By Elizabeth Baumann
Reading from the Gospel of Mark, 1:14-20
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake — for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
It would be easy to refer to this lesson we have for today as “the calling of the disciples,” but it doesn’t begin with the disciples at all, but rather with the arrest of John the Baptist.
John was Jesus’ cousin, the first after Mary to recognize him months before either of them were born. It was John who hailed him the “Lamb of God.” It was John’s baptism that unfurled the declaration from heaven of Jesus as beloved Son of God.
When John is arrested, what does Jesus feel? Profound grief? Anger at the injustice? Fear about what might — and will — happen, both to John and to himself if he follows in John’s wake and begins preaching publicly? Jesus might feel lonely in this moment, stripped of one of the few earthly companions who had been with him from before birth. It’s not hard to imagine, if any of us were under that weight, sinking below it.
Instead, Jesus emerges. After 18 long years of obscurity since he was found teaching in the temple as a precocious 12-year-old, Jesus goes out and begins to preach. Perhaps it would have been easier — felt easier — to begin when John’s ministry was still hugely popular. But Jesus fulfills this part of his calling when it’s hard.
So do the disciples. They know John has been arrested. Not only do they leave their fishing behind, they have to know what a controversial gospel might cost beyond the safety and comfort of an uninterrupted livelihood.
There’s something beautiful about calling, in the ways that God makes it clear and provides what we need to fulfill it. One thing about calling though, it’s never free and it’s never easy. Calling means choosing something, even when it’s unthinkably difficult, because it’s worth everything.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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