Gospel Reflection — Mark 1:14-20, Monday, January 14, 2019
John the Baptist prophesied that he “must decrease, and he must increase.” In today’s gospel, we read that John has just been arrested and Jesus is beginning to call his inner circle of disciples — challenging them to become “fishers of men.” Jesus understood that in order to perpetuate his message he needed to train men to perpetuate his teachings. On this occasion, four men “Answer the Call.” However, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:14, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
What does Jesus mean by “For many are called, but few are chosen”? To answer, we must understand what Jesus means here by “call” and “choose.” The word “call” runs through the parable of the Wedding feast.” In the Greek text, the servants are said to “call those who had been called to the feast” (Matt. 22:3). The Jewish invitees are the “called ones” (cf. Matt. 22:4, 8). The servants are then commanded to “call” the Gentiles (22:9). The word translated “called” in verse 14 belongs to the same word family as that translated “called” in verses 3, 4, 8, and 9.
This pattern helps us understand the nature of the call in this parable. It is the summons or invitation of God through his servants—prophets in the Old Testament, ministers in the New. This call bids hearers to repent and believe the good news the servants proclaim. It is possible to refuse, as many Jews did. Jesus teaches that those who refuse the call are culpable for refusing it.
But it is also possible to respond to this call in a non-saving way. The man without the wedding garment in 22:12 presumably responded to the invitation. But his lack of the garment proves he doesn’t belong at the feast, and he is justly banished. What is the “wedding garment”? It likely pictures the gift of salvation freely offered in the gospel. Only those who receive this gift will be seated at the wedding banquet of the Lamb at the consummation of all things.
Who are they who sincerely respond to the call and receive Christ in faith? Jesus calls them the “chosen” or, as the Greek word may be translated, the elect. These are all whom the Father has chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Eph. 1:4). Only these chosen ones will constitute the company of the redeemed when Christ returns in glory. God’s eternal choice ensures they will respond sincerely to the call.
No. This is not a commentary supporting Calvinism or predestination. But, each and every person is presented with the calling to follow Jesus on the road to discipleship — this is via an external presentation of the Gospel. A certain grace is required to become a true follower — and that only comes from above. As we see in Mark’s Gospel, disciples of Christ must make a personal assent and follow through in an authentic manner. Authentic? Yes. Not everyone who joins the team ends up finishing the season. Judas Iscariot is probably the best example.
The example of Judas gives us a contra-indication of what is required to become truly chosen — a desire to experience what I refer to in my eBook (advert below) a “Radical Transformation.” Those who become disciples of Christ must indeed do something “radical” in the eyes of this world, and become transformed “…transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Are you willing to do something radical and answer the call? Pray for the grace required to become truly transformed!
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.