Magic produces amazement (almost never a favorable term in Mark’s Gospel), but amazement is not faith.
Jesus has announced the arrival of the kingdom of God. He is proclaiming the gospel of God and calling on hearers to repent and believe (1:14-15). The next section of Mark’s gospel account provides examples of the gospel, the kingdom of God, repentance, and what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God.
The telling of the call of the first disciples is just as abrupt as the arrival of John the Baptist and Jesus in the gospel. Modern readers may be tempted to read it from the perspective of a “fifth gospel” where all the accounts are harmonized and we are able to explain why Simon, Andrew, James, and John leave and follow Jesus, but that does injustice to Mark’s purposes. This is not a factual account in our sense of the word, but a highly stylized account that highlights the immediacy of the decision in light of the judgment motifs of the kingdom and provides an example of the repentance that Jesus calls for.
In this account we see no mention of personal “sin” from which the disciples are repenting of. Rather they are rearranging their priorities. Following Jesus into the kingdom takes precedence over tending to the family business (but as we see a little farther down, they do not abandon their families). What this says about repentance is that we need to spend less time talking about and addressing sin and far more focus on the proper arrangement of priorities in light of Jesus and the kingdom of God.
(See discussion outline for some historical and religious perspectives on the significance of “fishing” that sheds light on why “fishermen” being called to “fish for people” is far more than just a play on words.)
In the next episode Jesus is seen in Capernaum, in a synagogue, on the Sabbath. these three motifs appears again in chapter 2 where we are given a contrast to what is portrayed here in chapter 1. Here there is no confrontation between Jesus and the people. The people are amazed by Jesus’ teaching. When an unclean spirit tries to challenge Jesus’ authority by speaking his name and title, it is immediately rebuked, silenced, and driven out. The people are further amazed and Jesus’ authority over the kingdom of Satan is demonstrated.
(See discussion outline for significance of demons attempting to utter Jesus’ name and divine title as a way to exert control over him. It is not merely a confession of their knowledge about Jesus.)
The people are amazed but they do not show faith/trust in Jesus. They are impressed by Jesus and want the benefits of his “magic” but they have no desire to repent and direct their lives toward God. Just as with the crowds that came to John the Baptist, they confess but they do not repent.
The scene moves to Simon’s mother-in-law’s home where she is sick. Here Jesus demonstrates authority over disease by healing her. Jesus has now performed two “works” on the Sabbath, something that will soon bring him into conflict with the religious leaders.
In response to her healing, the mother-in-law’s response is to serve. Jesus does not call her to follow as he did her sons, but her response is still a response of a disciple and a demonstration of repentance: to serve when God’s power, authority, and kingdom brings a change in circumstances. Once more there is no mention of personal sin. Here we see that not everyone is called to follow as Apostles were called. Some are called away from their current lives; others are called to stay and serve. Both are necessary in the building up of God’s kingdom.
In the final vignette for this session we see that a crowd has gathered outside the home. It is now after the Sabbath and people can carry the sick and ask for healing without violating any of their laws and traditions. Out of compassion and mercy Jesus offers healing and freedom, but the people are not looking to change their priorities – repent. Thus we will see next time that Jesus cannot stay. He must move on to continue to “fish for people” that are receptive to repentance.
In these opening stories we begin to gain a portrait of what a disciple of Christ – a Christian – looks like:
A Christian is not merely someone who professes and confesses Jesus Christ.
He is not merely someone who follows Christ.
She is someone who imitates Jesus’ acts of freeing the oppressed.
 Feasting: Mark, location 1689.