Jesus Begins His Ministry and Calls the First Disciples
In this passage, we find out that John has been arrested. I don’t see where in any of the gospels it says what for, and I feel like that’s sort of random to just put there as if everyone would know. Then again, John the Baptist was clearly super important and well known, so maybe it’s like if someone said that someone really significant in our society had been arrested-it would just be known that it had happened and not something that would need further intro.
Jesus goes into Galilee, and says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV) Now, for me, that’s pretty cryptic. (And, I think, probably for a lot of people, as religions have risen and fallen attempting to declare that the time has come.) What does it mean? The time is fulfilled–what time? And what does it mean to say the kingdom of God is at hand? Is it literal? How current is ‘at hand’, especially since for God time has got to move at a totally different pace–thus making it totally relative and impossible to discern. And He says to repent and believe in the gospel–but he hasn’t, in Mark, at least, declared what the gospel is that I’m supposed to believe.
I think that sentence could take on so many interpretations. However, maybe the end result is the same–repent and believe in the gospel. It doesn’t matter if ‘at hand’ means here-right-now or coming-soon, because in either case, repentance and belief in the gospel is essential. And, I think that both are processes as opposed to final destinations, so practice of both is just a good thing. I may not be good at repenting, or believing, but I won’t get any better at it without actively trying to do it.
So, then, logically, I lead to… what is repentance and what does that entail, and what does it mean to believe in the gospel? As this is the first chapter of this gospel, I imagine that the answer is forthcoming throughout the rest of the book. But, this means that one of the things I need to be looking for is the answer to these questions while I read.
What is repentance? How do I do it? What do I need to repent for?
What does it mean to believe in the gospel? Are there certain things I need to do to show my belief (from an LDS perspective, there are ordinances that you must get that kind of “show” this belief.
Moving on, next in the story tells of Jesus calling his disciples. Now, if you were just going to read Mark, what happens next seems totally nuts (to me, at least). Basically, Jesus walks up to a pair of fishermen brothers (Simon and Andrew), and says, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And they get up, abandon their fishing nets, and follow him. And then he does the same thing again to another pair of brothers (James and John), who leave their dad in the boat and follow him.
Context free, it seems totally crazy. This story, alone, makes you wonder why in the world that sentence would be enough to get people to abandon life as they knew it. So, I looked to the other gospels to see if there were more details. Luke has a more involved story, telling of Jesus actually getting on the boat with Simon to preach to people, and afterwards telling Simon to cast their nets into what had previously seemed like empty waters, and they caught so many fish that their nets couldn’t handle it all. To me, it seems like the kind of thing that one could easily explain away, but that you could come away from, especially after some powerful teaching and some witnessing by the Holy Ghost, that this was the real deal. And then, getting up and following doesn’t seem so crazy.
I have had times in my life that I have up and followed the whispers of the Spirit in directions that seemed to be total about-faces from where I had been. No amount of logic or rationalization could make me deny the spiritual experiences that I have had, even when my family and friends have disagreed or been unhappy with the outcome. So, while I certainly am not, and was not, trying to imply that an overt miracle was necessary to prompt the disciples to follow Christ, I feel like more details to elaborate about what prompted their decision really help shed light and understanding.
The story specifies that James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat. I think the fact that that was noteworthy implies that there was dischord in the family when they left (although I have nothing but supposition to back it up). But I know from experience that it’s hard when you disappoint your family when you follow what you believe.
And that about sums up my thoughts about this passage of Mark.
Something that I’ve always been terrible at is geography, and maybe something I’ll want to do when this is all over is actually map everything out. This story takes place in Galilee, but I don’t really know where that was, or how much happened there. I don’t know if it would be helpful, or even interesting for me, but it’s probably a good exercise to try, at least.