I. The Authority of Jesus to Call Men (vv. 16-20)
The first thing we see in vv. 16-20 is that Jesus has the authority to call men. Jesus was continuing His preaching ministry in Galilee along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is actually a large fresh water lake that was home to a large fishing industry. As Jesus was passing alongside the sea ministering Mark tells us that he saw Simon and Andrew out casting their nets. This is the first time that these fisherman are mentioned in Mark’s account of the Gospel, but they actually have some history with Jesus through their association with John the Baptist (John 1:39-40). They had probably gone back to fishing after John had been arrested. But now Jesus had arrived, and He came to them. Luke fills us in on a few more of the details in Luke 5:1-4, and reveals that Jesus was ministering to a large number of people and needed their boat.
Jesus offered these two men an opportunity to change the course of their lives forever. He promised to make them “fishers of men” if they would simply follow Him. They could not have known the full implication of this—they were going to become Apostles—but they did recognize Jesus’ authority. They had seen what He was capable of (Luke 5:1-11), and they immediately followed Him. They had no hesitation in leaving their nets behind because they recognized how amazing Jesus was. They did not hold onto the things of this world because they knew that Jesus was better.
This was not the only time that this happened. Mark tells us that Jesus went on a little farther and saw James and John. These two men were also fisherman who would have been familiar with Jesus’ ministry. They were probably Jesus’ cousins (cf. 15:40; Mt 27:55-56, and John 19:25). In a similar fashion Mark tells us that Jesus called these two and they immediately followed Him. They were willing to give up their careers and family (Mark makes it clear that they did not abandon their father. He had the help of the hired servants, and he is never found objecting to his son’s decisions) in order to follow Jesus.
In this passage Jesus is calling men who would become His special disciples and eventually apostles. However, this is illustrative of how we are all called. Left unto ourselves we would never follow Jesus; however He authoritatively steps into our lives and calls us to Himself. As we see in this passage, this is no ordinary call. This is a call to put Jesus first, and let everything else in this world become secondary. We need to recognize this authority of Jesus, and obey His call on our life by following Him.