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Jan 21, 2024

Chosen Co-workers

Passage: Mark 1:14-20

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Gospel of Mark

Keywords: teams, following, chosen people, co-workers, divine partnerships, fishing for people.


God is in the business of choosing: calling spiritual orphans into His family as well as recruiting those children to be His co-workers in the Kingdom. What kind of people does God want as co-workers? This message looks at what Jesus was looking for when He chose the 12.


Chosen Co-workers

Mark 1:14-20

January 19, 2024

Fellowship Question:  Tell someone about a team or group you’ve really enjoyed being a part of…and why.


How many of you have ever been tasked with choosing a team, whether as kids choosing a neighborhood sand-lot ball team or as adults choosing a management or leadership team for a business or ministry?  What are you looking for as a leader in choosing good team members?  (Character, gifting, competence.)

            Fact is, we’re all always on the lookout for people we want to be a part of some “team”—our friends, a spouse, our bosses, a school, a church, a neighborhood…we’re constantly choosing those with whom we want to do life together.  It really matter WHO you choose to be a part of your ‘teams.’ 

  • Psalm 1:1--Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
  • 2 Corinthians 6:14--Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Just as we are always in the process, consciously or unconsciously, of choosing who we are going to ‘team’ with in life, God is always on the lookout for good co-workers.  Jesus modeled that when he was on earth.  He talked about and showed us what He is looking for when he chooses people with whom to do life and kingdom work. 

            Now, it’s important to make a distinction here between the choosing God does in drawing people into His family and the choosing God does within His family for ministry partnership.

  1. Becoming “a chosen people”: 1 Peter 2:9 speaks about anyone who is a part of God’s family by faith in Jesus Christ as being a part of God’s “chosen people”.  Like adoption:  just as when we adopted our 2 youngest sons, Sandy & I made the first move to ‘choose’ them to join our family.  We paid the thousands of dollars it took to do the adoption process.  We selected them from Ethiopia, from millions of orphans, to be enfolded into our family. 

Then they had to make a choice too.  They could have said, “No thank you,” when they heard that they were being invited to be a part of our family.  They could have said, “No, I like being my own boss.  I like not having parents tell me what to do.  I like my ‘independence’ as an orphan.”  Though not a perfect example, this is very similar to what happens when the Bible speaks of God’s family as being “chosen”/elect/ predestined (Mt. 24:31; Rm. 11:7; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pt. 1:1; Rm. 8:29-30; Eph 1:5, 11).  Everyone IN the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ is “chosen”, biblically speaking.  We weren’t chosen based on anything of merit or desirability in us.  We’re in His family in spite of who we are—sinners having nothing of merit to commend us to this divine family.  This choosing is completely apart from our sinful character, natures, actions, competency and personalities.

  1. But there is a further ‘choosing’ that God does within the family of God that is based upon character and competence and capacity and obedience. We see that from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth. 
    1. God chose John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus.
    2. Jesus chose 12 apostles to be with him for 3.5 years and carry on the Kingdom work in his absence.
    3. Jesus chose 3 of the 12 to be his ‘management team’—Peter, James and John.
    4. Jesus chose Saul of Tarsus to become the Apostle Paul who would found the church all over the known world and suffer much for His sake.

God has been choosing children within His family to play different roles on “His ministry teams” for service, for leadership, for gifting, for ministry responsibilities and more.  While God’s choosing of co-workers isn’t only based upon our character, giftings and competency, those factors play a huge role in the partnership God seeks to develop with all of us

            Turn to Mark 1:14-20 for today’s text about the kind of people Jesus invites onto His ‘ministry team’ and what that has to do with us who today want to be a significant part of God’s kingdom-building team. 

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.  19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

SETTING:  The casual reader would hardly realize that nearly a year has passed between Mark 1:13 and 1:14. Mark passes over many things from the earlier work of Jesus in Judea and Galilee that could have been included here but weren’t.

We are told about some of these things in John.

  • Before returning to Galilee (which John records in 4:43), Jesus met the first disciples.
  • He turned the water to wine at Cana,
  • resided for a short while in Capernaum,
  • returned to Jerusalem for an early Passover,
  • drove the money changers from the temple,
  • talked to Nicodemus,
  • conducted an early teaching ministry in the Judean countryside,
  • had his encounter with the woman of Samaria on his way north again (see John 1:19—4:42).

Jesus had a following of ‘disciples’ who had gotten acquainted with him and even watched him teach and minister for months before the events of this passage. But Jesus had not yet chosen his “Team of 12” to be His co-workers.

It is at this point that Mark picks up the story with these words, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee….”  Mark tells us that it was the imprisonment of John the Baptist that marked a critical shift in Jesus’ ministry. It was a very unlikely and unexpected shift. 

ILL:  It would be like someone living in the Puget Sound area of WA State deciding to run for Governor and saying, “So, I’m moving to Walla Walla to manage my campaign.”  “What??? Why move out of the state’s population and power center if you plan to win the election?  Are you running for warden of the State penitentiary or Governor of Washington?”

            If Jesus wanted to establish His kingdom over God’s chosen people, the Jews, common sense would have dictated that he make Jerusalem his center of operations, not some part of Israel that was off the beaten track and had a less-than-stellar reputation.  What do I mean, “less-than-stellar reputation”?

            Here’s where history is important.  (It always is, both to understand individuals and whole nations.)  Starting in 734 B.C. and culminating in 722 B.C, the Assyrians conquered and took captive the 10 Northern Tribes of Israel. Due to the northern kingdom of Israel’s idolatry, God sent them into captivity ahead of Judah, the Southern kingdom.  While God eventually restored the southern kingdom under Ezra and Nehemiah when the Babylon fell to the Persians in 536 B.C. and Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem, no similar edict was given to the northern kingdom.

            In addition, when Assyria took over the northern kingdom of Israel, they not only exiled most of their subjects to Assyria; they repopulated and intermarried with the remaining subjects in the northern kingdom.  This produced ethnic groups like Samaritans (John 4) and the general spiritual apostacy of the north that left many of them worshiping in places other than Jerusalem and the God-ordained Temple.  Galilee was, in essence, a part of Israel that was known for spiritual and racial compromise.  It had become diluted.  (The people of Judah would probably have said, “Polluted!”) 

            Over time, the Jewish population in the Northern Kingdom increased somewhat.  Nevertheless, for the Jews of Judah and Jerusalem, Galilee was not considered a place of status.  There was no early rabbinic reference to the Messiah’s appearing or working in Galilee.  While not geographically far from Jerusalem, it was considered spiritually and politically far.  Galilee was the most pagan of the Jewish provinces.  And Galilee was notorious for being the nest of revolutions and the haunt of Zealot revolutionary movements. But this is where Jesus chose to move much of his Messianic ministry.  And it is from where he chose to call most of His Apostles. 

As someone once said, “When Jesus went north, to all appearances He had ‘gone south’”—lost his bearings about establishing His Kingdom on earth. 

APP:  But Jesus has always been far more interested in His lordship of human hearts than His leadership of whole nations.  Oh, He will reign in power and authority one day.  But even that will be because he longs for our hearts, not our institutions of power.   

            He was also expressing God’s heart for healing, not human lust for power.  God rarely works in the ways we are familiar with.  He doesn’t need the levers of power we so often look to for deliverance.  He needs only the hearts of humble, repentant, willing people to build His kingdom.  He’s simply looking for people who will accept and embrace the “good news of God” (vs. 14).  So, Jesus picked up the now-restricted ministry of John the Baptist who had been imprisoned by wicked King Herod and would shortly be murdered. 

APP:  Good new for us in Spokane—a very unlikely place in the State, let alone nation, from which to bring spiritual change.  But why not?  This is why we pray…daily in our personal prayers, weekly in prayer meetings, monthly in Revival Prayer, annually at extended times of prayer and fasting.  This IS the way God works!

  • L. Moody, a shoe salesman in Chicago.
  • Jeremiah Lamphier, a businessman in NY, 1857-58. Saw 10,000 business people praying over the lunchtime; 1 million converts added to churches in America in 2 years.
  • 2 blind and arthritic sisters on the Isle of Lewis in New Hebrides, England, Peggy & Christine Smith, praying from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. several nights a week for their village of Barvas. Extended revival from 1949-52.

If someone were to ask you, “What is the Good News of the Gospel?” would you have a ready answer?

Mark tells us again what that “good news of God” was and still is:

15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

What are the elements of God’s good news to us?

  1. NOW is the time! Now is the time of ‘God’s favor.’  “Today is the day of salvation,” (2 Cor. 6:2).  Whenever you hear someone calling to you to get right or get closer to God, that’s your time!
  2. God’s rule/kingdom in your life is available…and necessary! God is ready and willing to take charge of your life, to set things right, to clean out the junk and replace the brokenness with wholeness and healing.  But to do that, we must engage in a couple of concrete and even continual things:
  3. “Repent.” Mark has talked about this for the past 15 verses.  We’ve talked about it quite a bit over the past few weeks.  Allow me to remind you of a few things that mark a life of repentance:
    1. Humility: recognizing that we lack what is needed for the life God intended.  A sense of brokenness in ourselves apart from God.  An asking God for help.
    2. Recognition of sin: agreeing with God when he says something is sin.  Allowing God to convict us about where your living doesn’t match His righteousness. 
    3. Turning AWAY from sin: a willingness to confess sin both to God and often to someone else, particularly people we have harmed or continue to harm by our sin.  Here is where humility is demonstrated:  do I care more about my supposed reputation with people or my actual relationship with God?  Confession of personal sin…naming the sins…may cause some people to think less of you.  But it will always cause God to take notice of you.
    4. Turning TO God/righteousness: repentance isn’t complete until I replace my sinful thoughts, attitudes and actions with righteous, God-conforming thoughts, attitudes and actions.  I’ll never do that perfectly this side of heaven.  But I hope I’ll do it persistently. 
  4. “Believe the good news.” Repentance that leads to faith in the Good News of life in God through Jesus Christ is what salvation is all about.  “Believing God” has always been what Satan has been against.  Believing God that it is the perfect, finished work of Jesus on the cross that bought by salvation is what people have always either rejected or accepted.  Embracing by believing faith the forgiveness of God for my sins has always been the only thing that stands between us and God.  It’s all about belief in Jesus.  It was with religious Nicodemus.  It was with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar.  It was doubting Thomas.  It was with grieving Martha and Mary.  It was with the observers at Pentecost, with Roman officials questioning Paul.  It is with you and me. 

APP:  Today is the day.  Now is the time to repent.  Jesus is the Savior we need to ‘believe.’  Have you?  If not yet, will you today?

APP:  Stop & pray for opportunities to share the Good News this week.

When Jesus went looking for kingdom co-workers, the first requirement was people who were embracing the kingdom of God through repentance and faith.  It’s still the same today.  That is the door into the employment office of God. That’s the gate into the mansion of life-mission and ministry.  Jesus is always looking to his children who are quick to be grieved by their sin, quick to turn from it and quick to replace it with thoughts, attitudes and actions that conform to and come from Him.    

Now we come to Jesus’ particular call of 4 of the 12 Apostles:  Peter & Andrew, James and John.  Ask yourself first as we read this account, “What were these men doing when Jesus invited them to be co-workers?” 

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

            As we’ve mentioned, Jesus wasn’t a stranger to these four.  Some Bible commentators think that James and John were, in fact, first-cousins of Jesus (through Mary’s sister, Salome).  We know from the Gospel of John that Andrew and Simon (Peter), who were disciples of John the Baptist, got acquainted with Jesus early in His ministry (John 1:35-42).  Luke 5:7 tells us that these 4 fishermen were “partners” at some level in the fish business. 

Jesus had invited them into His life and work though the actual invitation into the inner circle may well have come through this particular event and time.

            So, let’s ask the question, “What were these men doing when Jesus invited them to be his co-workers in the kingdom?” 

  • Working at their challenging, taxing jobs.

Galilean fishermen:  didn’t use hooks and lines.  They used nets.  They fished during the day…and at night.  They mended and stewarded their nets/resources on a daily basis.  They had families who depended on them for food and shelter.  They were laboring businessmen.  They had done their schoolwork as children and taken up their father’s businesses as young adults.  James and John were well-to-do enough to have “hired men” in their business.  They knew how to manage a payroll.  They knew how to manage employees.  They knew how to work in partnership with each other, to overcome their differences and idiosyncrasies and to work towards a shared goal.  They knew shared disappointment.  They knew what it was like to “fish all night and catch nothing,” (Luke 5:5).  And they knew what it was to submit to someone else’s advice and call on them when everything in their fishing experience and fatigued bodies told them that it was futile to throw out the neatly dried and stored nets at that time and place and day. 

APP:  Does this describe you and me and our work-life?  If we’re faithful in discharging the “little-er things” of work life and career, we’re a much more likely candidate for Jesus to tap on the shoulder when He wants ministry partners. 

Does this describe how you handle your school assignments and respond to your teachers?

Have we learned to press through the disappointments of work, the fatigue and the relational challenges so that God can say, “Okay, I’m now going to take the skills, the strength, the stamina and stick-to-it-tevness you have developed in your work/school life that has made you successful and I’m going to make you fruitful in my kingdom enterprise.”

            This is why all of life matters in terms of our stewardship.  When God goes looking for leaders to shepherd His family, he looks for men and women who shepherd their children well, who handle their relationships with outside-the-church people well—business, work, school…, who invest well in their marriages and develop godly character with the people closest to them. 

            How are we doing with stewarding the work God has given us to do?  God is looking for workers who know how to create opportunity and develop resources.  Childhood is a time to live as a consumer of other’s labor and incomes.  But as adults we are called to create resources and opportunities for others from our labor.  We’re called to develop skills in working that God can employ ministering. 

            There is a second trait here of people Jesus loves to tap as co-workers:  they are teachable followers:

17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said.

            One of the titles of respect that the Apostles applied to Jesus was Rabbi.  It’s our equivalent of “Teacher” or “Professor”.  The Apostle John uses it more than any other Gospel writer.  Even Nicodemus, a very highly educated national leader, referred to Jesus this way in his encounter with him that night in John 3.  Today we might also use the term “mentor” though it doesn’t carry the same sense of respect that perhaps we associate with “professor” or “Doctor”.  And even academic titles don’t carry the idea in Jewish culture of a Rabbi—one who you want to not just learn facts from but follow in their way of life. 

            This speaks to the issue of our teachability.  We all know we have a whole lot of things we don’t know.  But that’s not the same as teachability.  Teachable people are…

  • Hungry to learn
  • Ask others they respect for help when they need it.
  • Actually listen more than they talk.
  • Apply the knowledge they gain to their lives
  • Have an attitude of gratitude towards their teachers
  • Are not demanding.
  • Will invest the time needed to gain greater proficiency and understanding
  • Are willing to submit their judgment, wills and perspectives to others.

Nicodemus, teacher though he was, was actually a good example of a teachable learner.  He asked questions rather than challenged.  He admitted lack of understanding rather than tried to bluff or fake his way through.  He sought to see Jesus in a different light than his peers did rather than judging Jesus when He didn’t fit the pharisaical expectation. 

            On the other hand, Judas Iscariot, while living much closer to Jesus, failed miserably in the teachability category.  He was critical of Jesus for not take the reigns of power for his own benefit.  He thought he knew better than Jesus what needed to happen in his nation.  He did not live a submitted life.  Entitlement had replaced gratitude as evidenced by his dipping into the petty cash till the disciples had.   He always put his own interests before that of others, including his Rabbi Jesus (thought he called him by that name in the Garden of Gethsemane when he betrayed him). 

APP:  How do we measure up on the teachability spectrum?  Who can we name that we are looking to for teaching and education?  Who are we willing to place our life under and follow?  Who am I expressing my gratitude to for teaching/mentoring/ counsel?

            Lastly, Jesus looks for co-workers who are people-passionate (more than personal possession, career or accomplishment-driven). 

“…and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Don’t confuse this with being an extrovert.  Plenty of extroverts are not people-passionate just as plenty of introverts are.  Jesus gave these very successful fishermen an option:  keep being successful at your chosen career OR build on that and become a positive force in people’s lives. 

            We must also be careful with the metaphor Jesus uses here—fishing for people.  Jesus isn’t telling them if they follow Him they’ll be able to earn a better living snagging people and making money off of them. 

[Explain the difference between fishing with lures and nets.]

Jesus is offering them a life of greater significance than they ever imagined before.  He is offering to trade them influence in the market or fishing community with influence in the kingdom with souls. 

            But he is also telling them, “My heart is about people.  If you follow me, life is going to be all about people.” 

ILL:  Pastor Bob, Pastor Jesse and Pastor Andrew—all have come from very successful, credible careers and have transitioned into making people their passion—not drywall or sales or music.  Mosaic is what it is because they have chosen to follow Jesus in loving people far more than careers, or wealth or other measures of accomplishment.  They each have “left” something valuable to come use their skills to change our lives—people’s eternities. 

This is THE difference between any Christ-follower who is truly rearranging their life so that the love of God is compelling them to care about “fishing for people” and those who see following Christ mainly as a means to make their own life better.  It’s the shift from self-oriented to other-passionate.  And it is marked by a deep compassion for the state and fate of people without Jesus. 

APP:  I’m convicted by this.  It’s too easy to be a professional follower of Jesus and not be deeply moved and motivated by our Lord’s heart for lost people.