TO BE WITH HIM AND BE SENT OUT TO PREACH
(Calling and Finding New Life Direction)
Mark 1:14-20; 3:13-19, Key Verse: 3:13,14
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach….”
Thank God for granting us the wonderful discipleship Bible study! Last week was the introduction in which we could learn why we are disciples and why we are disciple-makers. Disciple-making is the core part of the Great Commission of Jesus. And obedience to His teaching is the goal of our disciple-making. Surely, in all these, Jesus’ presence will be always there. In response to the introduction, we would like to continue learning about how to make disciples. In particular, Jesus’ own example of disciple-making will help us better understand what it means to be a disciple. The keywords for this lesson is “the calling,” “being with him,” and “being sent out.” May God help us to meditate on the divine calling and respond to it by faith.
1. The Calling (1:14-20)
Look at verse 14. This verse gives us an idea how the political and spiritual situation at that time was like. It was the bad time for truth, especially for God’s truth. As John spoke the truth, because of the unrighteousness of King Herod, he was put in prison right away. No one could dare to stand up and say anything about the cruel rule of the king. Surely, it was a dangerous time for the men of God to work in any capacity. In human history (at least in the modern history), there has been always a bad time for the work of God in all generations. What about the French Revolution time where inequality and injustice engulfed the countries in Europe? What about the World War I and II times where attacks and threats shuttered the church doors? And even nowadays, we are experiencing the unprecedented corona virus pandemic where you are filled with the uncertainty and panic. You are not sure about what to do next. It seems like a bad time for the work of God.
What did Jesus do at the worst time ever? If Jesus were a normal figure, he could start a social movement for justice and change just like the way the Arab Spring movement people protested and as a result toppled some corrupt regimes. However, Jesus chose a different path. Instead of going to Jerusalem for a protest, he went into Galilee, an obscure city where he could start a disciple-making ministry. Note in verse 15 what Jesus did before calling His first disciples. He first proclaimed and declared the good news of the kingdom of God. What was the content of the good news? It was about the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God was the ultimate hope and goal for the people of God in Jesus’ days. Instead of being ruled by a tyrant like King Herod, how wonderful it would be for them to be ruled by their God? Or at least by a godly king like King David? It is like the American people initiated the American Revolutionary War to be free from the brutal rule of the British or the Korean people longed for independence from the Imperial Japan. Cinco de Mayo may count too.
Jesus said the time was near. In KJV, it was said “the time was fulfilled.” In other words, all the promises about God’s kingdom were fulfilled with Jesus’ coming and that the time was fully ripe. It would be within their reach (or at hand (KJV)). If that was the case, it would be definitely the good news. More than that, what they needed to do for the kingdom of God to be realized was to repent and believe the good news. This shows the spiritual nature of the kingdom of God. It would not be established by “iron and blood” but by internal acceptance of “one’s reality” and “God’s reality.” One’s accepting his/her sinfulness before the holy God and humbly acknowledging Jesus as God’s only Messiah would change everything.
For this marvelous thing regarding God’s kingdom to be shared, Jesus needed some help. So, he called his first disciples. Verses 16-20 depict how Jesus called them. What is the first step for Jesus’ calling? “Walking!” To be precise, walking in the right place, at the right time. Why the Sea of Galilee? Perhaps, Jesus thought about how the Creation proceeded in the beginning. After all the stages were prepared and set, the Creator God began to fill the earth, starting from the water under the sky, that is the sea, by letting it teem with living creatures such as fish. Imagine Jesus’ burning desire of recreating such a gracious moment through the good news. And imagine Jesus’ envisioning of catching the people with his first disciples. The disciples he wanted did not need to be highly educated or from noble origin. Rather, they were to be working-class, simple but learning, obedient and eager to share Jesus’ vision.
Jesus saw such elements in Simon and Andrew’s casting a net into the lake. It was the right time when they showed their hard-working spirit and Jesus got it in a heartbeat. Perhaps, it was not exactly the first time that both parties met each other. Regardless, Jesus was impressed by them at that instant and called them to be his disciples with the great vision: that they would fish for people. Simon and Andrew knew nothing beyond fishing but Jesus somehow incorporated their fishing skills into the greater cause. They would think only about fishing again in a different way. They also heard about Jesus and were already inspired by his work. With Jesus’ calling them with the great vision, they were more than willing to risk their jobs and everything to be great.
What about James and John, the second set of the disciples? They were kind of similar to the first duo, yet a little different from Simon and Andrew. When Jesus saw Simon and Andrew, they were casting a net. So they were casters (or catchers). But James and John were preparers. Perhaps, Jesus saw the vision that Simon and Andrew would actively involve converting the people or converting the situation (like 3000 conversion at the Pentecost or feeding 5000 with Andrew’s bringing five loaves and two fish). And Jesus saw the vision that James and John would prepare the long-suffering of the saints by their blood and writings (like the first martyrdom of James and many letters of John including the Revelation). Still, James and John left everything behind and followed Jesus just like Simon and Andrew.
At this time, let us think about the necessity of the divine calling in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Surely, God Almighty could do everything by himself. He does not need us. Nevertheless, God wants us to be involved, grow spiritually and even become like His friends. That is why God called his servants with His divine purpose. We can say the calling is task-specific, based on the need of that time. But above all, God called his people so that they might be saved from meaninglessness and defeatism (Ecc 1:2). With God’s calling, we are also invited to live a holy life because of His great purpose and grace (2Ti 1:9).
What are similarities and differences between the divine calling in the OT and that of the NT? Both callings (the OT and the NT) include the great vision like that of Abraham, that of Moses and that of Jeremiah (Ge 12:1; Ex 3:10; Jer 1:10) along with that of the disciples. Sometimes, there is a correlating element in the calling based on the called person’s unique background (especially his name), like calling Abram so as to make him Abraham (from a noble father to a father of many nations) or using Moses (whose name means drawing out) for drawing out his people from the half-drowning slavery. Jesus called Simon to be Peter, and James and John, the sons of thunder.
In the NT, the divine calling is more direct toward the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus’ calling also involves bearing much fruit in him (Jn 15:16). Empowerment and constant presence can be a plus in the NT sense (Mt 28:19-20).
I am very thankful that God called me from an obscure place like Kwangwoon University to be a disciple and then a missionary to the third largest city, Chicagoland. God initiated a vision in me through a series of World Mission Reports where all the little things the missionaries did truly inspired me. I was convinced that God was calling me even though I lacked many things, like the name value of the university that I attended. I pray that I may continue to serve the discipleship ministry to the very end with the vision that God gave me.
2. The Designation (3:13-19)
Now let us pay attention to Mk 3:13-19. In this passage, we see Jesus designating his disciples as apostles. We have just learned that to share the wonderful news of the kingdom of God, Jesus needed the helpers and thus called his first disciples. With God’s kingdom being very near and repentance along with faith being the only way to grasp it, it was urgent for Jesus to have those disciples as the gospel sharers. Sometime later, as Jesus’ ministry grew popular, so did the opposition of the religious leaders. Those opposing people wanted to find fault with Jesus in every occasion. In addition, the needy condition of the people grew worse and the helpless crowd flocked to Jesus like the sheep without a shepherd. Jesus faced the new challenges.
At that moment, Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray. He sought God’s will and direction. After his prayer, he took a decisive action to turn the tide. What were the criteria and the purpose for Jesus’ designation? Look at verse 13 again. “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.” The only credentials they needed was “those he wanted,” meaning Jesus’ own sovereign choice. That transcended all other qualities even bad ones. Simon Peter might be a hard-working, loyal and pure disciple and yet he had his unique weaknesses such as his impulsive, fearful and dubious nature. But Jesus wanted him. Matthew whose name means a gift of God, was nothing but a gift of God when he was called because of his career choice as a tax collector. But Jesus wanted him, too. Jesus already knew the twelve disciples’ all things, good or bad. Nonetheless he called them and even designated them to be apostles.
But there must be a catch. Look at verse 14. “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach….” Being with Jesus is the key element of the designation. It means a personal and in-depth learning from him. “Being with him” would transform a bunch of nobodies into a world changer. Look at verse 15. They would have even authority to drive demons. They would be the world changers.
What kinds of people were the twelve selectees? As we have already observed, they were ordinary, unique and unpolished people. However, Jesus’ calling helped them to live for something greater than themselves. There are many “Peters” and “Johns” in our midst. They have become great in the sight of God.
In conclusion, we have learned that at the worst possible time, Jesus still focused on the work of God by calling the disciples so as to share the urgent news of the kingdom of God. Not only that we learned that God has been always calling his people to him with the divine purpose. His calling is unique and includes great visions. Even our weaknesses would not matter much. May God help us to accept His divine calling in his grace and mercy.