Matthew 4: 12-23
When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee. He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, nestled at the base of the Zebulun
and Naphtali hills. This move completed Isaiah’s sermon: Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, road to the sea, over Jordan, Galilee, crossroads for the nations. People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up.
This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”
Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father.
From there he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God’s kingdom was his theme—that beginning right now they were under God’s government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives. Word got around the entire Roman province of Syria. People brought anybody with an ailment, whether mental, emotional, or physical. Jesus healed them, one and all. More and more people came, the momentum gathering. Besides those from Galilee, crowds came from the “Ten Towns” across the lake, others up from Jerusalem and Judea, still others from across the Jordan.
The end of the Baptist’s mission marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. At the beginning of his preaching, Jesus took up the words of John the Baptist, the same message, but with a different meaning: in Jesus the kingdom of heaven was inaugurated.
The second part of today’s reading tells the story of the calling of the first four disciples. This call promised them a share in Jesus’ work and entailed abandonment of family and former way of life. Three of the four, Simon, James, and John, are distinguished among the disciples by a closer relation with Jesus. They will form Jesus’ inner circle among the Twelve. In the Jewish tradition, rabbis did not choose their followers, but were chosen by prospective disciples for their knowledge and holiness.
Jesus’ dramatic calling must have been appealing when it caused the four men to leave everything “at once.” This highlights the magnetism of his personality which caused people to follow him and share his mission.