Matthew 4:12-23=This Is Where It Begins!
Bible Background: In Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus is baptized, then is tested in the wilderness, then begins his public ministry and calls his first disciples.
Digging Deeper: 1. This scene starts on an ominous note: John the Baptist has been arrested by Herod Antipas (remember how Herod Sr. tried to snuff out the baby Jesus?), and that seems to push Jesus into action. He leaves Nazareth, and makes Capernaum his home. Matthew sees this as fulfilling a prophecy from Isaiah about light shining in some dark places!
2. “Galilee of the Gentiles” is a term we might read right past. But it’s a way of saying that the light Jesus brings is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The region of Galilee would be a mixture of those two cultures. Jews might be a minority.
3. Jesus’ message is similar to that of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”, is his way of saying: Get your mind and priorities going in a new direction because God’s kingdom works very differently from the ways of the world, which you are used to. Name some of the ways Jesus’ teachings upend the ways of this world…
4. As his first disciples, Jesus calls two pairs of brothers-fishermen by trade. “Immediately” (used 12x’s in Matt and 27x’s in Mark) gives a sense of urgency to the story. Does it mean that these 4 fishermen opted to follow Jesus on the spur of the moment, leaving their previous life completely behind? Perhaps. It’s also possible that they become more committed disciples over time. More than once in the gospels, we find them still fishing!
5. Since there’s no reason given for why these 4 should follow Jesus, one might conclude that the very invitation, or word, of Jesus is so powerful and irresistible that there is only one way to respond. This is something like the divine initiative in the Old Testament where we see God calling prophets to a completely different purpose in life, and they almost have to obey! They cannot say no!
6. A great question to ponder is: How did you become a disciple of Jesus? Or, How is Jesus still calling us to discipleship? And, how do we respond? In what ways does Jesus call us to be disciples in our current, everyday setting? In what ways might he be calling you to a new assignment? Could he be calling you to serve as a pastor? leader? or missionary in our ELCA?
Next week we’ll read Matthew 6, and hear Jesus teach about prayer.