Fishers of Men. As the first act of the Galilean mission Mark reports the calling of Simon and Andrew to be fishers of men. Jesus found these brothers working as fishermen on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, elsewhere designated the Lake of Gennesaret or the Sea of Tiberias. The inland sea, which was twelve miles in length and six miles across at its widest point, provided a point of access between Galilee and Perea. There were many towns and fishing villages especially on the western and northern shores. The waters teemed with life, and when Jesus summoned the brothers they were casting their nets into the sea. Continue reading
In a crowded airline terminal, hundreds of persons are scurrying in dozens of directions. Above the steady buzz of noise a voice booms through a loud-speaker, “Flight 362 is now arriving at gate we. Will passengers holding tickets for New York please check in at gate 23; you will be boarding soon.” Some people, of course, never hear the announcement and continue on their way. Others hear it but, having reservations on another flight, pay no attention. Some, however, who want to go to New York and who have been nervously awaiting such an announcement, look up expectantly, check their ticket for the flight number, gather their baggage, turn around and set out with some urgency for gate 23. Continue reading
“The Time of Fulfillment” This phrase is only in Mark. The word for time is kairos; it is used in 11:13 and 12:2 to refer to the “time of harvest” – an image that usually refers to the time of judgment. It is also used in when “The Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” Yet this is something liminal about the moment. There is a part of us that wants an “epiphany” with the kingdom clearly present; there is a triumphalistic part of us that wants the kingdom to conquer all – here and now. Yet the world still seems very much intact. Instead of a kingdom epiphany, the second act opens with Jesus wandering by the sea, bidding some common laborers to accompany him on a mission. Still, here in Mark’s gospel we know when the time is. It is now – and yet we pray “Your kingdom come….” I appreciate Martin Luther’s explanation to the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer. “God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.” Continue reading
Mark 1:14 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15 “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” 16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. 19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. 20 Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
The Bigger Picture. The first major section of Mark’s Gospel extends from 1:14 to 3:6, and describes the initial phase of the Galilean ministry. Within this section the evangelist records the calling of the first disciples (1:16–20; 2:14), Jesus’ ministry in and around Capernaum (1:21–34), and a series of controversies (2:1–3:6) which are climaxed by the decision to seek Jesus’ death (3:6). Continue reading
Andrew. Three times Andrew is doing something in John – ‘and each time he is bringing someone to Jesus. First, his brother, Simon (v.40). Then, a boy with five barley loaves and two fish (6:8); and finally, “some Greeks” (12:20-22), which signals the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified. Andrew is never mentioned just by himself. Twice he is called Simon Peter’s brother (1:40; 6:8). We are told that Philip came from the city of Andrew and Simon (1:44). Andrew and Philip go and tell Jesus about the Greeks (12:22). It may be that being named as the first follower of Jesus (in the Fourth Gospel) was the first time that he had ever been first in anything. It seems likely to me that he was always living under the shadow of his more flamboyant brother. It also seems to me that our parishes are full of more behind-the-scenes “Andrews” than flamboyant “Peters” who seem to get all the credit. (“Peter” occurs in 32 verses in John – ‘8 times as many as Andrew.) One doesn’t have to be a “Peter” to be an effective follower and witness to Jesus (Stoffregen) Continue reading
In vv.19-34 we have seen John the Baptist bearing his witness (see commentary here). Now we find him sending some of his followers after the Lord. There are accounts of a “call” in the Synoptics (e.g., Mark 1:16–20), but they differ greatly from this. The Fourth Gospel tells of a call to be disciples; the Synoptics of a call to be apostles. John’s theme is not the calling of the apostles into office; it is their call to relationship with Christ. Strictly speaking, there is no “call” in this Gospel (except in the case of Philip, v. 43). Jesus does not call the disciples and John the Baptist does not send his disciples to Jesus; Jesus and his role as the Lamb of God is pointed out – or rather John’s witness. The English leaves a bit of room as to how to understand the disciples’ motivation. Are they curious, intrigued or do they perhaps recognize the Messiah and spontaneously follow. Continue reading
This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – the cycle of readings in which The Gospel according to Mark is the principal source of our Sunday gospels. That being said, our reading is from the Gospel According to John. In fact, regardless of which cycle of readings (A,B, or C), the “Second Sunday of Ordinary Time the Gospel continues to center on the manifestation of the Lord” with a gospel from John (General Introduction to the Lectionary, 105). It is done as a means of transitioning from the theme of “manifestation” highlighted in Epiphany to ordinary time readings – I suspect – because there are some years when the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Monday following the Sunday celebration of Epiphany (when Epiphany Sundays falls on Jan 7th or 8th). The reading for the 2nd Sunday ensures the theme is continued in the simple verse: “We have Found the Messiah.” Continue reading
In response to this angelic announcement, Mary asks a question reminiscent of Zechariah’s query, “How can this be?” She had not had sexual relations with a man. Ultimately, the purpose of Mary’s question (v.34)—which leads to Gabriel’s answer (v.35) and the giving of a sign (v.36) and word of reassurance (v.37)—is to emphasize that all of this is God’s doing.
Gabriel’s response emphasizes that the baby would be born by the power of God. Like the presence of God in the cloud at the transfiguration (9:34), the Holy Spirit would come upon her and overshadow her. The child, therefore, would be God’s child, and he would be called the Son of God. As with all the annunciations in Scripture and in ancient biographical accounts, the purpose of the annunciation is to declare something vital about the identity of the child. The Lukan account repeatedly affirms that Mary’s son would be called “Son of the Most High” (v. 32a), son of David (v. 32b), and finally the title by which he would be most widely recognized, “Son of God” (v. 35). Continue reading
Confluence. Luke’s narrative style is on display as he deftly moves from the “annunciation” concerning John the Baptist to the one concerning the salvation of all humanity. There is a confluence of temporal and chronological markers, and the reappearance of Gabriel. The “sixth month” recalls v.24, and seems to imply that Elizabeth has only now come out of seclusion. This prepares for the sharing of the news of her pregnancy in v.36 and her subsequent welcome of Mary (vv.39–45). Yet geographically and socio-religiously we move away from the center (Jerusalem and the Temple) to the margins of the nations (Nazareth in Galilee). Gabriel, God’s messenger, is the connector, pointing to the God’s Word active in the world. Continue reading
Similar, yet… In many respects our gospel (Luke 1:26-38) is similar to the annunciation of the birth of John. The angel Gabriel appears to announce the birth of the child, and the annunciation follows the pattern of birth annunciations in the OT: The angel says, “Do not be afraid,” calls the recipient of the vision by name, assures him or her of God’s favor, announces the birth of the child, discloses the name of the child to be born, and reveals the future role of the child in language drawn from the Scriptures. After their respective announcements, Zechariah and Mary each ask a question, a sign is given, and the scene closes with a departure. The similarity of structure and content between the two scenes invites the reader to consider the differences between them all the more closely. For example, the first announcement came as an answer to fervent prayer; the second was completely unanticipated. John would be born to parents past the age of child bearing, but the miracle of Jesus’ birth would be even greater. Jesus would be born to a virgin. The announcement of Jesus’ future role also shows that at every point Jesus would be even greater than his forerunner. Watch how these nuances are developed in the course of the details of this scene. Note this narrative comparison also punctuates the beginning of Mark’s gospel which has no infancy narrative: John the Baptist is not the Christ, not Elijah, not the prophet to come, and not worthy to loosen the strap of the sandal of the one who is to come. Continue reading