A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 4:18-22
In his first four and half chapters Matthew introduces us to the identity of Jesus. In chapter one his identity as God’s son is announced by angels at his birth. He is Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah, the one promised to come from the kingly line of David and from Abraham, the father of Israel. He was fully human and fully divine, the one to whom wise men from the nations bow down, the one whose birth and life are the culmination of generations of prophecy and anticipation. He is the King and righteous Judge of the world, perfectly filled with God’s spirit and loved by God the Father. And as the only man who has conquered sin, he is the perfect man to bear the sins of the world.
In chapter 3 John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lord, and God speaks from heaven at his baptism calling him his beloved Son. And in chapter 4 even Satan acknowledges him as the Son of God.
Now Matthew turns to demonstrate why Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies, describing in great detail his ministry of teaching, preaching, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, and setting free those who are captive to sin.
Having left Nazareth after John’s arrest Jesus settled in the region of Capernaum where he begins his ministry. Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The inauguration of his kingdom begins with the calling of his first disciples.
[Read Matthew 4:18-22]
Seemingly on a stroll by the water his call to these men seems abrupt at first reading, because it sounds as if Jesus spotted, then called four strangers who—for no apparent reason—left their nets, boats, and families and followed him.
Each of the gospel writers gives their account of Jesus calling his disciples, and each is seen with slight variations, but all provide helpful details to understand the event as a whole. It appears the disciples had met Jesus over a span of a year or so before they began to follow him. In John 1:35-42 Andrew is a disciple of John, but then encounters Jesus for the first time. He introduces his brother Peter to him. In Luke’s account in Luke 5 Jesus shows up at the Sea of Galilee with a crowd pressing in on him so he gets into one of the boats owned by Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Zebedee because they were partners. Unless they previously knew Jesus, it would be unlikely that they would let a stranger get in their boat. It would be even more unlikely for them to simply leave family, friends, and their livelihood for a complete stranger.
Luke tells us that they had heard his words and they had witnessed his power, so following him was not such a great leap. This passage certainly has a strong emphasis on what it means for us to be followers of Christ, but more importantly it has a stronger emphasis on belonging to Christ. Specifically, there are two concerns of Jesus put on display in this passage: his care for individual people and his care for the world.
When Jesus says, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” in Matthew 4:17 he is saying “I am here and my kingdom is now a present reality.” My rule and reign as the sovereign Son of God is here because “out of love I came to bring light and life into world,” and he begins with these men.
Before Jesus saves the world, he first saves and changes these men. He specifically chose them as he chooses all who believe in him. Here is the first evidence of the Son of God’s sovereign rule: in love he chooses and calls to saving faith these men who he has predestined to follow after him. Here is the gracious and mysterious doctrine of election that brings us to saving faith. The apostle Paul celebrated this doctrine again and again in his epistles.
In Ephesians 1:3-4 Paul declares, “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
He called these men—as he called us—to follow him. In Ancient Near Eastern times the disciple was the one who sought out a specific teacher, a Rabbi, following behind him and doing all he could to learn by listening to him. Peter, Andrew, James, and John did not choose to follow Jesus. He chose them and called them. This is the first act of our sovereign God in the life of every person who trusts in Christ.
Peter in his letter reminds the early believers that their salvation was the theme of Old Testament prophecy, as was ours. The prophets of old eagerly searched and diligently studied the things we now enjoy because He chose in him us before the foundation of the world. God came to dwell with us—personally and individually—in his Son. He chose us because he loved us.
These men were chosen by God, not first for the task they would perform, but because of God’s love and saving grace upon their lives. And the same is true for all who have believed and put their trust in him.
The kingdom has come into our hearts in the person of Jesus Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of his coming to us and dwelling in us is a transformed life. His rule and sovereignty have been graciously established in us who were once his enemies. His kingdom has come but will not be fully here until Jesus’ final return. It is then that the devil, our true enemy, is finally crushed, sin is destroyed, and death is put to death. This is our great salvation and our future hope as 1 Peter 1:3-5 tells us. He chooses us personally, he guards us personally, and he preserves us personally. Motivated by love he has saved us for his glory, for our good, and for the good of others.
This leads to the second concern of Jesus in this text: his care for the world. Jesus chooses these men, and then tells them why: “I will make you fishers of men.” This is a rather ironic statement to seasoned fishermen. It’s not their skill Jesus is interested in but in what they catch.
Jesus wants these men to understand that the life he is calling them to is not about fishing for their personal gain, but gain for the sake of another, a gain they will one day come to fully understand. He calls these men not only because he loves them, but because he also loves the multitude who are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
As we close out chapter 4 next week, we will see the depth of his care, concern, and love for the world. Jesus knows our suffering because he not only entered our world, he walked among us, ate with us, lived with us, and eventually died for us. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly, but that could only happen if our sin, the cause of our suffering could be dealt with. He did that through his sinless life, bearing our shame, experiencing our suffering and the full wrath of God we deserved by dying in our place on the cross that he might satisfy God righteous requirement. Sealed in a grave he did not remain there. He rose from the dead triumphing of sin, Satan, and death.
He told James and John, Peter and Andrew that he would make them fishers of men, and he does the same for us. They would learn by following him, seeing his compassion, his love, his mercy, and his power. We follow the same Savior. We learn by following him in his word.
“Follow me” was their call to a totally new life, one of service and sacrifice. Thirteen times in Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to “follow me.” It is both a literal and spiritual call. It is a call to leave behind everything they have known; family, friends, and livelihood to serve the living God. Their call was unique, and their sacrifice unique to what Jesus had in store for them as the first disciples and future apostles, but the call to follow Christ as a disciple who obeys his commands and gives up what will hold him or her back from being that disciple is universal.
There was no hesitation on the part of these to leave behind their earthly security. Throughout history many have heard the call of God as the gospel is preached but are unwilling to come, unwilling to leave behind all they have for the pearl of great price. These men left immediately, not looking back as some do.
It is a radical call to be a follower of Christ. It is often unpopular, difficult, sacrificial, thankless, but eternally rewarding. Every disciple of Christ is an expression of God’s love to a lost and dying world.
These first disciples are the sign of God’s sovereign love for every man and woman throughout all generations until he returns. He loved the world through them, and he saved the world through them. As disciples today we are an enduring sign of God’s love to the world. Look at the privileged tradition we come from. Look at the holy calling we’ve been tasked with. These men are no longer alive, but we are.
Silence John the Baptist through death, or the disciples of Jesus. Silence Augustine, Whitfield, Spurgeon, Sproul, and many others but it won’t matter. God’s word can never be kept silent. Jesus will continue to make disciples and call them to be fishers of men until he returns. Let’s carry on the tradition. Let’s make the radical and willing sacrifice by never looking back at what the world has to offer but looking ahead to Jesus Christ.
Song of Response
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