“Jesus Began to Preach”
“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;) And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 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. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 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. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 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. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. 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. 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 lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.” (Matthew 4:12-25)
When we read the four gospels, we must not imagine that each of the evangelists recorded things in the same chronological order. They did not. Each one wrote out the history of our Lord’s earthly life and ministry, as he was led by the Holy Spirit, to best serve the purpose of his own gospel narrative. So the fact that Matthew’s history is not consecutive is of no concern to us. It was not his design to make it so.
Several things happened between our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness and his appearance on the shores of Galilee preaching the gospel.
Many months had passed, probably more than a year, since our Lord’s temptation and the calling of his first disciples. At any rate, Matthew begins his account of our Lord’s public ministry in Galilee. In these verses we see the Lord Jesus preaching in the synagogues and along the streets of Galilee after the imprisonment of John the Baptist. “These are sweet views, wrote Robert Hawker, “of Jesus in his humbleness of character. And what a blessed proof they become in proof of his mission (Isa. 9:1-2).”
Our Lord Jesus was the first Preacher of that great salvation which he accomplished (Heb. 1:3); and as such he is held before us as the great Pattern and Example all true gospel preacher must follow.
A Singular Message
Unlike the religious world in his own day and more especially in this day, the Lord Jesus began his public ministry with the utmost simplicity: without pomp and pageantry, without press conferences, advance men, and announcements, he just began to preach. Without calling attention to himself at all, he just began to preach!
The time when he began to preach was “when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison” (v. 12). When John the Baptist had done his work, he was laid aside. Like the two witnesses in Revelation 11:7, when he had born his testimony, John was slain, and not a moment before.
“Mortals are immortal here
Until their work is done!”
God never leaves himself without a witness. He never leaves his church in the wilderness without guides. When John’s work was finished, the Lord God raised up other faithful witnesses to proclaim the gospel of his grace and glory. He who raised up Moses can raise up Joshua. There is no lack with our God.
The place where our Lord began his ministry was in Capernaum, in Galilee of the Gentiles. (vv. 13-16). He left Nazareth because the people there rejected his message and had rejected him (Luke 4:29). He came to Galilee because some of God’s elect were to be found there. He came to Capernaum because the Scriptures had to be fulfilled (Isa. 9:1-2).
Like the inhabitants of Capernaum, like the Gentiles of Galilee long ago, you and I were in gross darkness. We sat in darkness because we loved it. We did not seek the light, but upon us great light has come. The light of Christ and the grace and glory of God in him has shined into our hearts, creating in us life and faith in Christ (John 1:1-14; 2 Cor. 4:4-6). When the gospel comes, light comes (Luke 1:78-79; John 3:19). When the gospel comes into the heart in the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit, we are made new creatures in Christ (Gen. 1:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:17).
He came to Capernaum because Capernaum in Galilee, the place of Gentile “nothings” and “nobodies”, was the place from which he would fetch trophies of his grace (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Galilean speech was crude. Galilean people were poor, illiterate, and uncouth. Galileans were the rough-necks on the other side of the tracks. These are the people from whom our Lord would call out a people to serve him, by whom he would build his church and kingdom.
The message our Lord preached was the same as that of John the Baptist. ― “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 17). Our Lord Jesus could have dazzled the brains of men with deep, profound theology, or by unraveling the hidden mysteries of prophecy, or by opening up the intricate complexities of the law. But he chose not to do so. He preached one message. He preached the necessity of repentance, the necessity of trusting him alone for acceptance with God (Acts 20:21). He preached that message constantly (Luke 13:1-5). And he preached that message urgently, – “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” The Lord of Glory was a preacher. Let all who claim to be preachers follow his example and reiterate his message.
“There is no office so honorable as that of the preacher. There is no work so important to the souls of men. It is our office, which the Son of God was not ashamed to take up. It is an office to which he appointed his twelve apostles. It is an office to which Paul in his old age specially directs Timothy’s attention. He charges him with almost his last breath to ‘preach the Word’ (2 Tim. 4:2). It is the principle means which God has always been pleased to use for the conversion and edification of souls. The brightest days of the church have been those when preaching has been honored. The darkest days of the church have been those when it has been lightly esteemed.” (J.C. Ryle)
His Chose Messengers
“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. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 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. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him” (vv. 18-22).
When our Lord began to preach, he began to gather disciples. In these verses we see our Lord’s calling of two sets of brothers to himself. Here we have an example of the effectual call. Do not overlook the sovereignty of our Lord’s call. What marvellous light and omnipotent grace must have accompanied his words! The effectual, or irresistible call of God the Holy Spirit (2 Tim, 1:9; 2 Peter 1:10) is that which he performs by the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 10:13; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). It is this gracious call of omnipotent mercy by which sinners who are dead in trespasses and sins are born of God and given faith in Christ.
We also have in these verses an example of the call to the gospel ministry. Peter and Andrew, and probably James and John, had been called to Christ earlier (John 1:40-41). They were now called to be preachers of the gospel. They were called by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, not by mere men, but by the Son of God, to be “fishers of men.” What a great privilege this is! These rough, unlearned, Galilean fishermen were chosen and gifted of God to preach the gospel.
What were they doing when the Lord Jesus called them? They were taking care of business in their given sphere of life and responsibility. They were fishing. They were mending their nets. “They were busy in a lawful occupation when he called them to be ministers. Our Lord does not call idlers, but fishers!” (C. H. Spurgeon)
What did the Master call these men to do? – “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (v. 19). As ordinary disciples they had been following the Lord, as such it was proper for them to continue in the pursuit of their careers. But now the Lord calls them to the work of the gospel ministry. He separates them to the work of the gospel. God’s preachers are fishers of men. And Christ alone can make men fishers of men.
In order for a man to be a fisher of men, in order for a man to be a gospel preacher he must be separated unto the gospel (Rom. 1:1). That means that he must follow Christ. His life must be ruled by the Word of God and the direction of God the Holy Spirit. He must drop all earthly interest and concerns. These men left their boats and their nets. Like Peter and Andrew, and these sons of Zebedee, all who are called of God to the great work of preaching the gospel must separate themselves from all earthly concerns, being entirely devoted to the work of the gospel. As James and John left their father Zebedee sitting in the boat, bewildered I imagine, so God’s servants must not allow their dearest relations to keep them from obeying him.
Yes, that means that a man who is called of God to preach the gospel is to abandon other occupations, living upon the generosity of those whose souls they serve. God’s preachers are to be supported by the free gifts of God’s people. The Word of God is crystal clear in teaching this (2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 6:1-6).
The Master’s Miracles
“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. 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 lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.” (vv. 23-25).
Concerning the miraculous cures the Lord Jesus wrought among men, let me simply point out four things about them. First, they were many. Our Savior was no religious charlatan. He cured every disease known to men. He cured men of the palsy, the greatest weakness of the body. He healed lunatics of their great mental disorders. He cast out devils. And this man, who is God, even raised people from the dead by the mere word of his power. Second, they were miraculous. All were wrought in such an open and public manner that no one questioned their supernatural power. Third, they were merciful. The cures of Christ’s hand were all acts of mercy, free and gratuitous. And, fourth, they were mysterious.
Our Lord’s miraculous healings of bodily disease were meant to teach us his power, to typify his great and miraculous works of grace, to show us the tenderness of his heart, and to give indisputable evidence that he is the Christ (Luke 4:17-22).
What a delightful, comforting picture the Holy Spirit has here drawn of our blessed Savior. Remember, this is the same Savior who now intercedes for us in heaven and rules all the universe for our everlasting good. Though our Lord Jesus is now exalted, he is “yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). He is yet able and willing to heal. He is yet able and willing to save (Heb. 7:25). He is yet moved by the needs of his people.
Remember what was written of him in Isaiah 63:7-9. ― “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.”
While he walked on this earth in all the days of his humiliation, we are told, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” And nothing has changed. Follow the Lord Jesus up to heaven itself and behold “the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne” feeding his own and drying all tears from their eyes forever (Rev. 7:17). Let every believing soul be assured that this Savior will never forget you and will never leave you. It behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest for us; and that is what he is. ― “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).
I insert Robert Hawker’s reflections on this chapter, hoping that his prayer may be yours and mine each time we read these verses.
“Behold on the close of this chapter, how he, who in the opening of it, is said to have been assaulted by hell, is here manifesting forth his sovereignty as God. Oh! that that dear Lord, who thus in the days of his flesh, went about preaching his gospel, and healing the bodies of the diseased, would now, in the day of his Almighty power, come forth in a preached gospel, and heal the souls of his redeemed. Precious Lord Jesus, behold the diseased state of thy church, and in compassion to Zion take the glorious cause into thine own almighty hand. And as then, so now, Lord, cause the multitudes of thy people to come to thy standard, until thou shalt have brought all thy blood-bought children home to thy church, and all the blessed purposes of thy temptations and ministry be abundantly answered in the salvation of thy chosen. Amen.”