Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus crossed into Galilee, which fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy, and he began his ministry by preaching that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And he showed this straight away by healing all manner of diseases and afflictions. Only the power of God can do these things, so God’s kingdom is near.
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Once his ministry had begun, he called disciples to follow him and learn from him.
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John. This was not ‘out of the blue’ as John tells us that they had met Jesus before (John 1:35-42). Maybe they had been discussing him, and that is why they were so ready to follow him. The coming of the kingdom was too important to refuse. Instead of catching fish, they were going to help Jesus to bring in people to the kingdom.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.
This is Matthew’s own account of Jesus calling him. Matthew was a tax collector, hated because they worked for the Romans, but also because they took extra money for themselves. It shows the effect that Jesus had on some people, that even someone so ‘sinful’ as Matthew could not only be called but moved to follow. This reassures us that the kingdom is for everyone.
Discipleship for the first disciples meant leaving what they were doing and following Jesus physically. We all have to sacrifice things in our lives in order to follow him today. In my own life, I believed I was part of the truth already, but had to let go of that and accept that I was deceived, in order to embrace Jesus. It meant not only giving up my activities and involvement in another church but also giving up all my friends.
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Jesus called twelve men to be his disciples, or pupils. From what we read in the Bible few or none of these people were candidates to be part of the new kingdom of heaven according to worldly judgement. They were all weak and made mistakes. But this should be an encouragement to us, because however weak or sinful we are, Jesus will accept us if we follow him.
And following Jesus is what discipleship is about. Once a person has made a commitment and is saved, often they are welcomed to the church and expected to get on with it. But we need to disciple new converts, to teach them how to be a Christian from day to day, how to ‘work out our salvation’ (Philip.2:12). In our churches we must follow Jesus’ example to lead new Christians in discipleship.
[Based on sermon and Bible study from Pastor Pete Orphan]
Other posts in this series: