Call and Committment

Posted 19-2-2006

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him."

In the movie "Jesus of Montreal" the Jesus figure chooses as his first disciple all actor who we meet dubbing English subtitles over pornographic French movies. I took some people from church. Two of the elderly ladies laughed themselves silly as the actor tried to dub two voices at once in a hot scene replete with the four letter word. They told me it ''was lucky for me" that one of the other members of the congregation had not come. It was much later that I realised they were actually regretful she had not come!

But the scene in the film nicely captures the scandal, or at least.. off colour choice, of the disciples. We don't see them as slightly dirty figures like a porn actor. But in their time they were. Unclean and unsuitable for a proper Rabbi to have as his followers. Again we see Mark setting the Gospel against what is proper, and at odds with Jerusalem. Disciples are not called on the basis of social respectability.

There is an overtone of urgency about this gospel, and we see it in these verses. "And immediately" is slathered throughout this gospel. From a stylistic point of view it is overdone. It grates, which is exactly the idea. Urgency is hammered into us. The urgency of the Good News cannot be ignored in this telling of the Jesus story.

There is more of the passion I spoke of in the last article. Jesus does not have long conversations with the fishermen. He saw them, said ''Follow me," and they went. "And immediately they left their nets." Do you notice they did not simply leave. They "left their nets" and "left their father." There is an emphasis on the leaving behind; an emphasis or the cost- and the totality of the break. They have left behind their livelihood in the one case, and their father in the other. The father was left with the hired men. It seems inappropriate. A son should not leave his father like that. There is not only an urgency, but a sense of almost fanaticism in this dedication to the call. As we think about it, it is uncomfortable, and unreasonable.

Do I want to be this total in my commitment?

I wonder how "accidental" the imagery is. There is the obvious play or words- "I will make you fish for people." as they were casting a net into the sea. In this most economical of books, where words are crafted, not wasted, does the net remind is of how indiscriminate the gospel is in who it catches and pulls in?

I remember preachers as a child. The idea that the disciples leapt to follow Jesus was held up as a model. Our slowness to respond, and our limited response, was seen as inferior. Now, in an age of frightening religious fanaticism and suicide bombers, such a hasty response is less than ideal. There is too much unthinking enthusiasm. So there is a tension here. I do not think that actually making a timely decision instead of vacillating for a long time is the same as making an ill thought decision. Neither is making a real and even costly choice- even a dramatic change - the same as fanaticism. These is much to come in Mark which will challenge hasty thinking, fanaticism, and bigotry. In comfortable urban Australia, we need to hear the urgency of the call. even if we need also to learn some temperance.

Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




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