Counting the Cost

Now after John was imprisoned, Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God. He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!” As he went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” They left their nets immediately and followed him. Going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother in their boat mending nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20 NET)

Have you ever wondered why men would give up everything to follow someone or to do something else with their lives? Have you ever wondered why Peter, Andrew, James and John just left their fishing business to follow after Jesus, a man they didn’t even know?

Well…sometimes that is the way it is presented. And at a first reading of Mark’s account of Jesus calling these four men it would seem to be that way. But this is where having four gospel accounts of Jesus’ life is very useful. This actually wasn’t the first time these four had met Jesus. What we are not told here is that they were already Jesus’ disciples.

In John 1 we have the record of Jesus meeting these fishermen. John (the one who baptised) and two of his disciples were standing together as Jesus walked by. We see from verses 32-34 that this was after Jesus was baptised. John identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36) and these two disciples left John and followed Jesus.

One of these is identified for us as Andrew (John 1:40). He went and found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus, telling him, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41). Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas (or Peter). There may be implied in this text that first Andrew brought his brother to Jesus and then the other disciple did the same thing. If this is the correct understanding of “first,” then we also have most likely John bringing his brother James to Jesus (although this is not mentioned specifically in the text).

Notice that the second calling of these men, recorded by Mark, took place “after John was imprisoned” (Mark 1:14). The incident recorded by John took place some time before this. So when Jesus called Simon and Andrew, then James and John, it wasn’t that they were blindly following an unknown teacher, but they were responding to someone they already knew and trusted – in fact, someone they were already following.

Jesus emphasised to those who would follow him that it was important that they first “count the cost”. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions” (Luke 14:25-33). It was important that those who would become Jesus’ disciples realise that they were giving up their lives and placing them in control of their new Master.

Have we considered the cost of following Jesus? Are we willing to make the kind of commitment that Jesus asks of his followers? Continue to study and pray that we can be the disciples Jesus needs for today.

Readings for next week

27 October – Mark 4

28 October – Mark 5

29 October – Mark 6

30 October – Mark 7

31 October – Mark 8

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