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The Call To Follow Jesus

October 13, 2019 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: The Gospel of Mark

Topic: Discipleship Passage: Mark 1:16–20


An Exposition of Mark 1:16-20

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date:   October 13, 2019

Series: Mark: Knowing and Following God’s Son

Note:   Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Here is the Word of God as it is written in Mark 1:16-20 –

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.


Each and every one of you is a disciple. You may or may not be a disciple of Jesus. But all of you are disciples – of some-one or some-thing. You are following after a person or an idea, a group or a philosophy, a system or a particular vision of ‘the good life’. You are all followers who have been captivated by a set of priorities and values. And whatever is enthroned at the top of your priorities and values, that is what you seek after, that is what you aim to please, that is your master.

Often, perhaps, human beings may not know what sits atop their personal world. People may say that they value faith, family, financial stability, fitness, and fun, but not necessarily in that order or in any order. Someone might say, ‘Mom taught us the importance of faith. The grandparents taught us the importance of family. Dad taught us the importance of financial stability, and he certainly ‘worked’ the part. Society taught us that it is best to be fit and to be disciplined when it comes to food. Culture taught us to leave large blocks of time for fun and recreation.’ So you find yourself pulled by these outside influences, and you’re not quite sure how they relate to each other. A little here, a little there.

Some of the kids have recently learned about King Solomon in Sunday School class. The Lord gave great wisdom to Solomon, and as a young man Solomon was a faithful disciple of the Lord. But when Solomon was older his heart turned away from the Lord. What happened? He “loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1) and took to himself 700 wives and 300 concubines. Aside from the fact that marrying multiple women is inherently contrary to God’s intention for a husband to have only one wife, Solomon’s wives didn’t serve the Lord but served false gods. What happened is that Solomon loved his idolatrous wives and they influenced and discipled him into the worship of false gods. Thus we read: “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:4) I wonder how often our love for unsaved family members leads us down a path of spiritual decay, because we are attempting to conform to their ungodly ways.

Regarding our own time and place, we as a nation – generally speaking – once believed in a Creator God who had endowed us with certain inalienable rights; we once believed that abortion was unrighteous; we once believed that marriage was the sacred union of one man and one woman; and we once believed that sexual immorality was a matter of shame. How is it that our society now disavows any knowledge of a Creator and believes that the universe is just an evolving thing, and that we might as well just evolve with it? Well, we have been schooled – that is, discipled – in the ways of naturalism, relativism, and tolerance-ism, with the effect of shaming people out of principled beliefs in objective standards. America is in a mess precisely because she has been discipled and groomed, but not by Christ. Loud voices have “turned away [our] heart after other gods.”

We need to understand that discipleship is happening all the time at both a macro and micro level. By macro level I mean the educational, moral, and political trends that are taking place in the wider culture. By micro level I mean what is happening in your heart, your home, your workplace. For good or ill, you are always being discipled. It could be that you are being discipled by an influential family member, or by an opinionated colleague, or by your favorite sit-com, or by the news channel, or by social media, or by a fitness coach, or by a diet plan, or by a really bad book that you don’t know is a really bad book. Or it could be that you are being discipled by Jesus Christ.

But know this: if you’re trekking along without a deliberate Godward focus, if you aren’t actively and wisely evaluating your influences from a biblical perspective, if you aren’t “[taking] every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), then I assure you that your discipleship is moving in the wrong direction.    

Who or what is discipling you and your family? Who or what is exercising decisive influence? Who or what has captured your heart?


As we turn our attention to our passage, we will notice that the words ‘disciple’ and ‘discipleship’ don’t actually occur in Mark 1:16-20. But the concept of discipleship is clearly present. To be a disciple is to be an apprentice who follows a master in order to learn from the master and eventually become like the master. There “alongside the Sea of Galilee” (v. 16) Jesus issued a direct and personal call to four fishermen – to “Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon” (v. 16) and to “James the son of Zebedee and John his brother” (v. 19). The call that Jesus gives is simple and straightforward: “Follow me” (v. 17). The four fishermen found this summons to discipleship compelling: “immediately [Simon and Andrew] left their nets and followed him” (v. 18); “and [James and John] left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (v. 20).

Repent and Believe = Leave and Follow

So right here, near the beginning of The Gospel of Mark, we get our first window into followership or discipleship. In the previous two verses, in Mark 1:14-15, we see Jesus “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.”” The call to “repent and believe in the gospel” and the call to “[follow] me” are not two different calls, but the same call expressed in two different ways. Repenting involves turning away from every loyalty that interferes with your capacity to be loyal to King Jesus. Believing in the gospel means embracing the wonderful good news that God’s grace to forgive you and transform you is found in one place and one place only – in His Son, Jesus Christ. Repenting involves leaving everything else behind, and believing means lining up behind Jesus because you trust Him. “[They] left their nets and followed [Jesus]” is a beautiful picture of repenting and believing. “[They] left their father Zebedee in the boat… and followed [Jesus]” gives us the same beautiful picture of repenting and believing in the gospel. It’s not that the business of fishing and the nets and the boat and the father are inherently sinful. But if we allow any of these legitimate loyalties to get in the way of following Jesus, then we have played the fool. Repenting involves turning away from every other loyalty – including thousands of good things that interfere with your capacity to be loyal to King Jesus. It is not enough to turn away from bad things in order to follow Jesus, for after you have done that, you still have to turn away from a far larger number of good things in order to follow Jesus.[1]

An Important Clarification

Before I draw your attention to some basic lessons about discipleship, I must say one other thing in order to avoid potential confusion. The Lord intends for us to learn much about discipleship from The Gospel of Mark: the discipleship of the first disciples is foundational to our understanding of discipleship and sets the right trajectory for us. At the same time, however, we have to recognize that there is one aspect of their discipleship that is unrepeatable – and that is their physical and geographic proximity to Jesus. When Jesus called them to follow Him, He meant for them to travel with Him through Galilee and other parts of Israel. They had to become uprooted, unrooted travelers who couldn’t continue their ordinary routines, so that they could be free to accompany Jesus from place to place. If Simon and Andrew didn’t leave their fishing business, then they could not have followed Jesus. If James and John didn’t leave their father’s fishing business, then they could not have followed Jesus. This physical proximity to Jesus and this geographic on-the-road-from-town-to-town traveler-ship is unrepeatable. Even so, the Lord Jesus is still calling people to follow Him. His call upon your life might require you to leave your business or relocate to another part of the world, or His call might not require you to do so. But  be sure of this: for someone who begins to truly follow Jesus, the fundamental priorities will most certainly change.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, after which He would be physically absent, He said: “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Long after Jesus had ascended into heaven, Simon Peter, one of the fishermen in our passage, wrote: “Christ… suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21) And John, another one of the fishermen in our passage, taught us that “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6) So the call is still upon us to be devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though He is physically absent, He is spiritually present with His people through the Holy Spirit. Remember, Jesus is the One who baptizes His people “with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8). The transforming presence of the Holy Spirit means that following Jesus is as personal and as relational as it was for the first disciples who were able to see Jesus face to face.

Jesus still says “Follow me”! Have you heeded His call?


I want to highlight several lessons that Mark 1:16-20 teaches us about discipleship. It is worth pointing out that these lessons are not philosophically sophisticated. These are basic, clear, straightforward lessons, and yet we need to hear them afresh and full of life. Ask yourself as we go along: ‘Have I reckoned with this aspect of discipleship?’ As you reflect on that question, you might find yourself encouraged at times as you see evidence of how the Lord has been at work in your life. On the other hand, there might be times when you find yourself convicted that you are falling quite short or have regressed in a particular area. Don’t lose heart when that happens, but be refreshed in the good news of God’s gracious forgiveness and be renewed in your determination to follow Jesus.

Lesson One: Jesus Initiates Discipleship

Lesson Number One: Jesus initiatives discipleship. Mark makes this clear in a couple different ways. Notice that Jesus “saw Simon and Andrew” (v. 16), and then Jesus “saw James… and John” (v. 19). He saw, noticed, observed, and focused His attention on these men. It is Jesus who spots us, not the other way around.[2]

After He saw them, He issued the call to them: “And Jesus said to them [Simon and Andrew]” (v. 17), and “immediately he called them [James and John]” (v. 20). Jesus takes the initiative. Jesus issues a summons to us. It has always been like this and will always be like this, until the dawning of the new heaven and the new earth. The Lord issued the call to Abraham: “Go” (Genesis 12:1). The Lord issues the call to the four fishermen: “Follow me”! And the Lord is still issuing the same call to all the world, as Paul said: “now he [God] commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

The very fact that Jesus issues this call is full of grace. We are, after all, an undeserving people. When we enter into this world, we do so as willing participants in the realm of sin and death. We are sinners by nature and by choice, and the only thing that we deserve is to be judged for our sin. Because we are caught in the thick fog of sin, we are unable and unwilling to seek after God. As Scripture says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10-11) Our hearts are bent the wrong way, so instead of seeking for God, we are seeking ten thousand other things.

Precisely because we were hopelessly stuck in the quagmire of darkness, our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world with healing and grace. “Follow me” He says to the four fishermen. “Follow me” He will say to Levi the tax collector in Mark 2 (v. 14). Jesus did not choose Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Levi because they possessed above average all-star potential. He chose them as an act of mercy and grace. When the self-righteous religious leaders complained that Jesus was “[eating] with tax collectors and sinners” (Mark 2:16), Jesus answered them: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

When Jewish rabbis and teachers brought students under their tutelage in that time period, it depended quite a lot on the initiative of the prospective student. James Edwards writes, “Unlike the decisive call that comes from Jesus, entry into a rabbinical school depended on the initiative of the aspiring student, not the call of a rabbi.”[3]

Christian discipleship is fundamentally different, because the initiative belongs to Jesus, not to us. An elite university might refuse your application for admission as a student because it deems you unqualified.[4] And yet, the Lord of heaven and earth welcomes you as His student, not because you are qualified, but because He has called you. Jesus is the One who issues the call. Jesus is the One who initiates discipleship.

Lesson Two: Discipleship Means You Give Ultimate Allegiance to Jesus

Lesson Number Two: Discipleship means that you give ultimate allegiance to Jesus. This is the most straightforward implication of the call to follow Jesus. When Jesus says, “Follow me,” He means that you must forsake all other people and all other things as the ultimate priority of your life. Following Jesus means that you are not following others. Following Jesus does not mean that Jesus is a part of your life; it means that He is your life, that He is your Master, Teacher, and King. In another passage about discipleship, Jesus makes it very clear that if you would follow Him, you must love Him more than you love your family members, your possessions, and even your own life (Luke 14:25-33). You must give ultimate allegiance to Jesus.

Why wouldn’t you give Him your ultimate allegiance? For He is uniquely worthy of your unrivaled devotion. Remember what we learn about Jesus in Mark 1:1-13. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the true King anointed by God to bring righteousness and peace to our troubled world. He is the beloved and well-pleasing Son of God. He is the faithful servant of God who conducts His entire ministry in the strength of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who immerses His people into the life-giving, cleansing, and renewing power of that same Spirit. He is the Lord who comes into this crooked world and identifies with sinners – first, by being baptized by John in the river Jordan; and second, by enduring isolation, privation, and temptation in the wilderness. He alone is able to lead us out of the dangers of this wilderness world and lead us into the delights of fellowship with God. Nothing else in this world even comes close to matching the resumé of Jesus our Lord. What can your favorite electronic device, your job, your checking account, your collectibles, your gadgets and toys, your country, your friends, or your family members do for you in comparison to what Jesus can do for you? Their glory is a fading echo, but Jesus’ glory radiates with eternal brightness. They can pour little drops of passing pleasure into the large cup of your soul, but Jesus can direct rivers of living water to fill you up forever. They can help you live a distracted and fragmented life, but Jesus laid down His life for yours so that you could be awakened to a focused and holy life that endures into the ages beyond. Therefore I say: Follow Him!

Because discipleship means that you give ultimate allegiance to Jesus, it necessitates a radical shift in your priorities. For the four fishermen of Galilee, following Jesus meant that they had to walk away from other things. Farewell, old nets! So long, old boat! Goodbye, Dad! If Jesus is first, then they are not – and you’ve got to feel it so! As I mentioned earlier, even if Jesus doesn’t require you to physically walk away from your business or from your extended family or from your hometown, the radical shift in priorities takes place just the same. Now you hold your business or career or livelihood with an open hand, because Jesus is Lord – and who knows what He might lead you to do? Now you hold your family members with an open hand, because Jesus is your Shepherd. Now you hold your geographic location with an open hand, because Jesus is the King of all the earth – and who knows where He might direct you to go?    

A true disciple puts Jesus first, and is glad to do so. Let go of everything else, and lay hold of Jesus. Repent, and believe in the gospel. Get out of the boat, and follow the Lord. Be "done with lesser things"[5], and worship the High King of heaven!  

Lesson Three: Discipleship Means You Fellowship with Jesus

Lesson Number Three: Discipleship means that you fellowship with Jesus. This summons to fellowship is also inherent in the call to follow Jesus. When Jesus says, “Follow me,” He is calling you to come and be with Him, to be in fellowship and conversation with Him. We must never forget that real discipleship is relational: the disciple has a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not equals, of course, not even close: He is Lord, and we are His servants. But you are doing life with Him nonetheless: you are with Him by the sea, you are with Him on the road, you are with Him on the mountain, you are with Him in the valley, you are with Him in the sanctuary, you are with Him in the hustle and bustle, you are with Him in the quiet.

The first disciples, of course, were with Him physically. But we who follow Him today are with Him spiritually. He speaks to us through the Word of God. We speak to Him in prayer. He is working inside of us through the Holy Spirit. And He is working outside of us as He guides and grows the church, as He directs the church’s mission, as He subdues His enemies, and as He exercises sovereign authority over heaven and earth.    

Methods, programs, study manuals, and workbooks may have their place. But always remember: Discipleship is not mainly adherence to a particular program, but attachment to a Person. The Lord Jesus Christ fellowships with His people, and they with Him.  

Lesson Four: Discipleship Means You Are Part of a Community of Disciples

Lesson Number Four: Discipleship means that you are part of a community of disciples. In Mark 1:16-20, Jesus didn’t call one person to follow Him in an exclusive one-to-one mentoring relationship; He called four. And He didn’t stop at four, as He would call more into the group in due course. The lesson is a simple but important one: those whom Jesus calls to follow Him, must follow Him together, must learn from Him together, must worship Him together, must embrace one another as fellow disciples, must make peace with the fact that they are called to be at peace with one another, must love one another, and must learn to work together as co-laborers in the harvest field. This ‘together component’ is very important, because our ambitions and egos are often exposed in our frictions and spats with one another – and this exposure is good for us, because the Lord then takes the opportunity to grow us in humility, patience, and kindness. Fast forward to Mark 9, and we see that the disciples were “[arguing] with one another about who was the greatest.” (Mark 9:34) Not their greatest moment! But friends, we are a gift to each other, so that our deficient characters might be revealed in the context of a church community that is defined by the Lord’s grace, and all along the way we have the privilege of growing up in the Lord together.

There is also the privilege and joy of laboring “side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27), and laying down our lives for each other (1 John 3:16) so that the whole community of disciples is strengthened and well-supplied.   

True disciples understand that they are part of a community of disciples, and they participate accordingly.

Lesson Five: Discipleship Means You Go Wherever Jesus Goes

Lesson Number Five: Discipleship means you go wherever Jesus goes. This is also a clear implication of the call to follow Jesus. When Jesus says, “Follow me,” He means that wherever He goes, you should go with Him; wherever He walks, you should follow Him there. If He goes to the next town over, you go with Him. If He sits down to eat with a ragtag bunch of unpopular tax collectors and publicly disgraced sinners, you sit down with Him. If He takes time to minister to a leper or a demoniac or a sick person or a little child, you stay with Him. Your allegiance is not to whatever makes you comfortable, but to Him – and so you walk with Him through the ruins of this broken world.

The song that we sang before this sermon helpfully captures this idea:

“We will follow the steps of Jesus [wherever] they go.”

“[Though] they lead [over] the cold, dark mountains,

Seeking His sheep,

Or along by Siloam’s fountains,

Helping the weak.”

“If they lead [through] the temple holy,

Preaching the Word,

Or in homes of the poor and lowly,

Serving the Lord.”

“We will follow the steps of Jesus [wherever] they go.”[6]

Ultimately, of course, we follow Jesus all the way to glory, as the final verse proclaims:

“Then at last, when on high He sees us,

Our journey done,

We will rest where the steps of Jesus

End at His throne.”[7]

Yes, that’s right – by God’s grace we will follow Jesus all the way to His eternal throne. And yet, we must remember that we must first follow Him along the pathway of the cross, for the cross is the pathway to glory. The four fishermen in Mark 1:16-20 didn’t know what Jesus was getting them into, but later on Jesus will say to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Jesus took up His cross and laid down His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. As His followers, each one of us must take up our cross – not as a sacrifice for sin, but as an act of devotion to the honor of our Lord, the advance of His gospel, and the care of His church. Let us be like the faithful disciples of Revelation 14 “who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” (Revelation 14:4)

Lesson Six: Discipleship Means You Are Being Transformed

Lesson Number Six: Discipleship means that you are being transformed. Jesus told Simon and Andrew, “Follow me,” but that’s not all that He said. What did Jesus say to them? “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (v. 17)

What I want you to notice is that the words “I will make you become” indicate a process of transformation. Five seconds before Jesus called these fishermen, they were not “fishers of men.” Five seconds after they started following Jesus, they were still not “fishers of men.” But as soon as they started following Jesus, they were fishers-of-men-in-training. Jesus was calling them into something that they weren’t, but by His grace would become. “I will make you become,” Jesus assures them. Jesus will teach them. Jesus will show them. Jesus will hammer away at their character. Jesus will transform their mindset and vision. Jesus “will baptize [them] with the Holy Spirit” and thereby produce good fruit in them and at the same time empower them to advance God’s kingdom.

Here once again we have a window into God’s grace. Jesus came in order to fish for people, that is, to catch people out of the sea of sin and bring them into fresh air of the kingdom of God. Before we can catch others, we ourselves must be caught by God’s grace. So, the very fact that the Lord would involve us in His mission is profound grace because, by nature, we are totally unqualified to participate in His mission. We must be beneficiaries of His mission, before we can become partners in His mission. But this is what the gracious Lord Jesus does: He rescues people. He renews them from the inside out. He remakes them – “I will make you” – He remakes them into humble, loving, sacrificial servants who devote their lives to reaching more people with the good news of God’s grace.[8]

As we internalize His call upon our lives, He is remaking us. As we begin to put Him first, and fellowship with Him, and go where He goes, He is remaking us. As we see Him, as we observe His mighty and merciful deeds, as we listen to His life-giving words, He is remaking us. As we participate in the community of disciples – as we bump into each other and then receive the Lord’s correction, and as we discover the joy of being together and working together – He is remaking us. More specifically, He is remaking us into disciples who make disciples, into followers who multiply followers – which leads right in to the next lesson.

Lesson Seven: Discipleship Means You Participate in Jesus’ Mission

Lesson Number Seven: Discipleship means you participate in Jesus’ mission. The purpose of the transformation (that we have just spoken about) is participation, that is, to be participants in our Lord’s mission. Jesus says, “I will make you become fishers of men.” “I will make you become” is the transformation; “fishers of men” is the missional participation.

The phrase “fishers of men” is obviously a play on words. Simon, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen, meaning that they were men who fished for fish. Fishing was their livelihood. Nothing wrong with that, of course; fishing is an honorable business – and it was big business in the Sea of Galilee. But the Lord had greater things in mind: instead of fishing for fish who are swimming in the sea, Jesus wanted them to fish for people who are sinking in a world of sin and death. Jesus wanted them to become faithful participants in His spiritual rescue operation. He wanted them to become evangelists who tell other people about the gospel. He wanted them to become disciple-makers who bring people into the grace of God’s kingdom. He wanted them to become warriors who assault the gates of hell and plunder the devil’s slaves. It’s a dangerous business, humanly speaking. Equally, though, it’s a compassionate business, rescuing people who are perishing.

As the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is the family business. James and John were in the fishing business with their father. Jesus summoned them to leave their earthly father’s business so that they could become stakeholders in their Heavenly Father’s business. Naturally, Jesus the beloved and well-pleasing Son of God was all about His Father’s business. And what is this business? It is gathering sinners out of the world and into His kingdom; it is gathering those kingdom citizens together and growing them into a faithful, worshiping, and loving community; and it is sending that faithful community back into the world on mission in order to reach more sinners and make more disciples. Every disciple has a role to play in advancing our Lord’s kingdom. Every disciple must have a missionary mindset.

As we work through The Gospel of Mark, remember this: Jesus’ interaction with the disciples in Mark 1-16 is largely aimed at preparing and equipping them to become effective disciple-makers after His departure. And where do we see their effective disciple-making on display? In The Book of Acts. So pay attention: the purpose of the Gospel of Mark is in large measure to get us so rooted in Christ that we become a strong, single-minded church family that excels in carrying out His mission. Let’s grow together, let’s be transformed together, let’s learn to fish for people.

Discipleship means that you participate in Jesus’ mission, for that is the express purpose of Jesus’ transforming work in your life.

Lesson Eight: Discipleship Means You Take Actual Steps, Not Theoretical Ones

Last but not least, Lesson Number Eight: Discipleship means that you take actual steps, not theoretical ones. We must not miss the importance of verse 18: “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” We must not miss the importance of verse 20: “and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

The purpose of this sermon is not to make you a scholarly expert on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. To be sure, all these lessons are important. But what good are these lessons if you refuse to let go of your nets? What good are these lessons if you refuse to leave the boat? What good are these lessons if you refuse to leave that little idol or bad habit which this very moment is keeping you from Him? What good are these lessons if you refuse to step toward Jesus, put your future in His hands, and go with Him wherever He goes?

Earlier I asked: Who or what is discipling you and your family? Now in light of this word from Mark 1:16-20, are there specific steps you need to take or changes you need to make in order to ensure that Jesus is the unrivaled master of your heart and home?

I say to those who are older: Resist the temptation to set your life on cruise control, and follow Jesus, finish strong, and claim the crown. 

I say to those who are younger: Time is fleeting, and the saying is true – “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, / Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Follow Him! He is worthy of your wholehearted devotion. If you follow Him, He promises to transform you into a fruitful disciple: “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Do you believe Him? Then heed His call and go wherever He leads you. 


The final thing I would like to leave you with is an adaptation of a familiar song.[9]


I have been summoned to follow Jesus,

I have been summoned to follow Jesus,

I have been summoned to follow Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back.


The boat behind me, the cross before me,

The nets behind me, the cross before me,

The world behind me, the cross before me,

No turning back, no turning back.


No other masters, only my Jesus,

No other masters, only my Jesus,

No other masters, only my Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back.


Will you surrender your all to Jesus,

Will you surrender your all to Jesus,

Will you surrender your all to Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back.


Follow Jesus – and go forth in His peace.



[1] Pastor Douglas Wilson, who blogs at has helpfully made this point on more than one occasion.

[2] I am reminded of what Charles Spurgeon said in a sermon about the prodigal son. Spurgeon proclaimed: “He sees a sinner long before a sinner sees Him.”

[3] James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002: p. 49.

[4] Ibid., p. 50.

[5] The phrase “Have done with lesser things” occurs in the hymn “Rise Up, O Men of God” by William P. Merrill.

[6] From the hymn “Footsteps of Jesus” by Mary B. C. Slade.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Eckhard Schnabel effectively conveys this idea: “Jesus calls Simon and Andrew not only for their own sake but for the sake of others.” Eckhard J. Schnabel, Mark (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Vol. 2). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017: p. 53.

[9] The familiar song to which I refer is “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” While I have retained some of the phraseology – e.g., the refrain “No turning back, no turning back” and the phrase “The world behind me, the cross before me” – I have largely adapted the original so as to give fresh expression to the truth of Mark 1:16-20.


Victor Babajide Cole, “Mark.” In Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars. Tokunboh Adeyemo, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974.

Eckhard J. Schnabel, Mark (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Vol. 2). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017.

Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.

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