(NIV): 12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
How did you decide where you live and what career you chose? For many people, they were content to stay in the same area in which their parents and grandparents lived. That is still true for some of our members. I also have family members who never lived very far from their ancestors. My own brother lives in the house that our great grandfather built 100 years ago. My wife’s father lives in the house that his grandparents lived in.
There may be a consistancy in the careers we choose as well. Many people follow in their father’s footsteps and sons take over family farms, tradesmen follow the same trade, at times we even hear of professional athletes whose fathers and grandfathers were also professional athletes.
But we don’t have to live in the same places as our parents and we don’t have to have the same careers as our parents. We have the freedom to choose where we will live and what we do to some extent.
This is also true for what political party we identify with, what sports teams we cheer for, what hobbies we have, and even what congregation we are members of. One of the more recent trends on the American religious front is a decrease in “brand loyalty” when it comes to denominational affiliation. It is becoming more and more uncommon for the majority of a person’s descendents to remain in the same denomination as their ancestors.
In this summary of Jesus’ ministry, we see some dramatic changes happening in the lives of Jesus and the men he would call to be his disciples. Jesus makes choices based on political circumstances (surface reasons) and in fulfillment of prophecy. The disciples make choices in response to receiving a call from Jesus himself. Today we will see how some of the things we do are the result of responding to how the Lord calls us through the Gospel to follow Jesus.
12. He retired into Galilee. This journey was not immediately after his temptation. He first went from Judea into Galilee, John 1:43; ch. 2:1. Then into Judea again, and celebrated the passover at Jerusalem, John 2:13. He baptized in Judea while John was baptizing at Enon, John 3:22, 23. All this time John was at liberty, ver. 24. But the Pharisees being offended, ch. 4 ver. 1 and John put in prison, he then took this journey into Galilee.
13. Leaving Nazareth—Namely, when they had wholly rejected his word, and even attempted to kill him, .
Here we have Jesus making some choices. Matthew was silent on it but John tells us about the ministry of Jesus in Judah summarized above. Continuing his ministry in Judah proved to be dangerous because of the political situation so Jesus decided to return to Galilee where he had grown up.
Application: At times we choose to relocate because of unfavorable circumstances. In the 1800’s the United States saw mass immigration because of the Irish potato famine, oppressive governments, or better economic opportunities. You may recall why your own ancestors moved to Wisconsin at that time. Many small towns in rural America suffer from “brain drain” as educated youth leave the moderate lifestyle of our area for more economic and social opportunities of the “Big City”.
Even in the spread of the Gospel, Jesus instructed his disciples to choose where they would preach the gospel based in part on how the people would respond. Matthew 10:11–15 (NIV): 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
On the surface it seems as though Jesus withdrew to Galilee to avoid arrest by Herod. But we also see that this was part of God’s plan all along. Matthew tells us that this was to fulfill the words of Isaiah which he quotes. Jesus came as a light to the people in darkness.
The “light” message that he preached is summarized in this way, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
What does this mean?
So we see a major shift in the ministry of Jesus. The next two years he would spend most of his time and ministry in Galilee and visit Jerusalem mainly for special festivals. Another major shift is the calling of full time disciples. If we were to read only Matthew’s gospel, the decision to follow Jesus seems very abrupt and profound with no previous experience with Jesus. We know from John that this is not the case. The difference seems to be that before this they were with Jesus on a part time basis and now it was full time. Nevertheless, they showed great commitment and this caused a major change in their lives as Peter would later summarize: (NIV): 28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Why did Peter and the other disciples do this? It starts with receiving a call. On a formal basis we see this most often in our synod in regard to pastors, teachers, professors, and other “called workers”. When I was in high school, I chose to attend NWC. Dean Lindeman taught us that the Lord did not call us to attend college but that we were preparing ourselves to be eligible some day for a call. After college I chose to attend WLS in Mequon. Still not called. But my third year I was called to be a vicar. I had no idea where that would be. Turned out it was only about ten miles away in Wauwatosa. At the end of my studies at the seminary, I was eligible for a call into the public ministry. Along with other graduates of the seminary over the decades, I had no idea where I would serve but we all approached Call Day with the prayer “Here I am, send me.”
Well, Jesus did not walk past me and say, “Come, follow me.” But I believe that the Holy Spirit called me through proper channels to Spokane, Washington. Over the past 34 years I have never put in an application or chosen on my own to move to where I lived or to serve the congregations I have. The Holy Spirit called me through voters of congregations to be their pastor. In this way the public ministry of our synod is based on the belief that where we choose to live and work as called workers is beyond our own control but in the hands of God.
In the lesson in Catechism class on the Ministry of the Keys, I teach about how the calling process works. But I also teach that the majority of Christians who are not called into the public ministry are still called to minister — to follow Jesus and to serve God with the gifts you have where you are. (Illustration on stewardship and an appeal to follow Jesus in faith and deeds.)
And so . . . all who have been called by the Holy Spirit to believe in Jesus have also been called by Jesus to follow him. We demonstrate that by the choices we make and how we use the various gifts that God himself has given to us. As we read in (NIV): 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
For some it may involve serving full time as a called worker. For most (and no less valuable) it meants entrusting ourselves to Jesus and having him guide us in our lives as we worship and serve him.