Casting the Nets (Mark 1:21-39)
Topic: Mark Passage: Mark 1:21–1:39
Fishing with Jesus
Casting the Nets
August 19th, 2012
Way of Grace Church
I. Thinking about the “How”
Listen again to these words from Matthew's Gospel. We read...
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)
From fishermen to “fishers of men”. As we saw last week, this passage reminds us that the call to follow after Jesus is also a call to fish with Jesus. And that's the very thing we want to explore in this three-part series entitled, “Fishing with Jesus”. In our first study we talked about the importance of 'putting out to sea' with Jesus...that is, of spending meaningful and missional (being on God's mission) time with lost sinners, just as Jesus did.
But when we are faithful to 'get in the boat' and 'put out to sea', we also need to think about what it means, as spiritual fishermen, to 'cast the nets'. Here's the key question this morning: What is it that God has called YOU to do in His work of drawing in the spiritually lost?
II. The Passage: “They Brought to Him All” (1:21-39)
Let's try to answer that question by looking together at Mark 1, verses 21 through 39. Now, I've taught on this passage before, but I think it is an excellent passage to come back to in terms of the issue at hand. Why? Well, if you have Mark 1 open, look right before our verses for this morning; look at verses 16-20. Do those look familiar?
Yeah, that's Mark's version of the same episode we read about in Matthew 4. So our verses for this morning, 21-39, because they immediately follow Mark's description of Jesus calling these men to the work of spiritual fishing, these verses are wonderful because they contain examples of Jesus doing that very thing...of Jesus being a ‘fisher of men’.
So what I'd like to do is break this passage up into four parts. And as we consider each part, I want you to think about what these first disciples were learning from Jesus about spiritual fishing, about the work of 'casting the nets'.
A. The Net of the Gospel (1:21, 22)
Let's start with verses 21 and 22. Look at what we read here...
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Capernaum (on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee) was the town where all of these men were living, including Jesus. And what we see here is, in many ways, extremely ordinary: Jewish men, on the Sabbath, gathering at the synagogue for fellowship, prayer, and to hear God's word. Even the fact that Jesus is teaching in the synagogue is not that strange, since different rabbis were invited to read and share.
But as we see in verse 22, what is out of the ordinary is the way in which Jesus was teaching. It says, “he taught them as one who had authority”, and because of this authority, the people were “astonished”.
But what exactly was Jesus teaching? What was the content of this message? Well, the text doesn't tell us, but the context does give us a clue. Look at how Mark summarizes the preaching/teaching ministry of Jesus in chapter 1, verses 14 and 15:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,  and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
Whether Jesus was teaching you something about the future or something about your finances, his message always revolved around the reality of God's kingdom. And as we see here, that kingdom message is part and parcel of the gospel message. So I think it's fair to say that what we see here in verses 21 and 22 is Jesus fishing by casting the net of the gospel.
Just as Peter, Andrew, James, and John were used to casting their nets out in order to draw in fish, here Jesus is casting forth the truth in order to draw in those who are lost.
And if we had time to look at the book of Acts this morning, we would see that these former fishermen would later fish in this same way; like Jesus does here, they would also proclaim the gospel and draw in the spiritually lost.
Brothers and sisters, there is ultimately only one answer to our initial question. What is it that God has called YOU to do in His work of drawing in the spiritually lost? The number one answer has to be this: if you want to fish with and for Jesus, you must cast the net of the gospel. As Paul expressed in Romans 1:16, the gospel is the only effective net because only the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”.
We're going to see how this same point is confirmed by a kind of 'bookend' at the conclusion of this section, but for now, I want you to consider a couple passages that should encourage all of us to be faithful 'net casters':
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect... (I Peter 3:15)
Did you notice how both Paul and Peter encourage these followers of Jesus to give thought to how they speak about Christ? There is a way we ought to answer each person. We should be prepared to explain our faith to those around us.
In spite of your fears, in spite of past experiences, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then God has called you to understand the message of Christ in such a way that you can faithfully share it with a neighbor, co-worker, or family member. You might share 20 words or you might share for 20 minutes. Time (the amount) is not the issue. The issue is faithfully pointing others to life in Christ.
When we speak to others about the reality of our sin and separation from God, about Jesus Christ as our only hope, about repentance and faith in His death and resurrection, we are casting the 'net' of the gospel...we are fishing with Jesus.
You might say, “I'm just not articulate enough” or “I'm too shy.” But that's where faith comes in. When we step out to speak, in spite of our fears, we have to trust that God will be there to give us the courage and the words and the wisdom.
You might say, “Well, I just don't know enough”. Well take advantage of the resources we have here: the confession of trust on the back of your bulletin, the small Amazing Grace booklet on the resource table, and the pamphlet entitled, The Best News Ever, these are all resources that can help you with the content of the gospel message.
And as you think about casting that net, as you think about sharing the Good News of Christ with those around you, I want you to keep a few more things in mind:
Start by asking them something rather than telling them something.
Look for 'bridges' into a person's life.
Avoid 'Christian-ese' and keep it simple.
Leave an 'open door' for a future conversation.
B. The Power of the Gospel (1:23-28)
But if we continue on in this passage, we learn three more things about casting the net of the gospel. Consider what verses 23-28 teach us...
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
Now there's a lot we could talk about here, but notice that the people in the synagogue quickly saw, an even greater demonstration of Jesus’ authority. In ancient Judaism, the casting out of an evil spirit or spirits usually involved a long process of repeating certain formulas and performing certain rituals. But Jesus simply tells the spirit to be silent (or literally to “muzzle his mouth”) and then orders the demon to leave the man.
But in terms of fishing here, what the disciples saw, and what we need to see, is that Jesus stood against the power, against the influence of evil. And in doing so, he demonstrated the power of the gospel.
Peter (who witnessed this) would later write: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith… (I Peter 5:8-9)
You see, when you and I overcome the influence of evil in our lives, we also demonstrate the power of the gospel. Listen to what Paul said in Philippians 2: Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life… (that's the gospel!)
Think about it: why would people believe our words about new life in Christ, if our so-called new life looks pretty much like their old one? To work through us, God does not require a sin-free life. But He does call us to a life that is vigorously battling sin, a life that is
As the writer Os Guiness said, The problem is not that there are not enough Christians, but that they are not Christian enough where they are.
C. The Mercy of the Gospel (1:29-34)
Look at the next set of verses. Look at 29-34:
And immediately heleft the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
So here we see Jesus going back to Simon and Andrew’s family home in Capernaum, probably in order to eat together. But once there, Jesus learns that the mother of Peter’s wife is lying in another room, sick with fever. While some might have seen this as a time to relax, Jesus goes straight to work. He goes to the mother-in-law’s side, takes here by the hand, and without even uttering so much as a word, she is made perfectly well.
So what do these first disciples see here? They see Jesus continuing to fish. And what is specifically on display here in His fishing is the mercy of the gospel. Verses 32 and 33 affirm this same emphasis on compassion and service to hurting people.
You see, the love of God that is declared for us in the gospel, is the same love that should be on display in our lives. And in many cases, God uses His love through us to prepare others for the message of God's love to us, to the world, in Christ.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (5:16) That’s a picture of God working through us to draw others in through His mercy!
Look at the result of Jesus' compassionate ministry to Peter's mother-in-law. She is drawn in, isn’t she? She gets up and begins to help with preparing and serving the food. She wants to minister to Jesus and His followers. She has been drawn through the mercy of the gospel.
Listen, we are not called to simply to do good deeds. No, Jesus’ example is encouraging us to do good works in order to reveal the Good News. Our hope in meeting the physical or relational or emotional or financial needs of others must always be that somehow our mercy will help them understand their greatest need, which is their need to be right with God.
D. The Prayerfulness of the Gospel (1:35-39)
But we also need to look at the final verses in our passage this morning, verses 35-39:
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,  and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”  And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
I don’t think much explanation is necessary is here. Jesus provides us with a clear example here, an example built on the recognition that this work of fishing is ultimately God’s work. And because that’s true, Jesus looks to the Father in prayer.
Brothers and sisters, the work of casting the net of the gospel is a work that should always be carried out in the prayerfulness of the gospel. Through the gospel God draws us to Himself, and because of the gospel, the word of the cross, we can draw near to God. In responding to the gospel we must admit our desperate need for God. The same is true in this work of fishing. As we reach out to those around us, we must also and always be reaching up in prayer.
But in these final verses we also discover that final bookend I mentioned. Notice how Jesus reorients the boat. Peter thinks they’ve struck gold. The night before the whole city came to Jesus’ door (v. 33) to experience His compassionate power. And now, they want more. “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus knows the ultimate reason for His mission: to cast the net of the gospel.
Our good works ultimately serve the good news. We can’t be confused about that. Our expressions of holiness and mercy cannot bring someone to faith in Christ. The saying that goes, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”, that saying is flatly unbiblical. Words are always necessary, because “faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). God can use the works to complement the words, but the works can never replace the words.
III. Everyday Fishing & Fishing Every Day
When those fishermen first heard the invitation of Jesus, there must have been some head scratching. “Fishers of men? What in the world does that mean?” They were used to pulling in Pike, but people? Really? But as they went with Jesus they began to see how He reached out. They began to see how He ‘cast the nets’. They began to see how hearts were drawn in.
Way of Grace Church, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. We need to be faithful in casting the net of the gospel. But that means we must think about, carefully think about, both the essence of this message, and how we might clearly express it to others.
But we also need to consider the message we communicate through our actions, attitudes, and appetites. Are we distinct from the world in the right ways? Is our commitment to Christ a light to those around us? In the same way, if we hope to express the message of God’s love to others, is that same love being expressed in service to others? And in all of these things, are we praying? Are was asking God to work through our example, through our love, and most importantly, through our words?
Brothers and sisters, what I hope you can see is that the work of fishing with Jesus is not necessarily something you do far away or as part of a program. This work is part of your everyday life. It’s part of your regular commitments, and your casual conversations, and seemingly mundane choices. AND it happens with those God has placed in your life, not just some random person whose doorbell you ring.
Let’s pray together this morning. Let’s pray that God would help us to be faithful to cast the net of the gospel, and to do that in light of the power, mercy, and prayerfulness of the gospel…so that we might be faithful to do what God has called us to do, that lives would be drawn in, and God might be glorified. [Let’s pray]