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Mark 1:16-20 - Homiletics

Fishers of men.

It was an incident of great moment in the history of Christianity and of the world—this, the calling by our Lord Jesus of his followers and apostles. Christ did not mike many converts; but the few he did make made many, so that, in selecting and appointing them, he was sowing the seed of a great and eternal harvest. He probably called these four more than once—first during the ministry of the forerunner, again as in the text, and a third time when he commissioned them formally to act as his apostles.


1 . Their position in life ; they were from the industrial classes. Not only did the Son of God choose himself to be born and brought up among the labourious and comparatively poor, he selected his immediate attendants, his personal friends, the promulgators of his religion, from the same rank of life. He took the form of a servant; he was known as "the carpenter's son;" it was asked concerning him, "Whence hath this man learning?' Luke indeed was a physician, and Paul a scholar, but the twelve seem to have been of lowly condition and surroundings.

2 . Their occupation ; they were fishermen. Theirs was, no doubt, a common calling among the dwellers by the shores of the Galilean lake. There may have been some moral qualities, such as reverence and simplicity, which fitted these men for their new calling and life.

3 . In relationship they were united by family ties; for these four disciples were two pairs of brothers. Simon and Andrew, and likewise James and John, were not only called together, but seem to have been associated together in an evangelistic ministry, when our Lord sent his disciples forth "two and two." Natural kindred and affection were thus sanctified by community in Christian calling and service. The two pairs were friends, comrades, and associates in labour.

4 . They were, at all events in some instances, specially prepared for this calling. Certainly some and probably all of these four were previously disciples of John the Baptist, who, in their hearing, had witnessed to Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus thus honored his forerunner by receiving disciples from his training.


1 . The Caller was the Divine Christ. An inestimable privilege to hear from those lips a gracious summons such as this I It is a sacred responsibility to hear the voice of Christ speak to ourselves with words of invitation, command, or commission.

2 . The manner of the call deserves attention; it was with authority. Simple and few were the words, but they were the words of One whose utterances carried with them their own authority—an authority acknowledged at once by the conscience of those to whom it was addressed.

3 . The import of the call was most momentous—"Follow me!" This call seems to have been addressed to these men on more occasions than one. They were directed to follow Jesus that they might listen to his teaching and observe his mighty works, that they might be qualified for the solemn commission which was to be entrusted to them upon the Saviour's ascension.

III. Remark THE PROMISE GIVEN in connection with the call. These Galilean fishermen should become "fishers of men." Our Saviour here takes advantage of the deep resemblances between natural processes and human activities on the one hand, and spiritual realities on the other. The sea in which Christian ministers are called to toil is this world, is human society, with all its uncertainties, vicissitudes, and dangers. The fish they seek are human souls, oftentimes hard to find and to catch. The net which they let down at the Divine command is the gospel, fitted to include and to bring to safety all souls of men. The skill and patience and vigilance of the fishermen may well be studied and imitated by those who watch and labour for souls. To enclose within the net is to bring souls within the limits of the privileges and motives, the laws and hopes of the gospel. To land what is taken is to bring the rescued safely into the eternal security of heaven.

IV. The RESPONSE TO THE CALL is deserving of our observation.

1 . There was cheerful compliance. No objection, no hesitation, no condition, not even an inquiry; but willing, contented obedience to a summons felt to be authoritative and binding.

2 . This compliance was immediate. So should all respond whom Christ invites to come after him. Not a moment should be lost in choosing a lot so honorable, so desirable, so happy.

3 . It was self-sacrificing. They left their nets, their kindred, their occupation, readily giving up all in order that they might follow Jesus. It was a condition which the Master now and again imposed, to prove the sincerity of his people's love, devotion, and zeal.


1 . For preachers and teachers of the gospel. Remember what is the vocation with which you are called. Let this be the acknowledged end you set before you—to be fishers of men, to gain souls.

2 . For hearts of the gospel. Remember that Christ has called you and is calling you. The burden of his appeal is this—"Come ye after me!" And, when saved, seek that you may be the means of saving others.

3 . For those who, hearing the voice of the Lord Christ, are disposed to obey his call. Bear in mind that he demands a complete surrender, that he will not be satisfied unless the heart is dedicated to him, unless, with the heart, all that we have is yielded to his service. There is sure to be something in the way of obeying the Divine and heavenly call. You will, like the fishermen of Galilee, have something to give up in following Christ. Be prepared for this, and count the cost. But, for your soul's sake and for the sake of your salvation, let nothing hinder you from faith and consecration. "Count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord."

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