Leaving Our Nets

“Time’s up! God’s Kingdom is here.
Change your life and believe the Message.”
Mark 1:15 (The Message)

This week we read of four fisherman Jesus encounters while strolling along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:14-20). We don’t know if these hardworking fishing professionals have ever even heard an actual sermon from Jesus. It seems that Jesus’s preaching in Galilee was finished prior to this encounter on the shore.

Why these men? What about them leads Jesus to issue them his first call to a life of great adventure? If the first thing that Jesus does after his formal commission into ministry is seek out companions for the journey, we’d assume he wouldn’t be thoughtless about his choice of those companions. Yet in a conversation taking less than a minute, he swoops up one-third of his final group of 12 disciples. So what about these particular four fishermen has captured Jesus’s imagination?

As I sit with the text this morning, however, I am struck most by the decisiveness of the four fishermen and the urgency of their responses. Perhaps a more revealing question than “what does Jesus see in them?” is “what do they see in this Jesus?

What do they see that compels them to immediately leave their nets to follow him? Would it not be much wiser and more prudent to first consult with their families and closest friends? Or perhaps enter a designated period of discernment regarding the possibility of such radical life change? Maybe they should have discussed it with a spiritual director, or at least taken some time to “pray about it.” No, our text tells us that these four “at once left their nets and followed him.” This leaves me feeling both confused and inspired by their responses to immediately (perhaps irresponsibly) leave net and family.

Maybe life in the “kingdoms” they had built for themselves paled in comparison to Jesus’s invitation to align with the great adventure of a different Kingdom – the Kingdom of God.

What kind of kingdom have I been trying to build through devotion to the nets that I daily put my hands to? I wonder what the nets represent for me in my life. How many of the seemingly altruistic decisions that I make each day are really motivated by the fish I hope to catch when casting my nets into the waters of self doubt? Is the catch I seek really the affirmation of others to prop up my soul?

I am shocked by how often I am driven to cast nets into the sea of rivalry. I tend these nets amidst waves of misplaced desire that break violently on those around me. Am I willing to leave those nets behind, whatever security they seem to provide, and instead follow Jesus into the deeper, unknown waters of Christ-like desire? “We dance,” wrote Robert Farrar Capon, “under the banner of God’s desire.” I am realizing that could very well mean turning my back on what I have spent my entire life fishing for.

There is something very powerful here about the intensity of Mark’s cut-to-the-chase witness. The sparse narrative emphasizes that Jesus is really important and is in the midst of a really important adventure.

The Street Psalms community often finds that the places we serve are also a kind of Jesus-like smelling salt waking us to the reality of life. But sometimes it seems the only things in our own lives worthy of immediate attention are the cares of our daily worlds that seem so large. The intrigue of Jesus’s invitation, assumed but not explicitly stated in the passage, is that there must have been something quite captivating about this Jesus and his mission. Not a Mission Impossible-type narrative that appeals to ego, pride, and the sense that we need to go do something important – but rather an invitation so freeing that it allows us to leave that which up this point in our lives has seemed all-consuming and impossible to release.

What an amazing thing Jesus is calling us into: an open-ended adventure of radical discipleship where our nets are left behind.

“Time’s up! God’s Kingdom is here.”

Peace,
Joel Van Dyke
Street Psalms Latin America
Guatemala City

P.S. I find that praying the Examen keeps illuminating the need to leave my own nets. Street Psalms invites you to pray it as well.

Photo: “nets” by Miemo Penttinen (CC BY 2.0)