Jesus chooses the disciples. And, they follow him in an immediate way. Pupils wanting to become students of the Law, and eventually become rabbis themselves, chose their rabbis and walked behind. They didn’t follow alongside as Jesus would have his disciples follow. Mark seems to be showing a radical departure from his culture. Is this discipleship being modeled for us?
Which of us today, if Jesus came by the workplace, would drop what we were doing, quit our jobs, and decide to literally follow Jesus? What Mark seems to be illustrating is that to become one of Jesus’ disciples, there needed to be a recreating of what it meant to be Israel. Jesus is at the center of it all and Mark shows us that the first disciples made radical decisions to follow Jesus (it wasn’t their choice to seek Jesus out as a teacher).
These disciples were to become followers, not pupils that would appear like those seeking legal training from rabbinical tradition. Instead, Mark is showing us the beginning of a new tradition and it began with Jesus, which was passed on to his disciples, and those disciples passed it on to others they would eventually disciple. This is reminiscent of Paul writing Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 “and what you’ve heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
The fact that Jesus is choosing is a big deal. Jesus isn’t simply choosing men to follow tradition as a rabbi. Jesus chooses disciples in order to symbolize the recreation of Israel, hence, the twelve sons of Jacob.
These men likely weren’t dirt poor as we might suppose either, just because they were fishing. Fishing was a very profitable industry in the Greco-Roman world. In fact, the disciples might have been the managers of the operations at hand when Jesus approached them and summoned them. The disciples are summoned to become fishers of men. This is how they will make their living, at the mercy of those who support them.
Jesus is at the center of this scene and Mark doesn’t include details that we might be curious to know, like, “Is that all Jesus said to these men?” These details aren’t the point. Jesus and his choosing is the point just as God chose Jacob’s sons to form the nation of Israel. Jesus is acting symbolically just as God acted literally in Israel’s past and once again we have Israelite themes jumping out us again.
Jesus chose these men and they were with Jesus from the beginning, in Galilee. This galvanizes the newly established Christian tradition and Mark is clear about this relationship. The disciples didn’t choose Jesus. This new tradition wasn’t concocted by any of them. This was Jesus’ initiative, and Jesus would be the one they needed to follow alongside.
What are we following alongside? Or, who? Are we trying to pass on the tradition of Jesus or just pass on something of our own.
Are we fishing for people? Or, are we content to manage ourselves? Mark has invested himself in describing this relationship the disciples had with the King (just as the other gospel writers). Were they wasting their time writing all of these things down?
Are we assuming that today disciples are made overnight with a few principles and a tradition of our own? Or, will it take some real effort to make ourselves and others into fishers of men? Otherwise, what’s the purpose of Jesus doing the choosing?