Matthew 4:12-25

12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;

13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:

14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;

16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. 

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

The year was AD 28 when Jesus Christ began His Greater Galilean Ministry. Leaving Nazareth, the town of His childhood, Jesus departed and dwelt in Capernaum, having heard John the Baptist had been arrested and put into prison (Matt. 4:12). John had said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:20). Now, that was happening.

The reason why John had been put into prison by Herod the Tetrarch was because he, as a Man of God, had rebuked Herod for his evil deeds. To be specific, Herod Antipas had divorced his wife to take to himself his niece, Herodias, who was also his brother’s wife. John’s public rebuke of this open political scandal caused him to be put into prison. With John in prison, Jesus departed into the region known as Galilee. His four-day pilgrimage, covering 43 miles by foot, would terminate in Capernaum.

From this town would come Matthew, a tax collector, one of the most despised of all men among the Jews.

From this town, Jesus would travel to minister to other villages forming the Decapolis (“Ten Cities”), a region east and southeast of the Sea of Galilee. 

From this town, Jesus proclaimed the gospel saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 4:17).

Most of the inhabitants of Capernaum remained unrepentant. Despite the many miracles which Jesus performed there, despite the manifestation of Divine power, despite the gracious words that fell from the lips of the Lord, the people would not repent. Despite the gracious gospel invitation, individuals did not repent, and for this reason. Repentance, which is genuine sorrow for sin, and a change in behavior, is not easy. Gospel repentance goes against nature. Some of the most difficult words to say are, “I was wrong,” and, “I am sorry.”

Even the physical presence of the Lord in Capernaum did not produce a change in many, which indicates just how hard-hearted individuals can become. Sometimes people think that if only Jesus would walk among men, or come into a congregation in person, then individuals would immediately come to faith. That is not true.

What is true is that, by nature, and by choice, people are in a desperate situation. Consider the plight of the Natural Man. The Bible teaches the spiritual eyes of the Natural Man are not shut to the truth; they are blinded to the truth by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). The spiritual thoughts of the Natural Man are not simply distorted; his mind is incapable of perceiving gospel truth. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18).

Almighty God must work a special, and direct work of grace in the heart of the unregenerate, before anyone comes to faith. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Because of the desperate condition of the Natural Man, the external witness of the gospel is not enough to lead a person to repentance. It is possible for the Lord of Glory to visibly and physically be in the very midst of a people, and not be recognized, or obeyed.  The gospel of Christ, which leads to eternal life, might be faithfully proclaimed in a community, and yet, hearts will remain unchanged, apart from the illuminating and regenerating work of God the Holy Spirit. For this reason, a prayer must be prayed. “Lord, open thou my eyes that I might see You.”  “Jesus, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.” “God, be merciful to me the sinner.” When such a prayer is sincerely uttered, it will be graciously answered.  The spiritual blessing of repentance, leading to eternal life, will be given by God, in grace, through faith.

Without doubt, Capernaum, and the region beyond was blessed when Jesus ministered there. Isaiah the prophet had predicted the Messiah would go to this region, which was inhabited by many Gentiles as well as Jews, so that all may know the universal call of Christ to salvation and service.

“The people which sat in darkness would see great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death would live to know that a light had sprung up” (Matt. 4:16; Isaiah 9:2). This remarkable prophecy of Isaiah was made in the 7th century before Jesus. It was given because Capernaum needed Christ. The town was characterized not only by spiritual darkness, but also by moral darkness.

Once the rule of God is rejected, moral darkness is inevitable. No matter how hard the tide of social decadence is fought, the mighty waves of moral depravity washes over society to destroy all, beginning with the vernable. The most vernable in our society are unborn babies. Today, in America, the life of an unborn baby can be terminated without a second thought. From 1990 to 2014, about one million abortions have been performed each year. One reason why this can happen is because many people in American believe it is a woman’s Constitutional right to abort, or terminate the life of her unborn baby.

In November, 2022, the residents in the state of Montana voted “No” to protect babies after they are born. A Republican-backed Referendum (Bill 131) to ensure medical care for babies delivered alive at any point in pregnancy, including those delivered after botched abortions, was rejected by 52.4 percent of the voters.

On January 23, 2023, “After 15 hours of contentious debate, the Minnesota Senate passed legislation early Saturday morning that guarantees the right to abortion, a bill pro-life Republicans have called the “most extreme” in the nation.  The Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act passed the state Senate 34-33, after Republicans had unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill 35 times. The bill states that ‘every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual’s own reproductive health.’”

Setting aside the science that life begins at the moment of conception, and in order to justify infanticide, arguments are set forth by pro-abortion advocates.  One of the main arguments for legalizing abortion, and advancing abortion rights, centers on the felt need to promote and protect the right of a woman to make decisions about her body. This is called bodily integrity, and it emphasizes the importance of autonomy, or self-ownership and self-determination of human beings over their own bodies.

The Bible reminds Christian women, they are not their own. “For you are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).

Another argument in favor of abortion, and against the criminalization of abortion is the socioeconomic implications that come from an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion economist argue that ending access to abortion will have damaging effects on the economy, and families. There will be more mouths to feed, and more needs to take care of, especially among the poor. There are women who are not in the position to rear a child due to their socioeconomic status. Furthermore, an unwanted pregnancy deprives a woman of her ability to continue her education and participate in the workforce in the future.

What the unwanted pregnancy argument really means is that a baby is simply not convenient. A baby will interfere with one’s personal happiness and agenda.

A third major argument in favor of abortion promotes reproductive health, and overall health. It is argued that abortion saves thousands of lives of women each year. “When legalized and performed by competent professionals, abortion is essentially a life-saving and socially-benefitting medical procedure” (Kristy Simon, “Arguments in Favor of Abortion and Abortion Rights”).

At least, that is what everyone is told, but without any comment made about the horrors of the abortion process at the hands of men such as the former doctor in Philadelphia, Kermit Gosnell (b. 1941), the biggest serial killer of infants in America.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director, fled her abortion clinic when she had an “unplanned” experience. In the providence of God, one day in September, 2009, Abby personally witnessed an unborn baby being torn apart, limb by limb from a mother’s womb. That moment changed her life forever, and moved her to become a pro-life activist. 

Because the pro-choice advocates feel they are armed with virtuous arguments, the bloody and violent slaughter of the unborn continues without shame and with cold determination. The courts will not stop the bloodletting, though some attempts have been made to slow the process down.

One reason why abortion, a crime against humanity, will not stop is because so many of America’s local and national political leaders, on both sides of the aisle, vacillate on this matter.

On January 22, 2023, while in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade before a receptive audience. In her remarks Harris referenced the Declaration of Independence. However, she omitted any reference to the Creator, and the right to life.

The abortion issue is just symptomatic that a deep spiritual darkness has settled over America. Moral darkness leads to fear and violence. Fear grips the hearts of so many people.

Some of the abortion advocates fear losing their power over this issue.

Some people are terrified of COVID.

Some people are fearful the world will soon end in a flash of fire.

Some people are fearful of walking down a street at night, and with good reason.

We live in a violent society.

In 2021 the number of crimes committed in the United States were catalogued.

Property crime (total)             6,531,976

Larceny-theft                          2,967,229

Violent crime (total)               2,552,446

Assault                                    2,335,159

Burglary                                  584,913

Motor vehicle theft                 554,618

Sex offenses                           166,782

Robbery                                  121,103

Homicide                                21, 500

Once people turn away from the principles of righteousness, as set forth in the Bible, and do not repent, moral darkness descends.

We, in America, are like the people in the land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the Sea of Galilee, sitting in darkness and in need of spiritual Light” (Matt. 4:15,16).

Out of a population of 332 million people in the United States, more than 73 million are addicted to some drug. Millions more struggle with a behavioral addiction such as gambling, impulse shopping, pornography, video games addiction, internet addictions, plastic surgery addiction, eating disorders, and those who get a rush from risky behavior.

Added to moral darkness, and physical death by drugs, and behavioral disorders, is spiritual death in those who have no faith in God. This is the eternal darkness of Scripture.

The only hope for our nation is that God, in matchless grace, will open many deaf ears to hear Jesus crying, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

I do believe there are individuals who are dissatisfied with the lifestyle they are living. Like the prodigal son, there are people who are unhappy and want to be good. They want to go home and return to a place of righteousness. The pleasures of sin have long since passed. By the drawing of the Holy Spirit, some people are entertaining the thought of repenting, and changing their way of life. The gospel exhortation is to do it now. Do it quickly. Today is the day of salvation.

To those who are emotionally drowning in the depths of despair, the Light of the World has come to say, “Look! Live!” How good it is when  Jesus comes to a person and calls them personally to repentance.

To help Jesus bring others to gospel repentance, and advance the work of His kingdom, the Bible says that Jesus calls disciples. During the days of His earthly ministry, walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers. One was called Simon Peter. The other was named Andrew.

Peter was a very impressive but impulsive man. The story of his life is that of speaking first, and thinking later. Andrew was different. As Peter was impulsive, Andrew was reflective. Andrew measured carefully the words of Jesus, and then spent the rest of his life bringing others to the Saviour. What a wonderful day it was when Peter and Andrew heard the voice of Christ calling them to Himself.

Do you remember the day of your own divine calling? Is this the song you sing?

“O what a wonderful, wonderful
day, day I will never forget;
After I’d wandered in darkness
away, Jesus my Savior I met.

O what a tender, compassionate
Friend, He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, with
joy I am telling, He made
all the darkness depart.

Heaven came down and glory
filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior
made me whole;
My sins were washed away and
my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory
filled my soul!”

For Peter and Andrew, the call to discipleship came while they were fishing. The men were skillfully casting nets over their shoulders, and then letting them spread out to form a circle as the nets fell into the water. Because of the pieces of lead attached to each net, they sank quickly capturing the fish underneath. This was hot and hard work that had to be done under a burning sun. In the act of fishing, the Son of God called to Peter and Andrew saying, “Peter! Andrew! Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Peter and Andrew stopped what they were doing to become fishers of men.

Have we heard the Lord calling us to such work? Once we hear the Lord’s call, we will never have any doubt what we must do in life. Christ gives to each disciple He saves purpose, definition, and meaning. We are to become fishers of men. The work is still large, and the laborers are still few.

Listen to Jesus as He says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

What did Jesus mean?

First, Jesus meant He would make Peter and Andrew come to love souls. To love others is not easy, for people are difficult. It is far easier to withdraw from the world than to love and give ourselves in ministry work that others might live, not just for time, but for eternity.

However, if we are willing to listen, if we are willing to serve, and be remade into the image of Christ, Jesus can teach us to do good to the unlovable. The Lord taught Peter and Andrew to think of others, including the Gentiles. Down through the centuries, Jesus has taught many people to love, like Rowland Hill, a popular English preacher and founder of the Surrey Chapel (1744-1833).

The passion for lost souls burned in the breast of Rowland Hill to the point the people of Ireland began to call him a madman. In reply, Mr. Rowland said to the people, “While I passed along yonder road, I saw a gravel pit cave in, and bury three men alive. I hastened to the rescue, and shouted for help until they heard me in the town almost a mile away.

No one called me a madman then. But when I see destruction about to fall on sinners, and entomb them in the eternal mass of woe, and cry aloud, if perchance they may behold their danger and escape, they say I am beside myself. Perhaps I am, but oh, that all God’s children might be thus fired with desire to save their fellows.”

Leon Tucker wrote this prayer.

“Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
And love that soul through me;
And may I nobly do my part
To win that soul for Thee.”

Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and James and John, not only to love others, but to labor for them. Such labor requires physical, mental, emotional, and moral strength. As there are hardships associated with fishing, so there are hardships in winning souls for the Saviour.

David Brainerd (1718 – 1747) was a missionary to the Delaware Indians during the Colonial period of America’s history. In a diary he kept, Brainerd wrote,

“I care not where I live, or what hardships I go through, so that I can but gain souls to Christ. While I am asleep, I dream of these things; as soon as I awake, the first thing I think of is this great work. All my desire is the conversion of sinners, and all my hope is in God.”

David Brainard was only 29 years old when he died of tuberculosis on Oct 9, 1747.

There is a third aspect of being fishers of men, and that is the personal touch.

Just as every fish caught must be dealt with one at a time, so every soul must be found one by one by one.

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” once wrote to a very important senator of the United States in behalf of a black man who was suffering great injustice.

The Senator replied: “I am so much taken up with plans for the benefit of the race that I have no time for individuals.” Mrs. Howe pasted the letter into an album with this comment, “When last heard from, our Maker had not reached this attitude.”

The individual is always important to Christ. Jesus never turned any one away, no matter the time of day or night. Jesus never refused to help anyone who called upon His name. His ministry was that of a personal touch. For their labors in becoming fishers of men, Jesus promised Peter and Andrew a certain measure of success. As they had been successful in drawing fish from the sea, so they would be successful in drawing men from the sea of sin. “I will make you fishers of men,”

said Jesus. “You will have success.”

There is something very thrilling when a fisherman can go home with a full catch. There is disappointment when there are no fish in the basket. The passion of every Christian should be to face Jesus Christ in the day of judgment as one who has gone fishing with the Saviour.

The saddest moment in the day of accountability will be to stand before Christ empty handed.

“Must I go and empty handed?
Thus my dear Redeemer meet?
Not one day of service give Him,
Lay no trophy at His feet?”

As Christian people, let us not go to Christ empty handed. Let us ask the Lord to use us to become fishers of men with our friends and family members.

Once they were called into service for the Saviour, Peter and Andrew stayed with Jesus.Other disciples joined them, such as James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother. Together, Jesus, with His new disciples, traveled the countryside preaching the gospel of redeeming love, and healing the sick. From every part of the region the people came to meet with the Master. From every town and village, the sick came.

Some were demon possessed.

Some were epileptics.

Many were paralyzed.

Still, they came.

No case was too hard for Christ to cure.

No disease was beyond His power to perform a healing miracle.

The Church must believe the same miracle working power of Christ is still available today. It is true, disease and death will come to all of us. Yet, from time-to-time God is pleased to show mercy to magnify His name. Prayer for Divine healing is proper. But as great as physical healing is, and we do not minimize its importance, there is a greater healing which is needed, the healing of the heart. The questions come.

“Spiritually, is my spiritual heart healed?

“Is my life right with the Saviour?”

“Have I seen the Great Light?”

“Have I repented?”

“Am I saved by the blood of the Lamb?”

“Do I know anything about redeeming grace?”

If not, come to Christ. Call upon the name of the Lord. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. To those who know Jesus we say,

“Come, Peter and Andrew.

Come, James and John.

Come, Christian. Let us seek to go fishing for souls with the Saviour.”

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