“Emmanuel’s Call” – Matthew 4:18-22

October 26th, 2014

Matthew 4:18-22 (see also: Mt 9:9-13; 10:1-4; Mk 1:16-20; 2:13-17; 3: 13-19; Lk 5:1-11, 27-32; 6:12-16; Jn 1:35-51)

“Emmanuel’s Call”


Meditation/PreparationJesus has called you to be a disciple and thus a fisher of men for the “fish’s” good.  Do you understand what a privilege it is for you to be offered this opportunity?  We will never become effective fishers of men as long as our nets stay in the garage.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.   — Proverbs 11:30


We are evangelizing ourselves into extinction.  — Superintendent Rhodes


Background Information:

  • Peter and Andrew hailed from Bethsaida (Jn 1:45), but Peter had recently moved to Capernaum (Mt 4:13; 8:5, 14, 15; Mk 1:21, 29, 30; Lk 4:31, 33, 38). By this time these men had come to know Jesus, because a year had elapsed since the unforgettable event recorded in Jn 1:35-42.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 248)
  • Simon is a Semitic name, but Andrew is Greek; the family, though now settled in Capernaum (8:14), originated from Bethsaida according to Jn 1:44, and their names reflect the mixed culture of that Hellenistic settlement just across the river from Jewish Capernaum. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 146-47)
  • If the announcement of “God’s kingship” in v. 17 might lead the reader to expect some dramatic development in world history, the character of these first recruits offers a different perspective: four local fishermen do not sound like a world-changing task force. The parable of the mustard seed (13:31-32) will spell out the paradoxical character and insignificant beginnings of the kingdom of God.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 146)
  • By comparing the gospel accounts we discover that there were at least five different phases of Jesus’ calling of the twelve. As would be expected, the first call was to salvation, to faith in the Messiah (see Jn 1:35-51; 2:11).  The calling that Matthew mentions here was the second calling, the calling to witness.  After neither the first nor the second call did the disciples permanently leave their occupations.  At the time of the third call (Lk 5:1-11), Peter, James, and John were again back fishing.  Jesus repeated the call to be fishers of men, and the disciples then realized the call was permanent and “they left everything and followed Him” (v. 11).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 114)
  • As John tells the story, at least some of them were already disciples of John the Baptist (Jn 1:35). No doubt they had already talked with Jesus and had already listened to him, but in this moment there came to them the challenge once and for all to throw in their lot with him.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 78)
  • Jesus had invited the disciples to follow him on the earlier occasion (Jn 1:43), but this was different, which Matthew indicates by reporting that they immediately “left their nets” (in the case of James and John), and followed Jesus. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 64)
  • Jesus was a peripatetic rabbi, which means that He moved around as He taught. He did not have a particular school building in which He held classes.  His disciples literally walked behind Him, listening to His lectures, and they committed these lectures to memory.  What we see here is Jesus recruiting students for His rabbinic school.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 68)
  • (v. 19) Greek has several expressions for “follow me” (v. 19; cf. At 10:38; Lk 9:23; 14:27), but they all presuppose a physical “following” during Jesus’ ministry. His “followers” were not just “hearers”; they actually followed their Master around (as students then did) and became, as it were, trainees.  The metaphor “fishers of men” glances back to the work of the two being called.  It may also be reminiscent of Jer 16:16.  There Yahweh sends “fishermen” to gather his people for the Exile; here Jesus sends “fishermen” to announce the end of the Exile (cf. on 1:11-12; 2:17-18) and the beginning of the messianic reign.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 119)
  • (v. 19) “Follow” is the major term for discipleship in the Gospels. Disciples in Jesus’ day literally followed their masters around and imitated them.  Jesus required his disciples to give him their allegiance, daily count the cost of commitment, and serve others as he did.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 68)
  • (v. 21) This second pair of brothers were “preparing their nets” (v. 21), which sounds as if they were just setting out. The verb katartizō, however, connotes “mend” or “restore to a former condition.”   So James and John may have been making repairs after a night’s fishing (cf. Lk 5:1-11 and its possible place in the chronology).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 120)
  • Christ’s disciples were to become the links between himself and his church. They were to be the precious foundation stones for Jerusalem the Golden (Rv 21:19, 20).  Think, for example, of the importance of such men as Matthew, John, and Peter in the formation of the Gospels, which are our chief sources of information about Jesus Christ.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 245)
  • From this point on we shall not read stories about Jesus alone, but stories about Jesus and his disciples. Wherever he goes, they will go; their presence with Jesus, even if not explicitly mentioned, is assumed.  While the Twelve will not be formally listed until 10:1-4, the stories from here on will assume a wider group of disciples than just these first four.  They will be the primary audience for his teaching (5:1-2) and witnesses of his works of power, but they are also called to be his active helpers in the task of “fishing for people,” as we shall discover in ch. 10.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 145)


Jewish disciples were consumed with becoming like their Rabbi.  How badly do we want to become like Jesus our Rabbi?


Talmid (Talmidim, pl.) is the Hebrew word for disciple.  The talmid willingly left home, family, and occupation to be with the rabbi because he wanted more than anything else in the world to be like the rabbi (teacher) in his walk with God.  As the rabbi lived and taught his understanding of the Scripture, his talmid listened to him, watched him, followed him, memorized his words, and imitated his walk with God.  Eventually the talmid became a teacher who had his own disciples who wanted to learn from him how to walk with God.  (Ray Vander Laan, In the Dust of the Rabbi Discovery Guide, 17)


The question to be answered is . . . What can we learn from Matthew’s record of the Call of Peter, Andrew, James and John?


Answer:  First, that Jesus calls us to be disciples.  Second, that Jesus will make them into disciples.  And third, Jesus’ true disciples are more than willing to forsake all selfish goals and be unselfish and caring like Jesus because they understand Who Jesus is and want to be like Him.


We fish for selfish reasons.  We are called by God to fish for men for their benefit . . . not ours.


The Word for the Day is . . . Called



What can we learn from Matthew about the call?:

I-  You don’t decide to be a follower of Jesus; you are called.  (Mt 4:18-21; see also: Jn 1:13; 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19; Eph 1:3-6, 11; 2 Thes 2:13; 1 Pt 1:1-2; 2 Pt 1:10)


This was no emotional, spur-of-the-moment decision.  They must have been waiting for this momentous occasion to join Jesus as he embarks on his kingdom mission, so they respond at once when he calls.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 179)


As noted, these four had extensive prior acquaintance with Jesus and even believed in him as Messiah (cf. Jn 1:41; 2:11).  We should emphasize that they are responding as much as they can to as much as they understand.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 179)


While potential disciples in first-century Judaism would seek out a rabbi to study under, Jesus did the seeking in this passage.  The disciples didn’t come to Jesus–He came to them.  Jesus does at the beginning of the NT what God did throughout the OT.  God always chooses His partners.  He chose Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.  He also chose the prophets.  And he chose Israel to be His people (Dt 7:6-7).  Just as the Father chose His people in the OT, so Jesus chose His disciples in the NT.  Jesus will tell the disciples later, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16).  This choice was not because of anything in them; it was all because of grace in Him.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 83)


As the King of kings, Jesus not only had the authority, but He had the right to call these people to leave what they were doing and follow Him and give Him their lives.  There is nothing inappropriate about Jesus making that kind of claim on your life.  It is, however, inappropriate to ignore the call of Jesus.  Can you imagine anything more inappropriate than saying no to a summons from Jesus?  Ignoring it isn’t just foolish; it is sinful.  That is why I am uncomfortable when someone is “invited” to come to Christ.  When Paul declared the gospel to the Athenians on Mars Hill, he said, “truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).  The problem with issuing an “invitation” is that it implies that you have the option to decline.  You may send in your regrets and say, “I’m sorry; I can’t come.”  God never invites people to come to Christ; He commands it.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 71)


Etiquette required a rabbi’s disciple to walk literally “behind” his teacher.  But when Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to “come behind him,” they will soon find that he is far from a conventional rabbi, especially in that those who wished to follow a rabbi generally took the initiative themselves, rather than being summoned in this way.  What Jesus issues here is not even an invitation, but rather a demand.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 147)


These four guys, and the disciples that came later, didn’t have many things in their favor. For starters, they were Galileans, deemed to be lower class, rural, and uneducated by many.  They were hardly the cultural elite, and they certainly weren’t the most spiritually qualified for this task.  Instead, they were narrow-minded and superstitious, full of Jewish prejudices, misconceptions, and animosities.  These are the ones Jesus chose.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 83)


Most common of the honest errors made by evangelists is the appeal to the human will, especially through the emotions.  There is no authority for such an appeal in Scripture, and there are flat statements to the contrary.  “Being born again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1:13); and, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom 9:16).  Therefore, any preaching addressed to the will of the listener is in contradiction to the plain statements of the Word of God.  Such preaching may be sincere, but it is not the ministry of reconciliation which has been committed to us as the ambassadors of Christ.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy/God’s River, 201)


Their decision to side with Jesus exhibits his greatness; the impelling force of his influence over the minds and hearts of men, so that when he calls they follow immediately.  The breadth of his sympathy and the magnitude of his power are also shown here.  Is it not marvelous that he was willing and able to take such common folk, four fishermen, etc., unlettered individuals, and, in spite of all their prejudices and superstitions, to transform them into instruments for the salvation of many; to make them leaders who, by means of their testimonies, would turn the world upside down?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 247)


II-  Jesus Himself will make disciples who fish for men from those He calls.  (Mt 4:19; see also: Zech 4:6; Jn 15:1-8; 1 Cor 15:10; 2 Cor 3:5-6; Eph 1:4-6)


God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.


Notice that Jesus does not command the disciples to fish for people; rather, He says, “I will make you fish for people.”  In other words, “I am going to do a transforming work in your life that will enable you to spread the message of My kingdom around the world.”  The power to follow Christ and make Him known comes only as we rely fully on His strength.  In Jn 15:4 Jesus tells His disciples, “Remain in Me, and I in you.”  The fruit we bear in following Jesus only comes as we remain in Him by faith.  There’s no way these men could carry out the commands given from Jesus, and so Jesus says, in effect, “I will enable you to do all that I command.”  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 84)


Jesus did not simply command His disciples to become fishers of men, but promised that He would make them fishermen for men’s souls.  As He later would make clear on more than one occasion, that promise was also a caution.  Not only was He willing to make them into disciplers, but they could never be effective disciplers–or effective disciples in any way–without His power.  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 118)


It was these ordinary men whom Jesus chose.  Once there came to Socrates a very ordinary man called Aeschines.  “I am a poor man,” said Aeschines.  “I have nothing else, but I give you myself.”  “Do you not see,” said Socrates, “that you are giving me the most precious thing of all?”  What Jesus needs is ordinary folk who will give him themselves.  He can do anything with people like that.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 78)


Poverty and ignorance of books excluded thousands from the notice of the boastful philosophers of the heathen world; they exclude no one from the highest place in the service of Christ.  Is a man humble?  Does he feel his sins?  Is he willing to hear Christ’s voice and follow him?  If so, he may be the poorest of the poor, but he will be found as high as any in the kingdom of heaven.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 21)


Whatever you are, he spiritually uses as a type of the other service to which he calls you.  Are you fishers in the ordinary sense of the term?  He comes to you and says, “I will make you fishers of men.”  Are you builders of stone and wood?  He says, “I will make you builders of a living temple.”  Are you servants of masters who pay you?  He says, “I will make you servants of the King of kings.”  If we have not realized the spiritual side of our earthly vocation, we are still in the outer court, and have much to learn.  Oh, you who heal the body, come, and Christ will show you how to heal the soul.  Oh, you tradesmen, and merchants, and money-turners, come and he will show you how to make fine gold and imperishable wealth.  Accept your present secular position as a type and hint of the call which Christ is addressing to the soul.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 113)


The OT pictures God fishing for men, harvesting them for judgment (Jer 16:16; Ez 29:4-5; 38:4; Amos 4:2; Hab 1:14-17).  Gathering souls is urgent because judgment is coming, so Christ’s faithful followers were to bring people in while there was still time.  These disciples were adept at catching fish, but they would need special training before they would be able to become fishers of men–to fish for people’s souls.  The words “I will make” portray Jesus as the empowering agent; these men were simply to follow.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 68)


“It is more than comforting to realize that it is those who have plumbed the depth of failure to whom invariably God gives the call to shepherd others. This is not a call given to the gifted, the highly trained or the polished, as such, without a bitter experience of their own inadequacy and poverty. They are quite unfitted to bear the burden of spiritual ministry. It takes a man who has discovered something of the measures of his own weakness to be patient with the sins of others. Such a man also has firsthand knowledge of the loving care of the chief shepherd in his ability to heal one who has come humbly to trust him.” — J. C. Medcalf


Don’t take yourself so seriously.   God knew what He was getting when he called you. (Joyce Meyer sermon, “Out with the Old and in with the New”)


The religion of Christ must have been from heaven, or it could never have prospered and spread over the earth as it has done.  It is vain for unbelievers to attempt to answer this argument; it cannot be answered.  A religion which did not flatter the rich, the great, and the learned–a religion which offered no license to the bodily inclinations of the human heart–a religion whose first teachers were poor fishermen, without wealth, rank or power–such a religion could never have turned the world upside down, if it had not been of God.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 21-22)


We desperately need to be reminded that the Great Commission and the call to fish for men are every Christian’s privilege and responsibility.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 87)


III-  True disciples who have seen the Light are willing to repent and forsake all to follow Him.  (Mt 4:20, 22; see also: Mt 4:17; 8:19-22; 10:37; 13:44-45; 16:24; 19:27;  Lk 14:27-33; Jn 8:31; 1 Cor 9:22)

In both Matthew and Mark the calling of the first disciples is preceded by a record of Christ’s first preaching, focusing on the word “Repent” (Mt 4:17).  In Luke the equivalent account is embedded in the story of Jesus’ miraculous intervention as the disciples fished.  As a result, they caught so many fish their net began to break.  That story ends with Peter’s awe at Christ’s holiness, which led him to cry out, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8).  The point is that it is impossible to follow Christ without repentance.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 66)


Irenaeus, a disciple of the apostle John, becomes our guide in his five-volume work Against the Heresy of Gnosticism.  The oft-quoted first clause of one compound sentence reads, “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.”  But the less-quoted second clause reads, “and the life of the human consists in beholding God.”  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 48)


Now let me be very careful here: I am not saying, and I would not say based on the whole of the NT, that all followers of Jesus must lose their careers, sell or give away all their possessions, leave their families behind, and physically die for the gospel.  But the NT is absolutely clear that for all who follow Jesus, comfort and certainty in this world are no longer your concerns.  Your career revolves around whatever Jesus calls you to do and however He wants to use you to spread the good news of the kingdom.  Your possessions are not your own, and you forsake material pleasure in this world in order to live for eternal treasure in the world to come.  And this could mean that you sell or give away everything you have.  After all, position is no longer your priority.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 82)


The early disciples left behind everything that was familiar and natural for them.  They exchanged comfort for uncertainty.  They didn’t know where they would be going; they only knew who they would be with.  All followers of Christ must respond to this same call today: we may not always know all the details about where Christ is leading us, but we do know who we’re following.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 81)


The Bible says that the rich young ruler went away feeling sorrowful.  But Jesus was even more sorrowful because he knew what divine joy and divine purpose the young man was forfeiting.

His ultimate problem was not that he had riches.  His problem was that he trusted in his riches.  That affected what he did with his money.  Because he put his faith in money instead of in God to see him through, he was not able to use his gifts the way Jesus called him to use them.  And he missed out on the security and satisfaction and freedom that come from putting his faith where it really belongs.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 104-05)


If you have any conditions to your obedience to Jesus then Jesus is not your King and you are not in the Kingdom.  Because the thing that is the basis of your “if” or “when” of your salvation is your salvation and King.  You cannot say “I’ll follow you Jesus if . . . or “I’ll follow you Jesus when . . .” because the thing that is the “if” or “when” is your king and Lord . . . not Jesus. (Keith Porter after listening to Tim Keller)


You don’t need the Holy Spirit if you are merely seeking to live a semi-moral life and attend church regularly.  You can find people of all sorts in many religions doing that quite nicely without Him.  You only need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help if you truly want to follow the Way of Jesus Christ.  You only need Him if you desire to “obey everything” He commanded and to teach others to do the same (Mt 28:18-20 NIV).  You only need the Holy Spirit if you understand that you are called to share in Christ’s suffering and death, as well as His resurrection (Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 4:16-18; Phil 3:10-11).  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 122-23)


Jesus called his followers to live the cross-life.  “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34).  He flatly told his disciples, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).  When Jesus immortalized the principle of the cross-life by washing the disciples’ feet, he added, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15).  The cross-life is the life of voluntary submission.  The cross-life is the life of freely accepted servanthood.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 116)


Unfortunately, in the American churches particularly, there has come a strange reversal of roles between the pastor and the evangelist.  This has effectively deprived churches of the biblical ministry of a pastor and has resulted in a grossly impoverished and untaught people.  Probably due to the influence of frontier living, the work of evangelism has been exalted over that of pastoral teaching in many American churches.  Because in frontier America the evangelist was greatly admired and respected, pastors of frontier churches conceived of their role as that of an evangelist, whose task was to declare the initial truths of Christianity and win as many to Christ as possible.  They began to evangelize in their pulpits, priding themselves on their faithfulness to their calling in proclaiming the gospel fearlessly, Sunday after Sunday.  It became then the task of the people to bring others into the church to hear the pastor evangelize.  But fewer and fewer came, and finally the pastor was left to evangelize the evangelized–week after week after week.

Since the saints were not led on into deeper and clearer understanding of the great provisions of life and power available to them through the Spirit, they grew dull and bored with the gospel which they heard every week, and fell into apathy, criticism, quarreling, bickering, divisions and schisms, and eventually into dissolute living and the double standards of hypocrisy.

When this occurred, naturally the rate of conversions dropped off alarmingly and an evangelist was usually brought in to correct this.  But he frequently found that the people were in no spiritual condition to undertake evangelism, and so he had to take a week or so of special meetings with the congregation and become a pastor to them, teaching them enough spiritual life that they could aid him in the subsequent outreach meetings.  Thus the modern revivalist was born.  The annual “revival” became the shot in the arm upon which most churches depended for any degree of advance or witness.  (Ray C. Stedman, Body Life, 84-85)


“Give up your old way of life, and trust me for a new one.”  Jesus then calls those who have repented and believed to “follow” him.  Similarly, in Jesus’ day a disciple would give up his own plans in life to follow and live with a rabbi, learning the Torah and all the rabbi’s ways.  In choosing these words, Jesus gives an invitation that is familiar to his Jewish hearers: “Come.  Be with me.  Learn from me.  Give up your own way of life.  Do what I do.  Learn to live as I do.”  However, though these words in one way are quite familiar to the first-century Jews who hear them, in another way they are strange.  For Jesus is much more than a rabbi:  he is Lord and Christ.  The lives of those who choose to hear and follow Jesus are not to center in the Torah, but in Jesus himself.  His disciples are to give full allegiance and devotion to him.  Few images express more vividly the total commitment and absolute loyalty Jesus demands:  loyalty to God’s kingdom is expressed in loyalty to Jesus.  (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 136-37)


The unique authority inherent in Jesus’ teaching and actions which will be emphasized repeatedly in chs. 5-9 is already displayed both in the radical boldness of his demand and in the instinctive and uncharacteristic response of four ordinary men.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 148)


Without obedience there is no genuine Christianity.  It is not that people cannot “follow” Jesus in some lesser sense and then perhaps fall away when the demands of genuine discipleship become clear to them.  Many persons in the Gospels seem to have done just that.  The rich young ruler is one example.  But that is not the same thing as a sheep of Christ’s flock hearing his call and responding to his voice as he recognizes Jesus to be his rightful Lord and Master.  Those who are truly Christ’s sheep both hear and obey his call from the beginning and thus enter a life in which obedience is a chief characteristic.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 66)


Following Jesus also involved submission.  In one of his most important sayings about discipleship, Jesus describes submission as putting on a yoke.  This suggests a number of things, but chiefly it suggests submission to Christ for work assigned.  It is the picture of an animal yoked to others as well as to a farm implement for labor.  Submit comes from the Latin words sub (meaning “under”) and mitto (meaning “to put” or “place”).  Therefore submission means being placed under the authority of another.  Again, how could it be otherwise if the one we are following is our true King and Lord, and we are truly his disciples?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 67)


It is impossible to follow Christ without trusting him, for a lack of trust will cause us to deviate from the path he takes or cause us to choose to leave him.  By contrast, it is impossible to genuinely trust Christ and not follow him, since a failure to follow means a person is committed to some other goal or is trusting some other thing or person.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 67)



What does this message say to me as a Christian?:

A-  The cost of discipleship should not be seen as an actual expense; for the true disciple, it is an honor.  (Mt 13:44-45; Rom 1:14-16;  Phil 3:7-10; Rv 3:18)


Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.  —John Henry Jowett.


Have we ever left anything for the Savior?  I have left nothing.  He has given me more than I ever gave him–the whole advantage is on my side.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 113)


Christ’s call is more than our own salvation; it is a call for the salvation of others.  And because of this selflessness, it is ironically self-rewarding.  Christian ministry–the work of spreading the gospel like a net to each corner of the world–is exhilarating.  It is life-giving, more life-giving than anything I know or have done.  People are always looking to find meaning and purpose in life.  Well, nothing is more fulfilling and purposeful than joining the school of Christ and being sent out to capture a school of souls!  This is why the kingdom, if you find it, and the King, if you will follow him, is like a treasure hidden in a field–it’s worth giving everything to get it.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 96-97)


In light of everything we know about Jesus from the first four chapters of Matthew, we should feel the wonder and weight of the One who gives this invitation, this command, to four fishermen to “Follow Me” in verse 19.  This is Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah, the One promised to come in 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 Savior King and Righteous Judge of the world, perfectly filled with God’s Spirit and loved by God the Father.  He is the only man who has conquered sin, and the true Son that Israel could never be.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 79-80)


David Livingston, a missionary to Africa during the 1800s, once said during a speech to students at Cambridge University, “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa…I never made a sacrifice.  We ought not to talk of ‘sacrifice’ when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.”  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 108)


The NT has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.  If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.  Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.  (C. S. Lewis; Weight of Glory, 2)


We do not have to look far to see the application to our own lives.  The siren song of popular culture is to avoid pain and take the easy way, the path of least resistance.  But God’s Word still speaks truly: “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tm 3:12).  Jesus embraced the cross by refusing the easy way, and as his followers, he says, we must do the same: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Mt 16:24, 25).

If we embrace the logic of Jesus’ refusal to take the easy way, we will see that taking the path of least resistance, to follow comfortable expediency, is idolatry–it is worshiping a false God.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 136)


I believe the reason most of us don’t enjoy our anointing is fear.  We are afraid to claim this power because we’re afraid to really follow the Spirit’s leading.  Because He may not lead us where we want to go.  He may lead us where we don’t want to go.  He might even ask us to climb up on a cross after we get beaten half to death.  — Buddy Briggs


There is no potential causal response to Jesus.  It’s either “turn and run” or “bow and worship.”  Luke’s Gospel records that as soon as Peter caught a glimpse of Jesus’ power and authority, He fell on His face, and then rose and followed (Lk 5:1-11).  Everything is different once you meet this King.  That’s why we know that people who profess to be Christians but whose lives look just like the rest of the world are lying.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 80)


In Jesus’ day, disciples would attach themselves to a rabbi to promote themselves.  Discipleship could be a step up the ladder toward greater status and position.  But this wasn’t the case with these early disciples; they were stepping down the ladder.  They would eventually find this out when the One they were following was tried and killed.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 81)


Obedience to Christ is costly.  Following Him must be put even before our own physical security.  Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress” says it well:  “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 81)


After their previous meeting with Jesus, Simon Peter and Andrew had returned to fishing.  But when Jesus called them to follow him as disciples, they immediately left their nets.  These men already knew Jesus, so when Jesus called them, they were willing to follow him.  The judgment was coming; they had to respond right away.  Their lives had changed; their allegiance was now to their teacher.  Their action indicated radical discipleship, total surrender.  This first pair left their occupation; the second pair (4:22) also left their father.  When Jesus calls, people must be willing to realign previous plans and goals, sometimes leaving something important in order to follow Jesus.  Jesus is not satisfied with half-hearted Christians.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 69)


Are we all to leave our jobs and homes to follow Christ in ministry?  Apparently not, for Jesus had many believers and disciples, but he chose only twelve to leave all and follow him.  Even those twelve did not abandon wives or their responsibility to their parents.  But we must all evaluate our service and do what Christ requires.  Some students may need to change majors and go into ministry; Christ may choose some to change livelihoods and enter different fields of service for him.  All of us must be willing and prompt to respond when Jesus calls.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 70)


The one who would have God’s power must lead a life of self-denial.  There are many things which are not sinful in the ordinary understanding of the word sin, but which hinder spirituality and rob men of power.  I do not believe that any man can lead a luxurious life, overindulge his natural appetites, indulge extensively in dainties, and enjoy the fullness of God’s power.  The gratification of the flesh and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand.  “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal 5:17).  Paul wrote: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor 9:27; see ASV, Greek; note also Eph 5:18).  (R. A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 75-76)


B-  The cost of non-discipleship is ultimately far too much for any to bear(Mt 21-23)


Discipleship is undoubtedly costly, but as you consider the cost of discipleship, I beg you to consider the cost of non-discipleship.  What if you choose to reject Jesus, to live for yourself and to die in your sin?  What if you choose to settle for casual, cultural Christianity that never truly encounters Christ?

Consider what the cost will be for our lives.  Eternity is at stake. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and death apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ means that an eternal hell is your destination.  Don’t be deceived: the cost of non-discipleship is far greater than the cost of discipleship.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 87)


Anytime the church becomes preoccupied with her own interests she loses the radiance of the self-giving love of Christ and, unwittingly—in trying to save her life—she loses it.  (Robert E. Coleman, Dry Bones Can Live Again, 122)


“We inoculate the world with a mild form of Christianity so that it will be immune to the real thing.  (William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas; Resident Aliens, 90)


Sitting majestically atop the highest hill in Toledo, Spain, is the Alcazar, a 16th-century fortress. In the civil war of the 1930s, the Alcazar became a battleground when the Loyalists tried to oust the Nationalists, who held the fortress. During one dramatic episode of the war, the Nationalist leader received a phone call while in his office at the Alcazar.  It was from his son, who had been captured by the Loyalists. The ultimatum:  If the father didn’t surrender the Alcazar to them, they would kill his son.  The father weighed his options.  After a long pause and with a heavy heart, he said to his son, “Then die like a man.” (Daily Walk, April 16, 1992).


If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream.  When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 95)


Why the Dead Sea?:

We have heard of dead people, dead beasts, dead trees and dead flowers, but is there such a thing as a dead sea?  There is and they call it dead because it receives all and gives nothing.  This body of water—the most remarkable in the world—is at the southern end of the Jordan Valley in Palestine.  It is 47 miles long and ten miles wide, 1292 feet below the sea level and is in one of the hottest regions on earth.  It receives 5,000,000 tons of water daily into its bosom from the Jordan river, but gives none out to refresh and nourish the valley below, which has become an arid desert on account of the close-fistedness of the sea.  Its water is five times as salty as the ocean, is bitter to the taste, oily to the touch and leaves a yellow stain.  No fish live in the water, no flowers bloom or fruits grow on its shores, no birds sing in its neighborhood.  Its barkless driftwood and shores are incrusted with salt.  Its setting is a scene of desolation and gloom, looking as if the curse of God rested on all the region.

It is a striking emblem of the selfish life.  Selfishness is the base of all sin.  —Gospel Herald


C-  The more we see Jesus the more we will be like Him and the more effective we will be as fishers of men called to rescue the fish.  (Prv 11:30; Mt 18:11; Lk 5:32; 19:10; Rom 5:8; 8:29; Phil 3:21; 2 Pt 1:4; 1 Jn 3:2)



“The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world.   If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.” (Jesus of Nazareth video)


When the metaphor of fishing is used again in 13:47-50, the same “catching” will lead for some to judgment and for others to salvation.  It is a metaphor for the time of decision, and Simon and Andrew will have a role in bringing people to that decision (10:5-15; 28:19-20).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 147)


The church is to bear the cross the world deserves, sharing in Christ’s sufferings.  We are to move as self-sacrificing priests among those who are poor, hurt, diminished, and afraid.  We are to identify with them, cast our lot with them, get involved with them, suffer with them.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.; Assurances of the Heart, 179)


Here’s the problem:  we put men to work in the church duplicating tapes, and they think they are duplicating tapes.  They are not!  They are creating lifeboats that can rescue drowning souls!  They are forging swords that can pierce the darkness that binds the captives.  Every usher and parking lot attendant, every teacher and team leader must see himself as a link in a chain going back to Christ Himself, a foot soldier in the army that is transforming the world.   That’s the power of vision, and without it men perish!  (David Murrow; Why Men Hate Church, 159)


Following Christ also involved perseverance because following is not an isolated act, done once and for all and never to be repeated.  Rather, it is a lifetime commitment that is not fulfilled until the race is won, the final barrier crossed, the crown received, and all rewards laid gratefully at the feet of Jesus.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 67)


A true disciple is one who follows Christ to the end of everything.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 67)


When you say you follow Christ, that is supposed to mean that you follow His values and his ways.  Do we truly follow Christ or are we just talk?


We’re in a new era where people want less of your carefully scripted evangelism sales presentation and more personal demonstrations of your genuineness, your authenticity.  They want to see evidence that what you believe has legs–that it does something.  They’re not impressed with suits and ties, with empty ceremony repeated over and over, and with people who talk big but don’t deliver on their promises.  Rather, they’re drawn to untrained voices in music, torn jeans, passionate emotions, and real stories.  Fail there, and you lose them.  Show your heart and you win them.  (Gordon MacDonald, Who Stole My Church?, 73)


Behind the scenes,  invisible to men on the stage and in the audience a spiritual battle is being fought out.  The Devil’s grim activities graphically depict it.  He is likened to a hunter who captures his quarry alive in some clever snare or trap.  He also drugs or inebriates them.  For the word used of his captive’s escape, means literally to become sober or to come to one’s senses again after a period of diabolical intoxication.

From such a captivity in which men are both trapped and doped by the Devil,  only God can deliver them by giving them repentance, unto an acknowledgment of the truth.   Yet He effects the rescue through the human ministry of one of His servants who avoids quarreling and teaches with kindness, forbearance and gentleness.  (John R. W. Stott; Commentary on 2 Timothy: 2:26; as quoted in Charles Swindoll’s message; “What It’s Like to Fish with Jesus” Luke 5:1-11; OSG 7-A)


Our private devotions have often been the vain attempt to find nourishment or joy in the Word of God.  We failed because our first thought was the selfish one of seeking comfort or holiness for ourselves.  Let us repent and learn that a Christian is saved so that Christ may use him for the welfare of the whole Body and of those who have not yet been gathered into it.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 80)


This country including you and most of the people related to you by birth or marriage or both is populated by beings who have been so blessed for so long that they have become almost completely immune to any interests other than their own.  (Denis Leary, Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid)


A few years ago, a study that consisted of two questions was done with college students:

  1. How happy are you?
  2. How many dates did you have in the last month?

The researchers found a weak correlation between the level of happiness and the number of dates.  But then the researchers flipped the order of the questions:

  1. How many dates did you have in the last month?
  2. How happy are you?

All of a sudden, there was a strong correlation.  What happened?  The sequence of the questions forced students to focus on their dating status.  And focusing on how few dates they’d had sabotaged their general level of happiness.  Psychologists call it the focusing illusion.

What is your financial focus?

Are you focused on what you have or what you don’t have?  That is the difference between gratitude and greed.  Are you focused on this life or the next?  That is the difference between stinginess and generosity.  Are you focused on your wants or others’ needs?  That is the difference between selfishness and compassion.  It’s also the difference between unhappiness and joy.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 36-37)


In Mother Teresa’s India, the hopeless and the dying are like an endless sea of despair. Someone asked her how, considering this enormity, she could continue day after day, year after year with her ministry to the dying.  How could she not be overwhelmed when her efforts were contrasted with the needs?  She could do only a little.

She responded that looking at it that way applied the wrong math. She used subtraction. Every time she loved and cared for a destitute and dying man, every time she rescued a girl from prostitution, she was subtracting from despair and adding to hope.  (The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 102)


“A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great church.”   (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church)


From many subsequent accounts in the gospels we know that none of the disciples at this time had a passion for souls, or a passion for any part of the Lord’s work.  In fact, their response to unbelief was to call for instant divine destruction (see Lk 9:51-56).  Passion came only after understanding and obedience.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 119)


Worship Point:  Think about Who Jesus is.  And He has called you to be a disciple?  If these are in proper perspective, worship will follow.


Human history was altered forever by this group of disciples, and it began with four local fishermen.  Hardly a world-changing task force!  But this is the beauty of God’s design, namely, to take weak and lowly sinners and enable them to do far more than they (or anyone else) could ever imagine, all to the praise of His glorious grace!  May He use us and our churches to change our own world today.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 84)


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a Great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 55-56)


Gospel Application:  Again, Jesus does not count on us and our effort to be disciples.  Jesus’ plan is to MAKE you disciples by looking to Him. 


Spiritual Challenge: Turn your eyes upon Jesus.   Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.  In the LIGHT of His glory and grace.


We have gone from fishers of men to keepers of the aquarium”  —Paul Harvey commenting on the state of the 21st Century American Church.


Quotes to Note:

Jesus and his disciples had a very different view of discipleship.  They made no distinction between “being saved” and living in obedience to God.  To be saved was to be totally committed to a life of obedience–to walk as the Rabbi walked, to become like him.  They did not do this in order to be saved, but rather because they were saved.  Thus the goal of the community of Jesus is not to make converts but to make disciples.  Salvation, of course, is essential, but it is the entrance to the path of discipleship rather than the final destination.  That is why the apostle James wrote, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (Jas 2:17).  (Ray Vander Laan, In the Dust of the Rabbi Discovery Guide, 11-12)



Be fishers of men.  You catch em’

He’ll clean em’. 





the Called



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