Fishers Of Men (Mark 1)

 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17)
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17)

We know by comparing John’s Gospel with Mark’s that the Lord Jesus had first made contact with Andrew and Peter prior to the events recorded in Mark 1: 16-20. John 1:35-42 reveals that Jesus had met the first of His disciples shortly after His Baptism and prior to His Temptation in the Wilderness. Thus the calling of the first four apostles in Mark 1 is to be differentiated from their initial coming to Christ.

Mark’s Gospel records the call to service and discipleship of the two sets of brothers, not the call to Salvation. It is their invitation to ministry and the office of apostleship (though they certainly knew not at this time to what end their call to follow the Master would lead).

With this in mind, let us consider a few features of this portion of Mark’s narrative with regard to the call of the Lord Jesus to serve Him:

First, it is the Lord Jesus Who calls people into service, it is not something that people simply decide to do on their own. Notice that it was Jesus Who came to them and told them to follow. Although they pursued Him in the first encounter in John’s Gospel, they were simply going about their business here. To want to serve the Lord is a commendable virtue and one that every Christian should possess to one degree or another. But we must never think for a moment that the desire to serve is a product of our own ingenuity. If Jesus had not come to the fishermen, they would have continued doing what they were doing.

Before we endeavor into any form of ministry, it is wise to make certain that we are following the Lord’s calling and not pursuing our own agenda by means of that ministry. I am hesitant to discourage any Christian from serving the Lord in any legitimate capacity, for truly the harvest is great and the workers few, but many a preacher has seen their ministry shipwreck simply because they had never listened to the Lord’s calling and had decided to enter into a vocation that God had never intended for them. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, it was not uncommon for talented students to be encouraged to enter the ministry because it was viewed as a desirable profession, one that would keep a person indoors and out of the elements while affording ample leisure time and a respectable salary. In other words, people would become clergymen, not to serve God and His people, but because it was a “good job” to have.

There are many, many ways in which a Christian may serve the Lord and He intends for every one of His children to do so. But it is important that we make sure that we are answering His calling on our lives, not attempting to serve Him in our own strength.

Which brings us to the fact that Jesus told the disciples that He would make them become fishers of men. He would do it. God has never called anyone to serve Him in their own strength and ability. His callings always carry with them the qualifier that it is He Who will strengthen and enable the person He is calling to carry out the work. “Apart from Me you can do nothing“, Jesus would tell the disciples (John 15:5). It is only through Christ that a person may really serve the Lord; but this should bring comfort, not despair. This means that whatever service God has called us into He will also give us the strength and ability to carry it out.

Next, let us consider that little word become in our Lord’s call to the would-be apostles. “I will make you become fishers of men.” This carries with it the implication that it is a process that will occur over time. Jesus did not say that if they followed Him He would instantly fill them with the skills to be successful. No, their ministries as apostles were filled with moments of doubt, fear, reluctance, and failure. Their pride would often overshadow their faith as the fishers of men seemed more interested in who was the greater fisherman than in actually casting their nets into the water. But in all these things the Lord Jesus was not yet done with them and He would ultimately finish the work in them which He had started.

Finally, we have that wonderful little word of which Mark the evangelist is so fond: immediately. James A. Brooks writes in the New American Commentary, “The disciples do not again appear in so favorable light as they do here”*. The fishermen immediately leave their nets and answer the call of the Lord. Verse 20 tells us that James and John left their father, Zebedee, with the hired workers and utterly abandoned their vocation in order to pursue another. What a perfect response for a child of God! The sons of Zebedee were not being rash or irresponsible, no, the family business would continue without them by means of the laborers employed by their father. But they were being wise and prudent, recognizing that the Lord of Heaven desired to use them for a far greater purpose.

The Lord Jesus has a calling to service and ministry for everyone who belongs to Him. For most Christians, this calling is realized within the context of their local church. To serve our brothers and sisters in Christ by teaching a Sunday School class, singing in the choir or playing an instrument, baby-sitting in the nursery, giving financially to missions work, or joining the prayer team are among the many ways that God calls His people to serve. Sometimes, He even calls us to write a Bible study blog.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published Dec. 29, 2014]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

*New American Commentary, Volume 23: Mark. Brooks, James A. –  General Editor: Dockery, David S. (c) 1992 by Broadman & Holman Publishers. All rights reserved.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]

The Death Of Isaac

“Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.” (Genesis 35:29)

The Book of Genesis is a book of beginnings. It is actually a book all about the beginning of God’s Creation. The story of man’s origins here on Earth unfolds through the accounts of individuals. As one person takes center stage, those preceding them fade into the background and are eventually taken by death. From Adam to Abel, to Seth, to Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and finally to Joseph; as one person comes to prominence, another fades into the background. Eventually, that person fades away and dies and someone else comes along with whom God will deal and work through.

As much as Genesis is a book of beginnings and new life, it is also about endings and death. The words of the Lord to Adam saying, “In the day that you eat from it, you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17b) come to a complete and horrific realization with the passing of each personage from the narrative; just as they come to a horrific realization every time we ourselves lose one who is dear to us. Death spares no one, as we all know, regardless of that person’s position, importance, wealth, fame, and even their standing with God Almighty. Death is the final enemy that remains to be crushed under the feet of our precious Savior (1 Cor. 15:26), and until it is none of us shall escape its reach — save that our Lord returns beforehand.

Issac, whose life was offered up by Abraham so many years before, has finally reached the end of his days and is laid to rest beside his father in the Cave of Machpelah. Genesis 35 opens up with the revival of Jacob and his family and the fullness of their coming to God, but it proceeds and concludes with the deaths of Deborah, Rachel, and Isaac. What a solemn reminder to us all that even our justification and right standing with God will in no way shelter us from the potential loss of our loved ones. Temporal tragedies will yet visit us even after our souls have found new life in God. Rachel looks down at her newborn son and calls his name Ben-oni, son of my sorrow. The baby takes his first breath even as his mother takes her last. Jacob grieves his beloved Rachel, but the boy will not forever bear the testimony of his mother’s death; for his father shall call his name Ben-jamin, son of my right hand. After the loss of Rachel and the later loss of his favorite son, Joseph, Jacob will lean his right hand upon this boy and his love for the child will seem to be all that sustains him (Gen. 42:38).

One of the most intriguing aspects of this entire chapter is the fact that it is at this time that Isaac passes away, and that he has survived to this point. We were told back in Chapter 27 that Isaac was old at that time and that his vision was failing him (Gen. 27:1). “Behold now, I am old“, he stated, “I do not know the day of my death” (Gen. 27:2). However, no less than 43 years have transpired between that statement and his death! Since we are told very little about Isaac between his sendoff of Jacob in Chapter 28 and his death in Chapter 35, we are left to wonder if he accomplished anything at all during that period of nearly half a century.

So many of us reach a point in our own lives when we conclude that our hour has passed, our time of usefulness has ended, and the days where the Lord can work through us are no more. We retire from service to God and settle down to live out the balance of our days in quiet repose. But is God ever truly done with us while life remains in us? Is our work here on Earth ever really done before we go on to be with the Lord? Not that any of us should attempt to keep up the grueling and demanding schedules of our younger days as we reach our twilight years — the time comes to pass the torch for our most challenging tasks to a younger person whom God is leading to take over — but I seriously doubt that the Lord really intends any of us to simply “close up shop” entirely and retreat to a peaceful corner to await our death.

My own grandfather was a preacher for some 40 years before he suffered a debilitating stroke in his seventies. After he began to regain his faculties and could communicate again, one of the first things he had brought to him in the nursing home was his Bible. Lying in a weakened state and struggling to “relearn” how to do even the most basic of tasks, who could have blamed this man for wanting to live in undisturbed peace and quiet for the few remaining years he had left? Nevertheless, he continued to do what he had spent the prime of his life doing: serving God and preaching His Word. Though his legs would not support him to stand in a pulpit, though the stroke had left his speech slurred and his hands shaky, he continued to do what God had called him to do. He preached. The church pews filled with worshipers dressed in their Sunday best had been replaced by feeble octogenarians adorned in pajamas and bathrobes, but it did not matter who the audience was. He preached to them just as he had to the parishioners. By the time my grandfather went to be with the Lord at the age of 80, no fewer than 15 persons at the twilight of their own lives had come to know Christ by the testimony of this man who refused to retire.

At times it can be amazing, at other times it can be amusing, but we have all heard the complaints of those bemoaning their own advancing years. It seems that what we each consider old is relative and ever-changing as we get older ourselves. The teenager looks at anyone over 30 as ancient while the 60-year old says that they would give anything to be 40 again. The milestones of life that we once looked forward at with trepidation will one day be looked back upon with fondness, nostalgia, and perhaps a tinge of regret. What might I accomplish today if the strength and vigor I possessed then remained with me! If only I had not wasted that time with the notion that I was too old and too weak to do anything worthwhile then.

The truth is, it is never too late to serve God and work for Him. Even if you have never done so before, there is no better time to begin than now. After all, Moses was 80 years old when God first called him (Exodus 3:2). If we have a willing heart and a humble spirit, if we pray for God to show us how we may serve Him, He will show us what He wants us to do, regardless of our age. May we all make the best use of the years that God has given us so that we may bring glory to Him.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published August 4, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Blood Tipped Ears, Thumbs, and Toes

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“Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. Moses slaughtered it and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” (Leviticus 8:22-23)

Many of the rituals mentioned in Leviticus may seem strange to us unless we remember that “blood” throughout this book is a foreshadow of the blood of Christ which covers all believers. The blood mentioned in Leviticus 8:22-23 is no exception.

The event being described here is the ordination of Aaron the High Priest and the other priests who will serve in the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons were being prepared for priestly service and were being covered with the blood of sacrifice.

Since the New Testament tells us that every believer has been called into the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), that is, into service to Jesus Christ our Lord, much of the symbolism present here is applicable to those of us in the Body of Christ. First of all, to be fit for service, a person must be covered in the blood, the blood of Jesus Christ. How many hypocritical “servants” of the Lord have done great harm to the cause of Christ because they never really knew Him? Before we are fit to serve, the sin question in our own lives must be resolved and we must be trusting in the Lord Jesus for our own Salvation. Before a Levitical priest could be ordained for service he had to be covered in the blood of sacrifice.

But why the ear? the toe? the thumb? Because the ear must be anointed to hear and rightly divide the Word of God. Any service or ministry must be grounded in the Word. We are not all called to teach or preach, but our service, whatever it might be, must be grounded in Biblical truth. Whether our calling is evangelism or tending the nursery during church services, our ministry is not as effective as it should be if we remain ignorant of the Bible.

The thumb represents our actions and our labor. Every ministry is a ministry of action and a blood-covered and anointed thumb speaks of this. That action may be the arduous labors of a missionary to a Third-World country or it might be the action of a wheelchair-bound widow folding her hands to pray for God’s people. God has not called any of us to sit on the sidelines and watch. Service to the Lord is not a spectator sport.

The toe speaks of movement; service is a mobile endeavor. No, we are not all supposed to travel abroad in order to serve God, but our steps should be leading us along the path He has laid out for us. “GO into all the world…”, Jesus said (Mark 16:15). Not “Sit and wait for the world to come to you.” So many churches have been built, furnished, decorated, prayed over and dedicated, and then filled with a few folks who wait anxiously for people to come and find them. Service to God involves going out to where the people in need are. We can’t just build a building and hope they come, we should be taking the Gospel to them and inviting them to come into our churches with us.

Finally, notice that the ear, thumb, and toe mentioned are the right ear, thumb, and toe. The right-hand side is spoken of in the Bible as the side of strength and power since most people are right-handed. Rachel wanted to name her son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow since she felt her life slipping away during her labor. But Jacob, his father, named him Ben-jamin, son of my right hand since he would need to lean on the boy for strength now that his beloved Rachel was gone.

Christian service is to be done in our strength and with the fulness of effort. We are not supposed to just give a little bit of time and effort that we have left after everything else we wanted to do is done. God does understand and expect us to fulfill our obligations to work and family, but too often we relegate any service to Him into the “if I have enough time to squeeze it in” category. This one does sting a little because I know that I can do better in my own service and ministry which is writing this blog! Praise God He’s still working on me.

It is my prayer that everyone within the Body of Christ, including myself, will be more mindful of the service and ministry into which God has called us. Let us go forward with blood-tipped ears, thumbs, and toes and make 2016 the year where we begin to reclaim territory that has been lost.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]