The first Chapter of the Gospel of Mark is about the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, which occurs near the Sea of Galilee and in Capernaum. A number of themes that will figure prominently in the Gospel appear already in the first Chapter. These are: Jesus reaching out to heal and make whole those who come to him for healing (1,29-34. 40-45), his exorcising those possessed by demons and commanding them to be silent about his identity (1,23-28), his being led in all things by the Spirit (1,126.96.36.199-28), the misunderstanding on the part of his disciples and people about who Jesus really is which plays a big part in the Gospel already finds some mention here (1,35-39).
It is also in the first Chapter that Jesus receives the invitation from God (through the voice from heaven 1,11) to be both beloved Son and slave. Jesus accepts this invitation as is evident in the angels attending to him though he is tempted by Satan (1,13) and in his proclamation of the good news of God, which is that the Kingdom of God has indeed, arrived (1,14-15).
The public ministry of Jesus begins after his baptism and his being led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Jesus comes to Galilee “after John was arrested” (1,14). This could be Mark’s way of removing John the Baptist from the scene who until this verse had held centre stage. It could also be a reminder that the fate of John the Baptist will also be the fate of Jesus. He too like John the Baptist will be “handed over” (9,31; 10,33; 14,21.41). Jesus comes “proclaiming the good news of God” which is an indication that he is on the side of God and has accepted the invitation issued to him at his Baptism. The content of this proclamation is that the arrival of Jesus and his ministry is bringing about the salvation promised by the prophets. The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated by the coming of Jesus. All that humans have to do now is to open their hearts to receive it in all its fullness.
The call of the first four disciples in the Gospel of Mark (1,16-20) follows immediately after the first public proclamation of Jesus (1,14-15). Two pairs of brothers are called, Peter and Andrew and James and John. These call stories have five parts. Jesus passes by (1,16.19), sees the brothers at their work (1,16.19), he calls to them (1,17.20), they leave their work (1,18. 20), and they follow Jesus (1,18.20). Though their lives would have been disrupted, they dare to follow and this is an indication that they recognise that the summons comes from God himself. Some interpret the “casting of a net” to identify the Evangelical aspect and “mending their nets” to identify the reconciling aspect of the ministry of the disciples.
The first public proclamation of Jesus is about God’s unconditional and magnanimous love for anyone who is open to receive this love. This love is given freely and without charge. In order to receive one does not have to “do” anything, but simply possess an open and generous heart. The call of the disciples seems to indicate that Jesus is aware that he will need humans to cooperate with him in this seemingly daunting task and thus chooses his first disciples. The good news includes disciples. It is not just about Jesus. It includes in the broadest sense the Church. The Church performs about as well as the disciples in Mark, but it is still part of the breaking in of God’s reign, or, can be. That is why Mark tells his story the way he does. This mission of Jesus continues even today and we are those who are called to be those disciples who will continue it and who are being called at every moment to make known top everyone we meet the unconditional and gratuitous love and mercy of God.