16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He[m] commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
This is the first occurrence of “follow me” in Mark's Gospel. It takes place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. It is a radical moment for those who follow. Jesus asks them to join him in his rhythm of ministry. This is not an invitation to watch from the sidelines. This is an invitation to a new way of life.
The "fish for people" comment is often read with evangelical, convert the non-believers, overtones, but Mark has something more in mind.
Ched Myers argues, "This metaphor, despite the grand old tradition of missionary interpretation, does not refer to the 'saving of souls,' as if Jesus were conferring upon these men instant evangelist status. Rather, the image is carefully chosen from Jeremiah 16:16, where it is used as a symbol of Yahweh's censure of Israel. Elsewhere the 'hooking of fish' is a euphemism for judgement upon the rich (Amos 4:2) and powerful (Ezekiel 29:4). Taking this mandate for his own, Jesus is inviting common folk to join in his struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege (Myers, Binding the Strong Man, pg. 132)."
Jesus is calling these persons into an active life that will demonstrate the kingdom of God. Their leaving the nets to follow is a break with economic and social security - Jesus is reordering their ay of engaging life. This is the call we have as well.
Myers again - "The point here is that following Jesus requires not just assent of heart, but a fundamental reordering of socio-economic relationships. The first step in dismantling the dominant social order is to overturn the 'world' of the disciple: in the kingdom, the personal and the political are one....This is not a call 'out' of the world, but into an alternative social practice (Myers, 132-33)."
"This 'first' call to discipleship in Mark is an urgent, uncompromising invitation to 'break with business as usual.' The world is coming to an end, for those who chose to follow. The kingdom has dawned, and it is identified with the discipleship adventure (Myers, 133)."
What does this call look like today? For us everyday, ordinary disciples?
How do we "break with business as usual?
1:21-28 - The first Exorcism
This story is complicated. I would like to offer a symbolic understanding that I find compelling.
Jesus is challenging authority in this story. Mark gives us a clue in verse 22: "...for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes." There is a rift between the scribes and the people - perhaps there was an abuse of power by the scribes. Jesus challenges that power with his teaching.
The location is important. Jesus has entered the synagogue on the Sabbath. He has entered a sacred space, at a sacred time. Mark is operating on a symbolic level. Those in control of the sacred space and the sacred time, the scribal authorities, are threatened by the ministry of Jesus. Their authority is represented by the man with the unclean spirit.
Myers argues, "The demon in the synagogue becomes the representative of the scribal establishment, whose 'authority' undergirds the dominant Jewish social order. Exorcism represents an act of confrontation in the war of myths in which Jesus asserts his authority. Only this interpretation can explain why exorcism is an issue in the scribal counterattack upon Jesus later in 3:22ff (Myers, 143)."
This moment offers a pattern of following for us - how do we name and confront systems of power that are in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
This is a much bigger issue than one post can address satisfaction. I want to lift up the pattern of ministry displayed by Jesus - he confronts a broken system of power. We will encounter this again as we learn how it applies to our lives.
1:29-31 - The Raising of Simon’s Mother-in-law.
Here we have a moment of social resurrection. The mother of Simon had a particular role in her social location. She was the person of hospitality. Her vocation was to meet the needs of those in her house. At the moment of Jesus' arrival a fever kept her from fulfilling that vocation. In metaphorical terms, she is socially dead. She cannot perform her role, therefore she is dead to the community.
Mark describes the action of Jesus as “He lifted her up,.” In this moment we have a key word from Mark:“ἤγειρεν,” from the root word “ἐγείρω,” to raise up. Jesus literally resurrects her to new life. Upon being "raised," she "began to serve them."
We need to watch how this word is used carefully! Social resurrection. Death to new life. I think that this happens all around us, everyday miracles.
1:34 - “He cast out many demons,” “δαιμόνια πολλὰ ἐξέβαλεν.” A central theme of Jesus’ ministry, the casting out of demons. Does this happen now? If so, how?
1:35 - Jesus goes into a deserted place to pray. Again, Jesus in the wilderness;
“καὶ ἀπῆλθεν εἰς ἔρημον τόπον κἀκεῖ προσηύχετο,” literally, “he withdrew into a wilderness place and there he prayed.” Practice(s) of discipleship; withdrawing into “wilderness places,” and prayer.
1:38-39 - Go into neighboring towns to proclaim good news and cast out demons. Central themes of Gospel.