JESUS SAYS, “COME, FOLLOW ME”
Matthew 4:12-25, Key Verse: 4:19
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Through the last passage, Matthew 4:1-11, we learned how Jesus was tempted by the devil and overcame to start the history of victory before the beginning of his messianic ministry. Without Jesus, there is no true victory over the devil. Thank God for Jesus who won the victory so that we can be conquerors over everything, sin, the devil and death, through him. Amen!
In today’s passage, Jesus starts his messianic ministry. It seems that there are three separate events, but there is one theme; the kingdom of heaven. There are three parts; 1) Great light, the kingdom of heaven, 2) calling kingdom workers, and 3) the good news of the kingdom.
I. Great light, the kingdom of God (12-17).
Look at verses 12-13, “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali.” According the Matthew 14, King Herod arrested John the Baptist because he convicted Herod that it was unlawful for him to have his brother’s wife. It seems that Jesus went to Galilee because of a political reason, trying to avoid conflicts and to be protected by his hometown people. But he did not stay in his hometown Nazareth, but in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali.
But Matthew saw this from a biblical perspective, showing that Jesus went there to fulfill the prophecy written for him. That was Isaiah 9:1-2, which says, “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The region of Zebulun and of Naphtali was located on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. It was economically poor and unknown; no prophet or a great teacher came out from this region. It was spiritually poor and people were living in darkness, not because they were far from Jerusalem but because they were living in the life of sin under the power of death. They were living under the tyrannical rule of Rome. Their own people became tax collectors who laid heavy taxes on them. Moreover, the religious leaders did not love God and people, but became politicians, fighting for their own survival. So Jewish people sang a lot about their misery and sorrow with tears. But there was a prophesy that a great light would shine upon them. Matthew believed that the great light was Jesus Christ, who would shine the light of God upon them. Jesus will give them the message of repentance, teach them the word of God, and proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, healing the sick and driving out demons. Therefore, the people will experience heavenly sunlight shining into their hearts and lives.
Today, people in the world are in the same state as the people living in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, because they are living in the darkness and in the shadow of death. Popular songs reflect how people live. When I listened to the most famous songs in Russia, in Korea and in America, they are all sorrowful songs. People are living under the shadow of death. Moreover, they do not know how they can get out of the darkness, groping around in the darkness of sin and death. They need and are searching for a light. Even if there is a small light, they diligently and wholeheartedly follow it. In Asian countries, there is one small light, called Buddha, who taught people that they are born with suffering because they are being punished for what they have done, so they should take suffering as their destiny, living a fatalistic life. Fundamentally, all religions teach one basic principle, crime and punishment, factoring mercy and grace into it. But they do not know what they are talking about because grace and truth could not be mixed, since they are going in opposite directions. But there is the one who is full of truth and of love on the cross. His name is Jesus, the great light like the sun.
When the sun shines, we do not need small lights. Jesus is often compared with sun because the characteristics of sunlight resemble the characteristics of the great light Jesus. The sunlight not only dispels darkness so that we can see and know where we are going, but also gives energy and warmth. The light also kills germs and makes photosynthesis to bear fruits. Likewise, Jesus not only gives us spiritual eyes to have life direction, but also gives us his strength through the power of love and kills our germs, our sinful habits, so that we can bear much fruit inside and out.
What was Jesus’ first message as the great light, shining in the darkness? Look at verse 17. “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Jesus’ message was the same as the message of his forerunner John the Baptist.
Yet it is quite different. John prophesied that the kingdom of heaven has come near, referring to Jesus. Who is the king in the kingdom of heaven? God is the king! Jesus came to reveal who God is so that we accept the only true God (John 17:6). When we accept God as our king, we have the kingdom of heaven. Then, God rules us with love and truth. Jesus is the one who can give the kingdom of heaven to people. Yet it is still only near to them until they repent and accept Jesus in their hearts as the Messiah God sent. Thank you, Jesus, for coming to bring the kingdom of God into the hearts of the people in the darkness! What a great privilege we have the kingdom of heaven through Christ!
Yet, the kingdom of heaven is like the most precious treasure on earth to those who know the value, so they sell everything they have to buy the treasure. The kingdom of heaven is like the seed planted in four different kinds of soil, bearing fruit accordingly. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which grows big so even the birds of the air can perch on its breaches.
II. Calling Kingdom Workers (18-22).
As Jesus preached the message of repentance and the kingdom of heaven, he also called kingdom workers. Look at verse 18-19, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’” Jesus called his first disciples, not in Jerusalem but in Galilee, a rural and unknown place. Because of this event, the Sea of Galilee is known to most of the world as the place where the Bible is set, and many people have come to this historic place. Jesus saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, who were casting a net for fishing. Jesus told them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” It is command, not a suggestion, when he said, “Come, follow me.” Jesus told them to be his followers. It is like apprenticeship, where the apprentice lives with the teacher and learns from him. When they follow Jesus, they will experience the kingdom of heaven. The longer they follow Jesus, the more the kingdom of God will grow in their hearts and lives. Then, they will expand the kingdom of God as kingdom workers.
Jesus’ command also comes with a promise: Jesus will make them fishers of men. Who or what is a fisher of men? It is basically fishing people for the kingdom of God. It is preaching the gospel and raising disciples of Jesus wherever they go, just as Jesus had done. It is the same as the promise of God given to Abraham, saying, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Wow! How big is the promise of God to Abraham. Then, did God keep his promise to Abraham. Yes and yes! The promise Jesus gave to the Simon and Andrew is a modernized version with the new covenant. God has blessed them to be a great nation with many spiritual descendants with their names, Peter and Andrew, who became a source of blessing to all peoples on earth like Abraham.
Don’t you want to receive the same blessings Abraham, Peter and Andrew received? If yes, you just need to accept Jesus’ calling to follow him. What could be better? It is guaranteed. Just as God did not lie but kept his promise, Jesus did keep his promise.
It is not on you that you have to struggle very hard to figure out the mind of person, but Jesus will make you to be a fisher of men, a source of blessing to all peoples on earth, if you follow him, just as God promised to Abraham, saying, “I will make you…”. Isn’t that wonderful! In the book of Isaiah, God also promised Isaiah that he would make him to be the light for the gentiles. In fact, Abraham and Isaiah did not become great or a source of blessing to all peoples on earth during their lifetimes, but they just lived a life of faith to the end even though they had no land or received persecution. Yet, God kept his promise to make them to be the one, a source of blessing to all peoples on earth with many children. Msn. Mary has held on to the word of God from Isaiah, which has enabled her to overcome herself and go out to fishing and continue to live a life of faith.
What was the response of Peter and Andrew? Look at verse 20. “At once they left their nets and followed him.” They immediately followed Jesus, leaving their nets. But it was not easy for them to do so because they had to stop everything they had been doing in order to follow Jesus. They had to stop fishing and bringing fish to their family. It seems irresponsible if they do so. What about his own family? Who is going to take care of them? Shouldn’t they worry about their family members? Let’s also think about how Abraham could leave when God told him, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you.” Hebrews 11:8 tells us, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Abraham trusted in God that God would take care of everything, though he could not tell his wife where they were going.
According to Luke’s gospel, Simon had been throwing his net all night but caught nothing, not even one fish. When he threw the net where Jesus told him to throw, he could catch a large number of fish and had to ask other fishermen to carry them together. Then, he saw God in Jesus and himself as such a sinner. When he was called by Jesus to follow him, he knew that God was calling him. He simply trusted and followed the kingdom of heaven.
Again, Jesus called two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Amazingly, they also responded in the same way as Peter and Andrew. Most likely, they heard about Peter and Andrew, who began to follow the great light. Maybe they were helping Peter when he caught a large number of fish through the help of Jesus. But it was more difficult because they had to leave their father and their nets at the same time on the spot. Yet it was the same faith Peter and Andrew had in order to follow Jesus.
Even though there was a time before this event where Andrew came to Jesus first and later brought Peter to Jesus, Matthew directly went to this event, the calling of Jesus and the disciples’ immediate response. Why? It seems that the author is trying to emphasize the decisiveness of the disciples in following Jesus, just as he did. Faith comes with a decisive action. There were two disciple candidates who wanted to follow Jesus. One person wanted to follow Jesus but he wanted to take care of business first, then Jesus told him that he did not fit into the kingdom of heaven. Another one wanted to bury his father first and follow Jesus, but again Jesus said such a person is not worthy of the kingdom of God. May God bless us not to hesitate when we are called to action by faith, especially following the way of Jesus, so that we can be a source of blessing even through one act of faith. Amen!
Yesterday while I was preparing the message, my sister called me that my mom was sick. Then she called me again so I asked her to take her to the hospital. In the hospital, she called me that the doctors told her to prepare for mom’s death soon. I began to worry about her and tried to check the flight time on Sunday, but it was 12:30pm. I was debating what to do, whether I should book the ticket or not. Then, who is going to deliver the message. Should I ask someone else, Dr. Jason or Msn. Paul? Isn’t too late for them when it is already Saturday evening? I should be coming back by the 7th, and how am I going to prepare for the conference? Finally, I prayed and decided to prepare the message. While preparing it, God moved my heart that I was under the power of death, making a decision based on the fear of death instead of faith. Then, I began to pray for God’s will and my mom’s salvation, and for comforting and planting faith in my sister as well. May the will of God be done, whether life or death, to save her soul to eternal life, and my sister may experience your presence through this event. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen!
III. The Good News of the Kingdom (23-25).
With his disciples, Jesus really started his Messianic work. Look at verse 23. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Jesus did three major things: teaching the word of God, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing the sick. Through teaching the word of God, Jesus revealed the true meaning of God’s word, so that people understand who God is. The word of God is life-giving. The word of God is a lamp unto our feet.
Jesus did not come to persuade people to believe in the good news of the kingdom but to proclaim it to them. It is good news for all people because we all are suffering because of sins and death, and Jesus came to solve these. Jesus solved our sin problem through his death on the cross as the ransom sacrifice for our sins so that we receive the forgiveness of our sins. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he proclaimed, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Amen! Jesus came to solve our death problem through his resurrection, so that we do not live under the power of death but overcome it with the power of resurrection. Those who have ears to hear will hear it.
Finally, Jesus also healed every disease, those who were suffering from pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, the blind, the lame, the lepers and the paralyzed. This reveals the true humanitarian side of Jesus. Jesus not only provided for their spiritual side but also filled their physical needs.
Sometimes, I wonder whether I should give physical or practical help to Bible students. I have been doing so less and less because many left after getting help. This passage helped me to see what Jesus did. Even though those who were healed and even praised Jesus, singing, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” when Jesus entered into Jerusalem turned back on him, shouting at him, “Crucify him!” But Jesus still healed all their diseases and fed them with bread. May God grant me the heart of Jesus, teaching the word of God, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing their sicknesses.
What was the response of the people to Jesus’ ministry? Look at verse 25, “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” They saw the good shepherd in Jesus. They were like lost sheep who followed the good shepherd Jesus. Many people not only from Galilee but from other places, including Jerusalem, came to Galilee to follow Jesus. May God bless us to follow the way of our good shepherd Jesus, so that many lost souls may follow Jesus together with us. Amen!