Reflection on Mark 1:16-18 by Ian Walton
The first Sunday in Lent. The lectionary for this Sunday, is Mark’s very brief account of Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan, an even briefer account of the Forty Days in the Wilderness and then the starting of Jesus’ ministry, after his cousin John had been put prison.
However, what I want to reflect on today comes out of what follows in the next three verses – Jesus calling the first of four fishermen – Simon and his brother Andrew, (James and John follow on a little later) – to be his first disciples.
‘“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.’
‘At once they left their nets and followed him.’ No hesitation, not a thought for the implications of their decision. A straightforward, decisive, ‘At once they left their nets and followed him.’
Here they are, at the start of Jesus’ ministry, being asked to give up their livelihoods. Give up what they know, how they make ends meet and follow this new preacher who has suddenly appeared on the Galilee scene. To us, two thousand years later with the benefit of hindsight, we can see this as a no-brainer – we know the full story, we know what happens next and what happens over the course of human history. But did they? I very much doubt it. But here we are, they left their nets and followed Jesus.
We’re in Lent again. In 2021, in lockdown. We talk about giving things up for Lent all the time. Maybe chocolate, maybe wine or maybe even meat. But nothing as drastic as giving up our entire livelihoods. But is it about giving up something for Lent? COVID, and all that has brought, feels like we have already given up so much without needing to give up even more just for the next six weeks or so.
Is it more about doing what those early disciples were challenged to do?
Is it more about what we can take on? Are we able to listen to what God is calling us to do for him? He asked them to be ‘fishers of men’ – is there something we can take on in Lent that can bring us closer to discerning what God wants us to do in our lives?
I would suggest we should make more time for prayer and reflection in Lent, more time for discernment. Taking on something, not giving it up. Who knows where it could lead? The fishermen may not have known where it was leading at the time, but God certainly knew and maybe, just maybe, he knows what he wants from you, not just for Lent. Maybe for the rest of our lives.
As one preacher once said to my late father many, many years ago now, ‘God will do far more with your life than you ever will.’ We just need to let him. Yes, the fishermen gave something up – their nets, but they certainly took on far more than they ever imagined. I hope the same maybe true for you this Lenten time if we only let God do his work. AMEN.