Church of England Diocese of Liverpool St. Oswald, Netherton


24th January 2021

Reading: Mark 1: 14-20

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Thought for the Day

Can you hear God calling?

Have you ever tried to ignore a ringing phone? Perhaps some of us are more disciplined than others. Perhaps it is easier now that many phones – mobile phones, in particular – show us who is calling before we pick up. But for many people, it is a hard thing to do – and research shows it’s getting harder!

A study in Austin, Texas, showed that simply having their mobile phone in the same room as them made people less effective at a given task. With social media on our phones as well, we can see our friends, their current ‘status’, and their ‘news’ (or is it gossip?). We can see the national news, weather updates, traffic updates. We can access our emails. And much more. And that’s on top of using it as an actual phone to call people – colleagues, friends and family – to speak to them, or receive calls from them.

And that’s all in just one small amazing device. What about all the other demands on our attention and time? How much harder is it to hear God’s voice in our everyday lives, when they are full of so many preoccupations and distractions? Are we expecting God to compete with the other voices in our lives? Should we ask God to speak up?

If there is one phrase that characterises Mark, it is ‘and immediately’. It’s found twice in this short reading alone, and it reflects the urgency of sharing the gospel as widely as possible. The time is now! Jesus expresses this in the first words he speaks in this Gospel. The word used for time (v.15) is kairos, which means ‘the right time’ or even ‘crisis moment’. Jesus’ verbs pick up on the same urgency: ‘is fulfilled’, ‘has come near’. He has a crucial message to share. God’s kingdom is about to dawn! So, he invites people to change their way of life, picking up on John the baptizer’s message (1.4), and put their trust in the good news, the work that God is doing in and through him. There is an undercurrent of tension contributing to the urgency. Mark introduced us to John as the forerunner. Now we learn that John has been arrested (v.14). How long will Jesus have before he suffers the same fate?

Jesus’ urgent words are illustrated by his call to the disciples and their unhesitating response. There are vivid images: Simon and Andrew casting their net, then letting it fall to follow Jesus. They abandon the net, which has been their means of making a living, and they let go of their well-honed skill in using it. James and John leave their father in the boat – how would he have reacted to the loss of his two sons and their economic contribution to the family? These instantaneous decisions had difficult consequences for many. The American theologian Ched Myers (Ched Myers, 1991, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus, Orbis: Maryknoll) comments that the first step in radical discipleship is to overturn the socio-economic position of the disciples.

The disciples are embarking on a new way of life. Jesus’ invitation to change is vividly expressed: ‘Come behind me’, he says, and gives us an image of this little group making their way behind their new leader to start fishing for people. They had no idea where the journey would take them, but it was the beginning of something radically different.

The disciples were busy when God, through Jesus, called them. They had financial pressures, family pressures and peer pressures pushing them – just as we do. So, the fact that they were able to hear, and to recognise and respond to Jesus’ voice is – at least in part – what marks them out as followers of Jesus. Many others were invited to follow Jesus, or thought about it, but ended up walking away. If we feel that we don’t hear God’s voice in our daily lives, perhaps we need to ask ourselves whether or not we are making enough space in the daily noise to really listen.


Loving Lord,
thank you that you meet us where we are,
in the middle and muddle of our daily tasks.
Help us to hear your call,
to recognise your voice,
and to respond to your invitation
to be with you now.