Jesus’ ministry begins a new phase when He settles in Capernaum (Matt. 4:13) in Galilee, because it is there that the people begin to take notice of Him. In His day, Galilee is a bustling commercial area bordered by Syria and Phoenicia, offering ample opportunities for Jesus to interact with Jews and Gentiles alike. Travelers on trade routes can spread news of His ministry outside of Galilee. Moreover, the leaders in Jerusalem, as we shall see, strongly oppose Jesus, but in Galilee He can minister more freely and not have to be constantly looking out for those who might kill Him before the appointed time.
When Christ begins His ministry He delivers virtually the same message as John the Baptist — “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 17) — because both the old covenant and the new speak of the same kingdom. John, the final prophet of the old covenant, preached repentance (3:1). Jesus, the first and greatest new covenant prophet, delivers the same message. Of course, the new covenant is better than the old (Heb. 8), giving a fuller knowledge of God and a greater outpouring of the Spirit. Nevertheless, repentance is foundational to both covenants. Only contrite hearts can receive divine revelation (Isa. 66:2).
Among the very first to heed our Lord’s command are Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, as recorded in today’s passage. Walking beside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus tells these men to follow Him and become “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). This is not the first time Andrew and Peter meet the Christ; John’s gospel tells us they followed Him during His earlier ministry in Judea (1:35–42). Apparently, they went back to their work as fishermen for a time, but with the advent of the Lord’s concentrated mission in Galilee, the time has come for them to leave their nets once more.
In Jesus’ day, disciples normally choose their rabbi, but the Messiah reverses this custom and chooses His followers Himself. Most importantly, Christ does not “issue an invitation,” as if these men have the option to say yes or no. Instead, He commands them to become His followers since obedience to Him is the only proper response to His call (John 3:16–18; 1 John 3:23–24).
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
The disciples do not hesitate when Jesus calls them. Immediately, they leave all behind to follow Him. John Chrysostom comments, “Christ seeks this kind of obedience from us, such that we delay not even for a moment, though something absolutely most necessary should press in on us” (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 14.2). Where have you been refusing to obey the Lord’s commands? Follow Him today without any questions.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
|Care Instructions for a Life Worth Living – February 06, 2020
Not long ago I boarded an airport shuttle bus to get to the rental car lot. People on the bus are often grumpy from travel and in a hurry to get to their car. No one says much except the name of their rental car company. But not on this bus. The man who drove the bus was an absolute delight. He was scanning the curbside, looking for anybody who needed a ride. “You know,” he told us, “I’m always looking because sometimes people are running late. You can tell it in their eyes. I’m always looking because I never want to miss one. Hey, here’s another one!…”
The driver pulled over to pick up a latecomer, and he was so excited about what he was doing that we got excited. We were actually cheering him on when he was picking people up. It was like watching Jesus drive a shuttle bus.
What happened to that shuttle bus driver can happen in you. Sometimes it does. Every once in a while you do something that surprises you and catch a glimpse of the person you were made to be. You say something inspirational at a meeting. You help a homeless man no one else notices. You are patient with a rambunctious three-year-old. You lose yourself in a piece of music.
God made you to flourish — to receive life from outside yourself, creating vitality within yourself and producing blessing beyond yourself. Flourishing is God’s gift and plan.
As you do, you glimpse for a moment why God made you. Only God knows your full potential, and he is guiding you toward that best version of yourself all the time. He has many tools and is never in a hurry. That can be frustrating for us, but even in our frustration, God is at work to produce patience in us. He never gets discouraged by how long it takes, and he delights every time you grow. Only God can see the “best version of you,” and he is more concerned with you reaching your full potential than you are.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10, NIV)
You are not your handiwork; your life is not your project. Your life is God’s project. God thought you up, and he knows what you were intended to be. He has many good works for you to do, but they are not the kind of “to do” lists we give spouses or employees. They are signposts to your true self.
Your “spiritual life” is not limited to certain devotional activities that you engage in. It is receiving power from the Spirit of God to become the person God had in mind when he created you — his handiwork.
“God, you made me, to do the works you prepared for me to do. Get “me” out of the way to allow your work to be done through me.”