Mark 1:16-20 (Nets) | Outdoor Ministry Bible Study


MARK 1:16-20


Jesus walks along the Sea of Galilee and sees four fishermen working with their nets.  Peter and Andrew were actively fishing and tossing out their nets at this moment, while James and John were mending theirs. First we catch a glimpse of Peter and Andrew, probably waste deep in the fresh water casting their nets to bring in a catch.  Mark uses two different words for “net” in this passage.  Peter and Andrew’s “net” is an amphiballontas—a whirling sort of net with rocks tied to the perimeter of the large circular mesh of ropes.

Fishermen using this kind of net would whirl their web out into the water and the rocks would cause the net to sink, trapping any fish that were unable to escape the sinking net. This was a simple rig that would have probably been used by more lower income fishermen—it was a cheaper way to go and it didn’t require as much gear as fishing from a boat.  Jesus calls out to these simple, hard-working fishermen and says, “Come follow me… and I will make you fishers of men.”

Turning their heads, they fixed their eyes on this rabbi calling out to them from the beach. Whether it was authoritative tone of his voice or the winsome and welcoming body language of Jesus that caused them to loose their grip on the ropes they were holding and follow him, we don’t know.  But what Mark clearly portrays is that when they reached the shore, sopping wet and stunned by the authority of Jesus call, they released their grip on their nets and let them fall to the sand… “At once they left their nets and followed him.” The key characteristic of their response was its immediacy.  Without delay they said, “Yes”, and allowed Jesus to determine the course of their life.

Now with Peter and Andrew walking by his side, Jesus walks a little further down the shore and sees James and his brother John in a boat “preparing their nets”.  Mending nets is an important task for every fishermen. These nets, called diktuas, are designed for dragging behind a boat to catch larger numbers of fish. Whether or not this means that the sons of Zebedee had a larger business than Peter and Andrew’s small fishing business is interesting (in that it would show Jesus calling people from various socio-economic strata of society to be his disciples), but the real point that Mark draws out in this passage is that Jesus calls out to them and they leave their nets and even family relationships (in the case of James and John) in order to follow him.

According to Mark, these four fishermen knew very little or maybe even nothing of Jesus when he called them.  This is a great encouragement in the work of evangelism. A person does not need to have any faith or religious history whatsoever in order to respond to Jesus. All one needs to do is say YES to the good news and start following.


Krister Sorenson | Sea Kayaking, New Zealand


Setting: 1) Fishing, 2) Sea Kayaking, 3) Beside a lake or the sea on the beach, 4) Rafting, etc.

Timing: 1) Possibly after fishing for a while… to get the sense of what it would mean to let go and set aside something that we enjoy in order to experience something even better, or 2) Just simply have the group sit on the edge of a body of water to go through this quiet time, and then do the suggested object lesson below at the end of the quiet time…

Set Up: After having the group sit by the edge of the body of water… read the passage and give out the questions.  Have the group take 30 minutes to be alone by the water and go through the VISION inductive study below.  While the group is taking their quiet time, have one of the guides go down the beach away from the rest of the group and build a fire in the sand.  After thirty minutes have the group come back together around the fire.  Ask each of them to write down on a piece of paper something that they desire to repent and release from their life (from the “Implement” questions below).  Then have everyone fold up the paper and walk out into the lake or sea with one of the guides.  Have the other guide stand on the edge of the beach out of the water like Jesus did in this passage.  While the group is standing waist deep in the water, have the group clutch their paper tightly in their hand and really think about the significance of how destructive it would be to “hold on” to that sin, habit or pattern of their life.  Then after a couple of minutes the guide on the beach will call out in a loud voice, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then invite the group, if they want to follow Jesus either for the first time, or if they want to re-commit their life to Jesus and turn away from their sin, to walk out of the water up onto the beach and when they are ready, they can “drop their nets”… throwing their sheet of paper into the fire.  Then spend some time around the fire either in reflective silence or sing some worship songs and invite the group to share what they are feeling or learning from this experience.

Quiet Time Questions (V.I.S.I.O.N. format)

V: Verse (Mark 1:16-20)

I: Inspection

1.  Who are the people involved in this passage?

2.  What is each of the people doing?

3.  How did each of the four fishermen respond to Jesus’ call?

S: Seek to Understand

4. How might it have felt for Peter and Andrew to leave their nets, their profession, and follow Jesus?  Do you think they might have had second thoughts? Why or why not?

5.  Since James and John were adults, their decision to be loyal to Jesus required them to leave the safety and security of the family and community. How might it have felt for James and John to not only leave their nets but leave their family to become a follower of Jesus?   In what ways might have this been difficult for them?  What are some reasons do you think Jesus had to ask them to do this?

I: Implement

6.  What are some of the reasons why it is important to let go and leave certain things behind in following Jesus?

7.  Are there any “nets” (loyalties to self, attachments to unhealthy relationships, destructive habits that don’t glorify God, patterns of disobedience, etc.) that you need to drop and leave behind in order to follow Jesus more freely?

8. Mark notes that these four fishermen immediately followed.  Can you make a commitment today to immediately repent and let go of an attitude or sinful pattern in your life, and in faith choose to rest in the power of Christ to change your heart? Be as specific as possible….

O: Obstacles

9. In what ways do you anticipate being tempted to go back to the very things you have repented and released?  How can you replace those old habits with some sort of discipline or new habit that will keep you resting in Christ’s power to change that area of your life?

N: Nuisance

10.  If you were the enemy of your soul, how would you try to snatch away the spiritual fruit that has come from what you’ve learned in this passage?  Ask a friend to pray for you and check in with you this week to hold you accountable to not picking up those old nets again.

Written by Ashley Denton

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