After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
Mark’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee is as succinct as his account of his baptism and temptation. John has been arrested. Not a good time, in human thinking, to begin a ministry. Herod Antipas, who arrested John and will eventually behead him, rules in Galilee. Better wait, we would say.
But this is God’s time, different from ours. The Good News is God’s message, not ours. Jesus does not expand on what God’s Kingdom is, but it certainly means that God will act according to his plan, not ours. One thing we know: it is at hand, now, and Jesus comes to fulfill it. “Your will be done,” Jesus taught us to say in the Our Father. We’re asking for something bigger than just God’s plan for me and you.
The call of the four fisherman, Peter, Andrew, James and John occurs by the Sea of Galilee. The Jews saw the sea, like the wilderness, a dangerous place; storms unsettled it; unpredictable winds made it a fearful place. To them, even an inland body of water twelve miles long and six miles wide was something to be wary of. Still, they made a living on it, but being called by God is a dangerous thing.
Jesus says simply, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark’s Gospel, like the others, sees the four fishermen having a lot to learn to be fishers of men. They’re slow to understand his call. Later on, twelve would be called, (Mark 3,13-19) and their ministry would be explained later still. (Mark 6,7-13)
The learning never stopped. This was not something you learned in a book, or something you taught yourself. “I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus said. “Come away by yourselves and rest awhile,” he said to his disciples who returned to him with reports of all they had done. (Mark 6,30ff) Every disciple learns what the call means from them.