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The Call


Lesson audio

It is a happy occasion when one of your children marries. Of course, they are in love – but you are pondering just what might be said about the unknowns of marriage:

  • They don’t know where life will take them. Geography uncertain, neither destination nor paths laid out.
  • They don’t know what experiences they will have along the way. Some will be gainful, others not – but they have no idea of this.
  • Perhaps most important of all, they do not know the truths they will need to learn.

“What” they do not know. Their relationship adventure spins about “who,”, not “what.” All they really know is a person, the beloved person. On this, they risk their lifetimes of happiness and joy. We shall see a similar call in this lesson.

Beginning of Christ’s Ministry

Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES-- "THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED." From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

(Mat 4:12-17 NASB)

It is important to note that Jesus begins His preaching when that of John the Baptist ends. They don’t overlap, and Jesus is careful to have this so. Why?

  • One simple reason is that all earthly ministries have an end to them; this is how God changes those ministries.
  • Another reason is to avoid any confusion about who really is the Messiah. John’s purpose was to go before the Messiah; he would be a failure if the world took him to be the Messiah.
  • As God the Father had His prophets, so must God the Son. John is the last of the Old Testament prophets, for now Messiah is come.
  • Perhaps most important, John’s imprisonment confirms to the crowd his holy life – and therefore the Messiah he introduces.
The retreat into Galilee

You will note that Jesus comes to John at the Jordan to be baptized – but begins His ministry some distance to the North:


(The map is taken from the Son Light maps insert in E-Sword)

Why did he retreat into Galilee?

  • One reason is simply this: so that the prophecy would be fulfilled. In fulfilling it, He also explains it.
  • Another reason is an example to us. We are taught to flee persecution, so that the Gospel might spread. Here we are taught by example.
  • But I suspect his real purpose was to find his disciples – they would be rough and ready men, not ones with the polished sophistication of Jerusalem’s Pharisees.
His message

So Christ begins the first year of His ministry on earth, and His message is, “Repent.” Not, as most suppose, “Be born again.” In all the New Testament, the phrase occurs only twice: once for Nicodemus[1] and once in First Peter.[2] Why should one repent? Because the Kingdom of Heaven[3] is at hand. The time to choose is now. The kingdom is at hand; it is easily available to you. The kingdom is at hand; you must reach for it, for God will not drive you into it. You have to grasp it.

The Call

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He *said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

(Mat 4:18-22 NASB)

Jesus calls His first disciples. It often puzzles modern Christians why Jesus does things this way. After all, if we wanted disciples, we’d write a curriculum, have it reviewed and improved by experts (while raising support for it) and eventually set up an academy of some sort. This is a grievous error.

Person to person

Understand the difference between modern and ancient teaching: modern teaching aims at pouring facts (and often enough prejudices) into the eager minds of children – who, by the way, get very bored with this approach. Is it any wonder, then, that the student (having been taught that teen age rebellion is both inevitable and good) often refuses to have more of it?

True teaching has but one purpose: to bring the students up to the example of the teacher. Our youth understand this implicitly: look at the bracelets with WWJD on them. They want to follow in the right way, but our educators make this very difficult. To the ancient mind, the education would be student learning to be like teacher, and then passing along that wisdom. As late as the 19th century in America, the president of the United States could put this simply:

Give me a log hut, with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins[4] on one end and I on the other, and you may have all the buildings, apparatus, and libraries without him.

--James A. Garfield

The ultimate example of this is Christ Himself. So then, how does one follow Christ?

The life of those who are called

Jesus gives you a simple illustration: Take up your cross and follow Me.[5] It sounds so dreadful – and then He tells us that His burden is light.[6] How can this be, unless you carry your cross with His help?

“But” you may ask, “how could anyone endure such things for a lifetime?” It depends upon your motives. Parents do this almost without thinking; they never really give up teaching their children. Why is this? Because we love our children. Love is also the cause of taking up the Cross – love for God Himself.[7] Learn at the feet of Jesus, then walk in His ways.

Bearing the Cross

On of my favorite writers put it this way:

TO MANY the saying, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me,” (Matt. 16:24.) seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. 25:41.) Those who hear the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear of eternal damnation on the day of judgment. This sign of the cross will be in the heavens when the Lord comes to judge. Then all the servants of the cross, who during life made themselves one with the Crucified, will draw near with great trust to Christ, the judge.

Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross.

Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life. He Himself opened the way before you in carrying His cross, and upon it He died for you, that you, too, might take up your cross and long to die upon it. If you die with Him, you shall also live with Him, and if you share His suffering, you shall also share His glory.

Jesus on the march

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

(Mat 4:23-25 NASB)

You will note, please, that Jesus was “going.” The Great Physician makes house calls, it seems; there’s an example that needs following. What is he doing?

  • He is teaching. This is not a showman; it’s the Messiah teaching His people the truth.
  • He is proclaiming the Gospel – the Good News of the kingdom.
  • He is healing.

Of course, once word of this gets around, Jesus is going to find Himself with a crowd. Why does the crowd follow Him?

  • For some, it is to watch the healing. Some for their own healing; others for the novelty of it; and for many, it’s the miracle that they think will become the fortress of their faith.
  • Others are attracted by His fame. He becomes a celebrity.

Interestingly, many come from great distances for this. But, at lease, they came.


Is it so much different today? Consider:

  • Many will come to hear a great preacher speak – as long as he keeps his preaching from becoming meddlesome.
  • There are many who preach today who claim miraculous powers – speaking in tongues, healings – many leading others astray. For if your income depends upon donations from TV viewers, you don’t want to preach too much about taking up the cross.

The choice is every before us: come to church, listen to a nice sermon, beat the Baptists to the coffee shop for lunch. But consider well the nature of your Lord’s claims upon you. You call Him Lord; then know this:

Without the Way, there is no going.

            Without the Truth, there is no knowing.

                        Without the Life, there is no living.

[1] John 3:1-10

[2] 1 Peter 1:3, 23

[3] The expression is found only in the Gospel of Matthew. All others use the phrase, “Kingdom of God.” Most scholars think that Matthew was following Jewish custom at the time, which forbade the very mention of God’s name, lest by some accident you blasphemed it. Matthew, you will recall, is writing for the Jews, not the Gentiles. Much of the preaching in Matthew concerns itself with that kingdom.

[4] Noted educator and president of Williams College.

[5] Matthew 16:24

[6] Matthew 11:30

[7] Matthew 22:37-38

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