Mark 1:14-20


Both Matthew and Mark omit the early Judean ministry of Jesus, the incidents between His temptation and the beginning of the Galilean ministry. John alone tells us about the Judean ministry. Authorities do not agree as to where the Judean ministry ends in John. Some terminate it at John 4:42, others at 5:47. At any rate there is a gap of at least one year between verses 13 and 14 of Mark 1.

Matthew 4:12-16, quoting Isaiah 8:23-9:1, describes the spiritual condition of the people of Galilee at this time.

Hendriksen: For centuries those living in this large territory had been exposed to political and military aggression from the north (Syria, Assyria, etc.) and to the corrosive moral and religious influences of a pagan environment.
Delitzsch: Since the days of the Judges all these stretches of country were by reason of their proximity exposed to corruption by heathen influences and by subjugation through heathen enemies. The northern tribes on the other side suffered most by reason of the almost constant wars with the Syrians and the later war with the Assyrians, and the deportation of the inhabitants gradually increased by Phul, Tiglatpileser, Sahnanassar until a total depopulation resulted.

At the time of Jesus the people of Galilee were a mixture of Jews and Gentles, pagan people, by and large. These people who were sitting in spiritual darkness saw a great Light, Jesus. Jesus, the Light, shone on those who were spiritually dead.

Mark 1:14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.

"After John (the Baptist) was arrested." He was imprisoned by Herod Antipas at Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea. Thus the personal work of the Baptist, as forerunner, was over. Jesus did not leave Judea and enter Galilee out of fear of Herod, because Galilee was under the administration of Herod. As Matthew points out, Jesus went to Galilee because the people were spiritually destitute. John 4:1-3 gives us another reason: Jesus did not want the Pharisees to pit His baptism (that of His disciples) against that of the disciples of the Baptist. Some commentators feel that another reason for Jesus' departure to Galilee was that He did not want His conflict with Jewish authorities to reach a premature crisis. In other words, His hour of suffering and dying had not yet come.

By the way, Jesus did not abandon the Baptist by going to Galilee. The Triune God supported the faith and conviction of the Baptist even though he was imprisoned.

The first thing that is said of Jesus in Galilee is that He was "heralding the Gospel of God." Cf. Mark 1:1. God and God alone is the author of the Gospel. The divinity of Jesus is implicit in this statement as we shall see in the next verse.

Hendriksen: What could be a better commentary than the following series of passages: John 3:16; Romans 8:3.32; 2 Corinthians 5:20.21; Galatians 4:4.5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-7.

Jesus' entire ministry in Galilee is summarized in Mark 1:14.15.

Mark 1:15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" 

Note that "said" and "preaching" are in the present tense, denoting what Jesus did constantly midst a people who sat in spiritual darkness.  "He said" here is recitative, like our quotation marks. "The proper time has been lastingly fulfilled." No one else, not even John the Baptist, said this. This was reserved for Jesus Himself. It reminds one immediately of Galatians 4:4. The divinity of Jesus is implied in this statement.

Bengel: Of which Daniel wrote, that of His kingdom coming, the time which ye have been expecting. Those who acknowledged that the time was fulfilled had, as the next step to take, either to embrace the true Messiah as set forth here, or else false Messiahs, cf. Luke 21 :8.

In that passage Jesus warns His disciples about deceivers who would come and say: "The opportune time has drawn near." False messiahs make claims about themselves or about the time of the end of the world. The second clause explains the first: "The kingdom of God has drawn near," meaning that the Kingdom of God is present in its fulfillment in the person, Word and work of Jesus. This is plainly a fulfillment of two prophecies.

Daniel 2:44-45 reads: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy." And 7:14: "And to Him (the Son of Man) was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed."  (NASB)

Here in Mark 1:15 Jesus is speaking about the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecies. The Kingdom of God is the Una Sancta, the holy Christian Church, the believers. The Kingdom dwells in the hearts of believers. This kingdom has existed on earth ever since God spoke Genesis 3:15. Read the long list of believers recorded in Hebrews 11. In 12:1 they are called "a great cloud of witnesses." 

Jesus continues: "Be repenting and believing in the Gospel." Note that both verbs are present tense, a constant command. Here "repenting" is used in the narrow or limited sense of confessing one's sins. Confession of sins and faith in Christ are the very heart of Christianity. Thus people enter and remain in the Kingdom of God.

By the way, the arrest and imprisonment of the Baptist did not stop the preaching of the Gospel. Cf. Matthew 3:2 and 4:17. The Baptist and Jesus brought the same message. But Jesus was the stronger of the two (Mark 1:7). Furthermore, Galilee was very pagan but that did not stop Jesus from preaching the Gospel.

Mark 1:16 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.

John 1:35-51 tells us about the first six (or perhaps five) disciples of Jesus. During Jesus' Judean ministry these disciples are mentioned at John 2:; 3:22.25; 4: But They had not yet been called to be Jesus' disciples permanently. Here in Mark 1:16-20 we have the first permanent call of four of them. At Mark 3:13-19 we have the call of all twelve disciples.

Mark 1:16 pictures Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This clearly indicates Jesus' humanity. He saw Simon and Andrew his brother. They were "casting in the sea." 

Hendriksen: When skillfully cast over the shoulder it (the net) will spread out, forming a circle as it falls into the water, and then, because of the pieces of lead attached to it, will quickly sink into the water, capturing the fish underneath.

Then Mark adds: "For they were fishermen." In other words, they had not yet been permanently called as disciples. That they still fished occasionally is clear from John 21:1-8. In fact, many commentators are convinced that Luke 5:1-11 is an occasion different from Mark 1:16-20, which happened later, they say.

Mark 1:17 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 

From John 1:35-51 we know that Simon and Andrew had been disciples of the Baptist and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were acquainted with Him. He says to them: "Come after Me and I will make you become fishers of men." That implies that they were not yet fishers of men. That would take several years of training and discipling.

Note that Jesus says "of men." We make two points:
  1.  "Men" means men, women and children.
  2. He does not say "of Jews," though it was limited to Jews until Pentecost.

When Jesus sent them out the first time (Matthew 10:5-6) He limited their ministry to Israel. But when Pentecost came, no distinction was to be made between Jew and Gentile. And at Acts 2:39 Peter included children.

Mark 1:18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

They complied immediately. What caused that? Obviously, what is said in verses 14-15. They had heard the Gospel of God. They knew the opportune time had come. They knew that the Kingdom of God had permanently come in the person, Word and work of Jesus. They understood what "be repenting and be believing in the Gospel" meant. It was the Word of God which caused them to obey immediately. And that must have taken courage. They were living in pagan Galilee, surrounded by unbelievers.

Mark 1:19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.

Note that the Nestle text makes a subparagraph here. "A little farther" evidently means that He walked up the shore a short way. Simon and Andrew were walking with Him. Note "he saw" again, denoting His humanity, but the words "I will make you" in verse 17 denote that He was more than mere man.

The two sons of Zebedee were in the boat repairing their nets. From verse 20 we know that also their father and his helpers were in the boat.

Mark 1:20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

"And immediately He called them." He singled out two of them. The verb "called" plainly indicates that Jesus was more than mere man. In verse 18 we are told that Simon and Andrew forsook their nets. In verse 20 we are told that James and John forsook their father. Again we mention that it was the Word which caused them to comply. None of them debated or reasoned on the matter.

Lenski: Here is the only place where we meet him (Zebedee) personally. It seems that he did not live very long afterwards. Mark alone adds the phrase 'together with the hired men.' It is a fair conclusion that the family possessed means, and that Zebedee's business was of some proportions. . . The fact that the sons left their father's prosperous business shows how devoted they were to Jesus. So Matthew, too, left his publican's office and well-paid position.

Perhaps Matthew 20:20 indicates that Zebedee did not live long after this.

Hendriksen: Whenever Zebedee's sons were not able to be with him, these hired men could be depended upon to find ways in which to fill the gap. Provision has been made for every need.

The point is that their leaving their father did not amount to disrespect or disobedience.

The words of Jesus in verses 17 and 20a are synonymous ideas. That they came true is witnessed by what is said in the entire book of Acts.

In the remainder of Mark 1 we have some remarkable proofs of what Jesus said of Himself in verses 14-15: In verse 22 we are told that the people in the synagogue were amazed at His teaching because it was authoritative. In verse 25 we are told that He muzzled an unclean spirit. All were amazed at His new and authoritative teaching (verse 27). In verse 31 we read of His curing Peter's mother-in-law's fever. In verse 34 it is said that He healed many who were ill. In verse 39 we read of His preaching and casting out demons. In verse 40-45 we read of His healing a leper who became an evangelist. And, at the end of verse 45, we are told that people were coming to Him from everywhere. The four disciples who had just been called must have been impressed deeply by this Man Who ushered in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 32-34. Used with permission.

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