Year B 3rd Sunday: Mark 1:14-20

1:14     After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee.

There he proclaimed the gospel from God saying,

1:15     'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand.

Repent, and believe the gospel.'

1:16     As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee

he saw Simon and Simon's brother Andrew casting a net in the lake --

for they were fishermen.

1:17     And Jesus said to them, 'Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people.'

1:18     And at once they left their nets and followed him.

1:19     Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John;

they too were in their boat, mending the nets.

1:20     At once he called them and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat

with the men he employed, they went after him.


The picture is a detail of Peter Clare’s Mark painting.


Jesus had left Nazareth to be baptized by John the Baptist. The spirit from heaven descended upon him to emphasize that he was the Messiah, confirmed by a voice from the heavens, ‘You are  my son, the beloved. In you I am well-pleased.’ Jesus stayed in the desert for forty days. Then - without any introduction - we hear that John has been delivered. Jesus withdraws to Galilee and takes over John’s preaching. Just as John had proclaimed a mind-changing baptism (1:4), so does Jesus now proclaim, ‘Change your mind’ (1:15). The translation gives ‘repent’, but the Greek word is much more than ‘repent’: it suggests a different way of thinking, a shift of mind-set. In the course of Mark’s Gospel it will become clear what Jesus means by, ‘Change your mind.’


The first thing Jesus does is calling disciples: two pairs of fishermen. The first pair, Simon and Andrew, are standing in the water and ‘throw’ their nets ‘around’, as the Greek text says. Does that mean that they don’t have a boat? The other pair, James and John, are sitting in their father’s boat; he can even afford employees. Must have been a rich man!

The calling of both pairs takes place in almost the same way. Jesus comes along, ‘sees them’ and ‘says them’ to follow him, which they do by ‘leaving’ respectively ‘the nets’ (Simon and Andrew) and ‘their father with the employees’ (James and John).

Notice that the first thing Jesus does is ‘seeing them’ and then he ‘says them’ to follow him, which they do indeed. What must have been in that ‘seeing’ and in that ‘saying’ that these men leave everything and follow him?

These disciples will be witnesses of what Jesus will say and what he will do. It is remarkable that Jesus doesn’t collect his disciples in Jerusalem, the religious centre of his country, but from Galilee, known in these times as the ‘Galilee of the gentiles’. No intelligent and promising theology students, but plain fishermen.

Picture Meditation

We are looking at a stained glass window (ca 1900) in the Anglican Cathedral of Truro, Cornwall. The two vocation stories are divided by the window pillar. In the right window Jesus has already behind him Simon Peter and Andrew. Peter is to be recognized by his round shaven white coloured hair and beard. That is the way he is described in The Golden Legend, a collection of legends about saints from the 13th century. Jesus is making gestures to the left side where we see James and John in the boat with their father. Father seems to wear a crown-like hat. The artist also had the impression that he was a rich man. 

With his right hand Jesus points to heaven. That is an interpretation of the artist. To Simon Peter and Andrew Jesus had said, ‘I will make you into fishers of people.’ No notion of heaven. In the case of James and John he simply ‘calls’ them and they leave everything. No notion of heaven either. I try to think along with the artist: what could Jesus have said while pointing to heaven?

There is still one thing to notice. The setting on  the left side is filled with water, boats and nets. The setting on the right side, where Jesus is standing: there reed grows and there are green trees. That is the side where the world is flowering!

Looking at this picture: did I ever had a moment in my life that I experienced as a calling or invitation from Jesus to follow him? What did I have to leave? Or what did I leave indeed to follow him? Did my parents agree? Do I have companions with whom I follow Jesus?

Is it true that the world where Jesus is, is more flowering than a world where he is not?

Finally I have a talk with one or more disciples and with Jesus himself.

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ