What Happened? (Part 2)

By DeLano Sheffield

April 4, 2024

Scripture — Mark 1:16-20 (NRSV)

As he went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!” They left their nets immediately and followed him. Going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother in their boat mending nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.


The answer to what happened to what happened between young John and old John is found in verse 18: They left their nets immediately and followed him.


In Part 1 we saw an older John model leadership that emulated care, joy, and hope. He was a leader and believer who had not arrived but whose trajectory and growth were encouraging. But younger John does not look like this. And the question is what happened between the young John and older John?

The younger John was an elitist whose sense of superiority noticed others but couldn’t see the same ingredients in his own make-up, which is why he could say to the creator of the world “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” in Mark 9:39. (Note the “us.”)

It is younger John’s superiority and self-righteousness and dogma that caused him to look at Samaritans and conclude the only way to deal with them is destruction. So instead of seeing his own distance from the creator of the world standing close by he asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54)

It is a young John who can’t see that everyone who Jesus calls is sick. Everyone needs healing. There are no degrees of sickness if everyone needs the same Savior. But privilege makes us forgetful. And young John does not understand that privilege should lead to a sentiment of “I have enough.” Instead, John asked the Savior of the world “Permit one of us to sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:37) He asked to sit in a seat in glory, with authority he can’t handle, in a place he has never seen.

What happened to John? First, we should be encouraged that Jesus’ leadership structure is such that he doesn’t drop people when they try to destroy others’ ministry, literally bring about the death of people who don’t look like them, and ask for positions without a real understanding of the good they are already doing. What grace it shows us that old John is still writing for God after snippets of what we see about young John. But it still begs the question of what happened?

A more refined question might be what was happening to John? As believers, we want instant conversion with no problems (or tolerable issues) when we deal with others and ourselves. But that’s just not the grand narrative story we get in the scriptures at a macro or micro level. Israel is still learning that it’s supposed to be a light to the nations. The church is still collectively with wrinkles. Jew and Gentile notice the wrinkles of each other. And John is still growing even while he wrote Revelation. The context for John is a lesson about nets:

They left their nets immediately and followed him. (Mark 1:18)

John and his brother James: Type A personalities, have privilege and autonomy. Small business leaders with their dad. Had at least a few run-ins with Jesus before this moment. They got the picture at that moment. When you drop this net, you won’t be in the fishing business anymore. You won’t be sitting in the heir to the business seat anymore. You won’t just be Son of Zebedee, LLC anymore. This won’t be the last time you’ll need to drop your net.

When John told Jesus they tried to stop others from doing the Lord’s work Jesus reminded him: John still had a net he was holding on. Drop the us vs them.

When John asked to bring destruction on the Samaritans Jesus reminded him: John still had a net with self-righteousness.

When John asked to sit on Jesus’ right and left, Jesus reminded him: You still have a net of presumption and “you don’t know what you are asking” (Mark 10:38).

What happened to John is what is happening to every follower of Jesus. Everyone has nets that you’ll spend the rest of your life learning to drop. John was learning that the journey is long, and there will be perpetual relearning that only God is good. And God’s grace is sufficient. If you can earn it, it’s not grace. What John shows us in leadership is that complete sharing of truth and love, joy and hope will begin to look best when your concern is more for others learning it at the same gracious pace that God allows you to grow. And the quality of that love, joy, and hope is seen in those you share with who do not look like you.


What observations do you have about John based on the comments he made in Mark 9:39, Mark 10:37, and Luke 9:54?

What is John like in the gospel accounts compared to the type of person John appears to be in 1, 2, and 3 John and Revelation?


What’s your leadership style? Using your previous reflections from Part 1 and Part 2 and the action step from Part 1, use your own observations about John’s progress, your own extended definition of love, and look at your own progress. How would others see your answer compared to your own?


God, we forget everyone’s journey is a journey, except our own. Thank you for not dismissing John but calling him to obedient dropping of his nets. Teach us to lead with the storyline of a person in mind. And to remember to be as gracious to others as you are to us. And to remember to be gracious to ourselves also. You are Lord of progress and produce and our obedience, not us. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: I Have Called You Friends (John 1:35-51, John 15:15).

DeLano Sheffield

Author & Business Resource Specialist

DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coa...

More on DeLano

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn