Mark 1: 16-20 – Call of First Disciples


In the first part of the gospel there are three important passages dealing with the disciples:- their call (Mk 1: 16-20), their institution as a group (Mk 3: 13-19), and their mission (Mk 6: 7-13).

The narrative of the call of the disciples is placed immediately after the summary statement on the proclamation of the kingdom and its demand for radical conversion. In this way Mark shows what it means to respond to the gift of the kingdom.


There are certain significant elements of the call that can be noticed in this account.

  1. It is Jesus who issues the call and he does it with authority. This direct and powerful call echoes God’s call of Moses and other prophets (Cf. Ex 3: 1-10; Jer 1: 4-10; Ezek 2: 1-7, etc.). Jesus takes the initiative and calls men to follow him. We note here that Mark mentions three aspects of Jesus’ action:- Jesus’ ‘passing by’; his elective glance; and his word of summons.
  2. Jesus goes out to the place where people can be found and he finds them in their actual life situations. He calls them from the midst of their activity.
  3. By issuing an immediate and urgent call to follow him, Jesus makes a total claim upon their lives.
  4. The purpose of the call is not spelt out here. That it is to be with Jesus ad to share in his mission will be made clear later in Mark 3: 13-15 and 6: 7-13.
  1. The immediate response of the fishermen corresponds to Jesus’ call which was immediate and without any preliminaries.
  2. The total response of radical obedience by the disciples shows also the urgency of Jesus’ summons.
  3. Discipleship results in a changed way of life. Therefore, it demands renunciation of everything that would be an obstacle to following Jesus. Thus Simon and Andrew leave behind their nets, their possessions, their security (Cf. Mk 10: 21, 29), and James and John sever their family ties.
  4. Their obedience becomes a sign of a perfect response to the call of the kingdom.

In this brief narrative of the call the evangelist sets in relief Jesus’ initiative and the demands of discipleship on those who respond positively to the call. This then becomes the pattern of discipleship.

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