In this week’s Lesson, Jesus begins his earthly ministry after learning of the arrest of his cousin John the Baptist. The lesson is taken from Matthew 4:12-22. Here Jesus withdraws from Nazareth to Galilee, calls four of his disciples, and they immediately drop what they are doing to follow him. These two sets of brothers have an intense response to Jesus. Whatever Jesus told them they immediately believed and instantly responded. Yet none of them fully knew all that response would entail. This week we look at four fishermen called to discipleship and how they were called to follow Jesus.
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week Jesus passed through Jericho on his final trip to Jerusalem. There were great crowds lining the street which prevented Zacchaeus from seeing him. He climbs a tree and when Jesus passes by he notices Zacchaeus who is most likely a corrupt tax collector. Some key points from last week included:
1) The crowd knows exactly who Zacchaeus is and immediately begins to murmur that Jesus is the guest of a sinner.
2) Moved by his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus declares he will give half his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he has defrauded four times.
3) Impressed by Zacchaeus’ repentance and offer of restitution, Jesus reconciles him calling him a son of Abraham.
4) In this text we saw repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. Zacchaeus provides an example of reparations.
Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Called To Discipleship”. Standard Commentary titles it “Called to Follow”. The Scripture text comes from Matthew 4:12-22.
Background for Matthew:
According to the New Interpreter’s Study Bible no one knows exactly who named the Gospel according to Matthew. Matthew’s name begins to be associated with it about 100 years after it was written. “Perhaps the name Matthew meaning “gift of God” summarizes the gospel’s teaching” (NISB). Additionally, many scholars see it as addressing followers of Jesus who were involved in inter-Jewish debates after the traumatic defeat of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (NISB). In other words, scholars believe the primary audience of Matthew’s Gospel is for Jewish Christians. After defeat in Jerusalem Jewish Christians are struggling find their place in God’s will and understand God’s plan.
In this fourth chapter, Jesus begins his earthly ministry. Key points include:
1) The arrest of his cousin, John the Baptist. , Jesus withdraws to Galilee. This marks the start of His earthly ministry. (His ministry will last about 3.5 years.)
2) Prophecy spoken by Isaiah is fulfilled.
3) At this time Jesus began to proclaim “repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near”.
4) Jesus Calls his first disciples.
What takes place in this passage:
Matthew 4:12-22 describes the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. After learning of the arrest of John the Baptist Jesus withdraws to Galilee and makes Capernaum his home. This is significant because it fulfills prophecy spoken by Isaiah. From this time Jesus begins to proclaim “repent for the Kingdom of heaven has come near”. Jesus then calls his first disciples. Two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, as well as, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. In both cases, when Jesus called these disciples they were already busy at work and each of them immediately left their occupations as fishermen to follow Jesus. The text does not say whether they already knew who Jesus was but we can be sure they believed what Jesus was preaching. Note also that these disciples left their families who likely depended on them for help in the family business.
This passage is focused on describing the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It speaks to:
1) Jesus’ connection to his forerunner John the Baptist.
2) Fulfilling prophecy (Isaiah).
3) What Jesus said (repent).
4) Who Jesus chose (fishermen already at work).
5) The response to his call (immediate).
A disciple is “one who follows and learns from another as a pupil”. Jesus calls everyone to become his disciple. These four disciples left everything behind and immediately and instantly begin to follow Jesus. Their commitment was so intense they left their family, the family business, and likely many other connections to their friends and community. Although our calling from God may not be as intense as these disciples, we can certainly learn from these four brothers what it means to dedicate oneself to Jesus. When God calls we should answer immediately and where God leads we should instantly follow.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 3:15; 13:30). His followers (Christians) worship him and seek to obey his will.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Repentance – The act of expressing contrition and penitence for sin. Its linguistic roots point to its theological meaning of a change of mind and life direction as a beginning step of expressing Christian faith.
Preaching – The act of proclaiming, and in the Christian context, the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ or the Word of God.
Kingdom of Heaven – An equivalent term for “Kingdom of God” found in Matthew’s Gospel.
Kingdom of God – God’s sovereign reign and rule. God’s reign was the major focus of Jesus’ teaching. Its fullness is in the future and yet it has also come in Jesus himself (Luke 10:9, 17:21).
Prophecy – Speaking on behalf of God to communicate God’s will for a situation. In the New Testament it is a Gift of the Spirit. It is also used for the prediction or declaration of what will come to pass in the future.
Themes, topics, discussion, or sermon preparation ideas:
- From this time.
- Changing course when Jesus calls.
- Follow me.
1) Since these disciples immediately stopped what they were doing and left their business and families to follow Jesus does that mean we should do the same today?
2) Zebedee was the father of James and John. They left their father to follow Jesus. Discuss whether Zebedee supported them as they accepted the call to follow Jesus.
3) Jesus says “Repent for the kingdom of God is near”. Discuss what Jesus means by the kingdom of God.
The call of Jesus is extended to everyone. In many churches today, after a sermon is preached the minister will extend the call to discipleship. Some preachers or pastors will conclude their sermon by “opening the doors of the church”. Whether they say the doors of the church are open or we extend the call to discipleship or some other saying its meaning is the same. It is a clarion call to make a conclusive decision to follow Jesus. It is the most important decision a person can make.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week we continue in the Gospel according to Matthew. As we march toward Easter or Resurrection Sunday, Jesus will have his twelve disciples and He gives them specific instructions regarding Gentiles, and the lost sheep of the house of Israel. After calling the disciples, Jesus gives them a mission. Has anyone ever given you a mission; a boss or supervisor, a parent or coach? When we accept a mission we do it to succeed. Prayerfully, we will see ourselves as a part of the continuing mission of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. So next week, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to think about ways your missions in life have been successful.