Only a few paragraphs into the Gospel of Mark, Jesus called his first disciples. He walked right up to them in the middle of their work. They were fishermen, working in small boats. The Sea of Galilee is more of a lake than an ocean. The water is fresh, and while it is large–the largest freshwater lake in Israel (8 miles by 13 miles)–it is not even 150 feet deep. Its main source of water is the River Jordan, which is a connection that links this story–and the many stories that happen on and around the Sea of Galilee–with the sacrament of Baptism, and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. As Jesus encounters the fisherman, he has been proclaiming “Repent,” just as John the Baptist did in the wilderness at the edge of the Jordan. Remember that “Repent” means “change direction.” Jesus adds the invitation to “believe in the Good News.” His invitation to the fishermen was even more specific: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
The kind of fishing they were doing at the Sea of Galilee didn’t involve a hook. They weren’t trying to catch one fish at a time. Simon (aka Peter), Andrew, James and John were casting their weighted nets wide, and then jumping into the water to close the net and pull it into the boat. They were catching all kinds of fish; fish of every size, age, and shimmering color. The wide-open, energetic casting of nets was what Jesus called them to do on land, with people. The image of a net provides a picture of how people are knit together in a community like church. When the new disciples left their boats behind to follow Jesus, they still cast out and gathered nets by feeding, healing, inviting, praying and preaching.
Questions to think about:
- What would the fishermen think was good news?
- Why would they follow Jesus?
- What other stories do you know about the Sea of Galilee?
We are like the fisherman, holding those same nets. One way to demonstrate this is to do an activity that shows how we are connected. Get a large ball of yarn and arrange your group in a circle (more or less). Have one person hold the end of the yarn, and toss the ball to someone on the other side of the circle. They hold onto the yarn near them, and toss it across (but not to the person who threw it). Keep doing this until a large net (web) is created. Have everyone hold onto the yarn, and have a conversation about the exercise, community, etc. Then have the last person throw the yarn to the second-to-last until the ball retraces the same path and all the yarn is rolled up.