Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 3, 2017

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 3, 2017

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By Jim Barnette, Ph.D.
Samford University and Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook

Mark 1:14–20

What was Jesus’ first “mighty act” that initiated the Kingdom of God He had announced? He called four ordinary people to follow Him. They would be with Him throughout, present in almost every scene, until Gethsemane. Some might even call this a miracle that predates the turning of water into wine at Cana. For Jesus to call this ragtag bunch to help turn the world upside-down — and for them to do so — is nothing short of extraordinary.

Jesus calls us to repent and believe in Him (14–15).

“Arrested” also means “delivered over” or “betrayed,” the same word used for Jesus, who was “handed over” to the authorities. Note that Jesus does not begin His ministry until John has ended his. For Mark this signifies a significant change of “testaments,” with the Baptist ending the time of the Old Covenant and Jesus introducing the New Covenant age. The hopes of the Old Testament are now being realized — the new age of the gospel has begun.

In first century Judaism, the Kingdom of God was understood on three levels: the eternal rule of God, independent of all human action; the present rule of God in the individual lives of those who obey God (hence, the Kingdom is “the reign of God in the hearts of His people”); the future rule of God when He returns to re-establish His Kingdom over all creation. For Mark, God is at present King over the whole creation, but His kingship has been illegitimately seized by Satan and his forces. God’s kingdom as prophesied dawns in the ministry of Jesus, and Jesus’ return will mean the mighty and whole re-establishment of His kingship.

“Repent” literally means a “change of mind.” So repentance calls for a complete reorientation from the way that people of the world normally think. Thus Jesus rebukes Satan for setting Peter’s mind on human things rather than divine things (Mark 8:33). Later Paul exhorts us not to be conformed to this world but to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom. 12:2).

Jesus calls us to follow Him (16–20).

Jesus “sees” two fishermen working at their trade. He sees them; they do not see Him. They are not looking for anything except fish. At this point, their becoming disciples is not a conscious goal in their minds. The initiative is entirely with Jesus. His call is intrusive and it disrupts their lives. Their new status as disciples is conferred not earned.

The metaphor of fishing is multilayered. In the Hellenistic world, fishing was a metaphor for teaching. In the Old Testament the metaphor was used for coming judgment (Jer. 16:14–16; Ezek. 29:4–5). Jesus embraces both of these imageries and combines them with the idea of netting people for salvation. Fishing for people involves teaching the good news that delivers them from lostness to light.

The disciples’ call is not to join Jesus to study a philosophical field or learn a certain set of truths but to join Jesus on the “way” that He is going. Jesus has a way that they are called to follow (Mark 1:3), but they will not learn the destination until later. Fishermen were not wealthy but worked with their own hands. Nor were they the poorest of the poor. They owned boats and had houses (Mark 1:29) as well as employees (Mark 1:20). Hence most fishermen in Jesus’ day were what we would classify as middle class. As such, they really do have something to leave and they leave it. Later they will rightly claim that they have “left all” (Mark 10:28).