds us that Jesus calls out to and uses all sorts of people to build his kingdom. I’ve often thought about this with my own life and calling. I’m the oldest daughter of a man who spent decades subject to his drug addiction. My parents didn’t go to church for the majority of my life. I’m a woman.
While I could look at all these things and think, “God could surely call a good pastor’s kid to do this work,” that’s just not how God works. If God can use fishermen and an addict’s daughter to share the Gospel, God can use you.
But following Jesus doesn’t come without great cost. These men left their businesses and their families to follow Jesus. Most of the disciples eventually lost their lives as martyrs. While we may not sacrifice these things, we also can’t rule them out. When we’re called by Jesus, we’re called to respond immediately… no matter what the cost.