Saturday 20 January 2018

Epiphany 3 Mark 1v14-20

The Sea of Galilee is the setting of the first half of the gospel of Mark. A large freshwater lake about seven miles wide and 13 miles long, its shore is dotted with villages connected with the local fishing industry, the most prosperous part  of Galilee’s economy. The lake is also also called Sea of Genneseret or Lake Tiberius. It is about 209 meters below sea level, so it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth. Due to this low-lying position, the sea is prone to sudden violent storms, as in the gospel stories.

One of the harbours was called  “processed fish-ville,” in Greek! .   Herod antipas  brought the fishing industry under regulation at Tiberias and built a royal palace, so there was work for itinerant carpenter/construction worker, to the Sea from Nazareth. the majority of fish were salt preserved or made into a fish sauce and shipped to distant markets throughout the empire. All fishing had become state-regulated for the benefit of the urban elite—either Greeks or Romans. They profited from the fishing industry in two ways. First, they controlled the sale of fishing leases, without which locals could not fish. 

These rights were normally awarded not to individuals, but to local kinship-based “cooperatives” (Gk koinōnoi)—such as the brothers Simon and Andrew or the Zebedee family in Mk 1:16-20.  Second, they taxed the fish product and its processing, and levied tolls on product transport.  Local administrators handled royal leases, contracts and taxes—such as “Levi son of Alphaeus,” in Mk 2:14. This had marginalized and impoverished fishing families. Leases, taxes and tolls were exorbitant, while the fish upon which local people depended as a dietary staple was extracted for export.  Thus fishermen were falling to the bottom of the economic hierarchy. They were looked down upon.The  later story about the rich man story writes of  “leaving” home, family and work. 
John was arrested and handed over to be imprisoned and face trial, and eventually be beheaded by Herod. As this happens Jesus takes over and begins his public ministry in Galilee his home province, which becomes the centre of his ministry. Jesus preached the “good news". This was normally news of Empire, of battles won and the word in Greek is appropriated for Jesus’s ministry, evangelism.       
John's task had been to prepare the Jews for Jesus's message. A hard task which led to his death. The kingdom is now open to all people in and through the ministry of Jesus the messiah.  Repent means change your direction. The word means turning around, turn to God and believe. 
So Mark introduces the story in three parts;

        i] The time has come / is fulfilled / completed. All that the prophets foretold concerning the coming of the messiah is coming to fruition in and through the person of Jesus.
        ii] The kingdom of God is near / at hand / bursting in upon us. 
       iii] Repent and believe.

Jesus was walking along the shore of Galilee. His ministry focusses on the Jewish towns around the lake, centered on Capernaum.

The fishermen he calls are fishermen and  labourers. Zebedee employed hired men, including his sons James and John. 

Jesus calls them to follow him. He is calling them as if for an apprenticeship in discipleship. And so they left their casting nets, packed up their fishing paraphernalia and followed him. Simon and Andrew, are called first. They were disciples of John the Baptist and were prepared for that call from Jesus. 

When Jesus had gone further on in in the boat he found James and John preparing their nets for the next day's fishing, mending, cleaning and folding. Immediately he called them, they came, these employees of Zebedee.

Who was the catalyst in your call or was it more gradual as for many? Ive known one woman who fled like Jonah, but that’s another story…



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