top of page The Rev'd Canon Jenny Chalmers

Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

The discovery of a 1st century fishing boat, on the shores of the Galilee in 1986, fills out the picture of fishermen’s existance in Jesus’ lifetime. The extremely fragile construction of planks is composed of ten different types of wood, suggesting that there was either a shortage of wood, or that this is a boat made of scrap wood that has undergone many fixes and repairs. When the fishermen owners thought it beyond repair, the archaeologists conclude, they removed everything they could and scuttled it, where it lay in a mud bar until its discovery.The condition of the boat tells a tale of very limited resources, of eking out a living the best way the fishermen knew how.


At the same time, the Herods continued their building program which included establishing Tiberius just down the road, reconstructing the city of Sepphoris about 30km away, constructing Caesarea Maritima on the coast, the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem, and an edifice over the tombs of the patriarchs and their wives in Hebron. All these magnificent buildings were designed to prove to those around, that the Herods were worthy of being called king. However, their constructions placed a severe strain on the Palestinian peasant/artisan economy.


The ‘Ancient Galilee Boat’ displayed in the museum at Kibbutz Ginosar.(Jenny Chalmers)

Jesus came into these difficult times, declaring that ‘the kingdom of God has come near’, contradicting the idea that a kingdom is cities and buildings and monuments. Jesus' idea is that the disciples-to-be will reorient their lives to lives of repentance and faith, the true kingdom of God. Implied in the alternate kingdom idea, is an idea of community, of reliance one upon the other, of humility, of sharing and serving, of honouring and valuing the other, no matter who ‘the other’ might be. This passage begins with the news of John the Baptist, the audience knew the rest of the story, his arrest and death, as we do. They knew the risks of giving themselves over to a new vision that challenges the power and might of the rulers. They lived with the ever-present threat of random execution.


Who knows how difficult it was for Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave their nets, for the present and future can’t have seemed very positive. The promise of ‘Good news to the poor, release for the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, and liberty for those who are oppressed’ might have seemed heaven sent. Because it was. But to repent, to begin a new life, to be led by the Spirit takes not just faith, but also courage.


Many of our buildings are a bit like the Galilean boat, patched and repatched. Earthquake proofing and the predicted insurance costs seem, outrageous, and definitely unreasonable. Our parish economies are at first (and second) glance, stretched. Many parishes are at best, asset rich and cash poor and the budget is unaffordable.


As we enter a time of rationalisation and restructure, of rethinking who we are and who we might be, like the disciples we are called to positions of risk, insecurity and self-denial. But let's take heart. We’re being invited to a new life, a life which is, as always, led by the spirit, a life of faith and a life of courage. Just like James and John, Peter and Andrew.

Fishing and tourist boats on present day Lake Galilee. (Jenny Chalmers)   

The ‘Ancient Galilee Boat’ displayed in the museum at Kibbutz Ginosar.(Jenny Chalmers)

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