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.” Mark1: 14-15
This passage from Mark tells us about Jesus starting his ministry among the people. It tells us that after his cousin, John the Baptist, was imprisoned, Jesus went to Galilee. In a very simple message Jesus tells his listeners, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the Good News.”
Now we all like to hear Good News. Some days it seems that Good News is hard to find. In Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place she related life in occupied Holland during WWII. Her family lied to the occupying Nazis, saying they had no radio. She wrote that every night she or her sister, Betsie, would remove the stair tread and crouch over the radio, the volume barely audible, to hear the news from England, while the other pounded the piano as hard as she could, so as not to let the radio be heard.
That urgency to hear Good News, that risk to grasp the truth, is how important Jesus’ message is and how vital it is that we help others to hear it. If we don’t believe that the Good News from God is so important, let’s read on in Corrie ten Boom’s story. Her family was arrested for hiding Jews, yet miraculously she got a Bible into their first concentration camp, a Bible she kept in a small sack suspended between her shoulder blades. As she and her sister were herded into another camp, she recorded their shock when they discovered the camp they were entering. They were at Ravensbruck, the notorious women’s death camp. Corrie writes, “As Betsie and I stumbled down the hill I felt the Bible bumping between my shoulder blades. God’s Good News.” It was this good news that sustained her in the concentration camp.
The ten Boom family risked everything to be able to hear just a little Good News. The people Jesus called left everything to hear the Good News and later share the Good News. It’s easy to assume that Jesus’ disciples were great men of faith from the first time they encountered Christ. But they had to grow in their faith just as all believers do.
These men that Jesus called were working class men; fishermen by trade. Fishing was a major industry around the Sea of Galilee. Fishing with nets was the most common method. These men probably learned the trade from their fathers; who learned from their fathers going back generations. Fishing was in their blood, it was what they knew well.
And along comes Jesus. He is calling people to follow him. There is power in a call. For example, how easy is it for us to ignore a ringing phone? It’s not. Even if caller ID identifies someone we prefer not to talk to, it’s hard to ignore it. Similarly, it was hard for those Galilean fishermen to ignore Jesus.
Mark describes this as a totally spontaneous act. He mentions no prior contact between Jesus and these fishermen. One minute they were mending their nets, trying to make a living; the next minute Jesus was calling them away from all they had ever known—turning their backs on their roots and the world. Jesus called these disciples to fish for people with the same energy they had used to fish for food. The Gospel would be like a net, lifting the people from the dark waters into the light of day and transforming their lives.
Jesus calls us to proclaim his Good News. The heart of all evangelism, sharing the Good News, is ‘Come and see.’ Jesus says not to worry about all the theology-just follow me. The disciples did just that, leaving everything behind them, facing the scrutiny of others. They went against their cultural heritage, their economic self-interest, even their common sense.
Remember, the call to discipleship is for all people, not just for Peter and the other disciples, and not just for clergy. All of God’s people are called to follow Jesus and to live out his life in the world. Are you listening?