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Jesus Begins His Ministry – Matthew 4:12-25

None of the four Biblical accounts of the life of Jesus, nor all of them together, give a complete record of His life. Each of the four writers of the gospels, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit selected material appropriate for his own purposes.

Matthew is not arranged in strict chronological order, though there is a rough chronology. Events from the final week do not appear in the early chapters and vice versa. Similar material, such as His miracles or parables, are together. He gives, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7), the most complete arrangement of Jesus’ teaching. This “sermon,” though, when read consecutively, is only a few minutes in length. It is an important summation of His teaching about how to live in the Kingdom of God.

The few verses just before it, Matthew 4:12-25, provide a transition from His baptism and time of temptation in the wilderness to His public ministry with crowds of people around Him. Three things stand out in these verses:

  1. The beginning of His preaching ministry.
  2. The call of the earliest disciples.
  3. His healing ministry.

He Begins to Preach (4:12-17)

Jesus began His preaching ministry in Judea along the Jordan, near where John the Baptist was preaching. The early chapters of John tell of this. Matthew takes up the story with His return to Galilee after Herod put John in prison. His “headquarters” in Galilee was not in Nazareth, the home of His childhood, but in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee.

This, Matthew said, was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2 that a great light would appear in Zebulun and Naphtali in “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Galilee was much more a Gentile province than was Judea. Is this an early indication that Jesus came for all men, not just for the Jews? Or does this prophecy hinge on the fact that the Gentiles in that area brought great darkness, which Jesus came to dispel? It could be either – or both – of these.

His message was similar to that of John: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (4:17). The specifics of that message are in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5 – 7). Matthew 4:23 says His message was “the good news of the kingdom.” The nearness of the kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven for there is no difference in these except the terminology, was indeed “good news” Jesus taught.

He Calls His Earliest Disciples (4:18-22)

Two sets of brothers were the first whom Jesus called to come follow Him. As He walked along the sea, He invited these fishermen to leave their boats and nets to follow Him. They all accepted this invitation with alacrity.

This was not His first contact with these men. John 1:35-42 tells of Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist following Jesus. Some believe the other disciple may have been the son of Zebedee and brother of James who ultimately became the author of the gospel of John. Andrew immediately brought Peter to Jesus as well. So the encounter by the Sea of Galilee was not the first time these men had seen or heard of Jesus.

When He saw Peter and Andrew casting their net, he said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Note that becoming a fisher of men was a promise of what He would make them. His invitation was to follow Him. When they (or we) follow Him, He makes us fishers of men.

James and John were a little farther along the Sea. He called them as well; they also left their boat and their father to follow Jesus.

Leaving their boats and nets did not mean they never returned to these at all. Many times, they used their boat in their ministry with Jesus. Since much of His work was done around the Sea, they used a boat to traverse the Sea from place to place. They also continued to fish, just not as a full-time occupation.

What it did mean was that they changed the focus of their lives from fishing to being with Jesus. Mark’s account of the gospel puts this call in chapter 116-20 and their call to be apostles in chapter 3:13-19. Was this initial call sort of a “test” to see if these men could become the apostles He would need?

Jesus Begins to Heal the Sick (4:23-25)

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him. – Matthew 4:23-25

This is the first summary statement of His teaching and healing ministry. His preaching and teaching in the synagogues attracted attention. His healing of people will all manner of diseases drew even more to Him. Before long, the crowds were so large He could not enter the towns, but preached and healed out in the countryside.

Matthew said His message was the good news of the kingdom. In the next chapters we will see a synopsis of that message. Healing of physical disease accompanied His kingdom-coming message. Together, these drew people to Jesus.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why do we not have a detailed record of everything Jesus did and taught, especially from the time of His baptism?
  2. Which of the two understandings of Isaiah’s prophecy above is the more likely? Why do you think that?
  3. How does Jesus “make” us fishers of men when we follow Him? What is there about following Jesus that draws people to us? What was there about Him that drew people to Him?
  4. How is the kingdom of God “good news” or “gospel”? Does it include more than forgiveness of sins?
  5. Matthew gives us Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom in chapters 5 – 7, concluding by saying the people were amazed at His teaching. In chapters 8 – 9, Matthew records many specific examples of healing and again speaks of the crowds that followed Jesus. How did the teachings and the mighty works combine to draw the people to Him?

NEXT (6): The Sermon on the Mount

PREVIOUS (4): The Temptations of Jesus


3 Responses

  1. Jerry, the apostle John says that books could not hold everything Jesus did (20;30-31). Those that are recorded are for the development and building up of our faith.

    Faith is the evidence of things not seen- so God- by not recording everything Jesus did- is leaving room for our faith to kick in.

  2. RE: Some believe the other disciple may have been the son of Zebedee and brother of James who ultimately became the author of the gospel

    As the saying goes, one has to take off their own shoes before they can take a walk in someone else’s moccasins, and similarly, when it comes to a case of The Bible vs. Tradition, one has to be willing to let go of the traditions of men in order to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight in the text of scripture.

    TheDiscipleWhomJesusLoved.com has a free eBook that compares scripture with scripture in order to highlight facts in the plain text of scripture that are often overlooked about the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved”. Since the Bible is profitable for correction, you may want to weigh the testimony of scripture that it cites regarding the one whom “Jesus loved” and may find it to be helpful as it encourages bible students to heed the admonition, “prove all things”.

    • John,

      The on-line book you reference presents an interesting theory. I wonder, though, why the author (was it you?) did not give at least some attention to how the “rumor” of John’s authorship of the 4th gospel began. After all, a fragment of this gospel is one of the earliest pieces of scripture still extant, and many people from a very early age believed this gospel came from John’s pen.

      After quickly scanning that book, I wonder also: What difference does it make? That’s the same question I ask when a Jehovah’s Witness wants to make an issue about whether Jesus died on a cross or a “stake.” Now, the Witnesses use that to “muddy the water” and get people to thinking, “If they mis-taught me on that, what else have they taught me that is wrong?”

      I’m not saying that your book is parallel to the Jehovah’s Witnesses – but I do wonder what difference it makes to one’s relationship to God. It’s much like the argument about who wrote Hebrews? Few (except the most radical Higher Critics) doubt that either the 4th gospel or the Book of Hebrews deserve a place in Scripture. So why make so much ado about who wrote the books? After all, neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke named themselves as authors of the gospels commonly assigned to them, nor does any other passage in the Bible.

      In my own mind, I have thought that every one of the apostles could well consider himself “the one whom Jesus loved.” I do, though I am not an apostle. Do you?

      Your book does raise some interesting points – but to what end? You make the point that since “the other disciple” was known to the high priest it could not have been John because of what is in Acts 4:13. This, however, does not necessarily follow. It would be entirely possible that the high priest could be acquainted with Zebedee and his family – without knowing his sons had been following Jesus around the country. This could have gained John entry to the courtyard without the priest knowing he was a disciple of Jesus. I am not saying that this is what happened – just that this is a possible alternate explanation of a passage that is a key to your theory.

      Thank you for your interesting addition to the making of many books, of which Solomon said there is no end.


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