THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
Lord, on this day of revelation (Epiphany), I rejoice that the gospel of the kingdom is for all peoples in all places.
Read MATTHEW 4:18–25
Jesus Calls His First Disciples
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.
Jesus Heals the Sick
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. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,[a] Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
- Matthew 4:25 That is, the Ten Cities
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Teach us, Lord, the true cost of discipleship and make us willing to meet it.
The call of the disciples as Jesus walked ‘beside the Sea of Galilee’ (v 18) is far from being the romantic, innocuous event it might appear at first glance. It demanded the abandoning of existing occupations and family ties: ‘they left the boat and their father’ (v 22). Capernaum had become an important center for highly profitable fishing businesses, but those who owned boats and actually worked on the lake found themselves increasingly in debt to brokers (described in the Gospel as ‘tax gatherers’).1 Jesus’ call to follow Him and become ‘fishers of men’ (v 19, KJV) was a summons to radical discipleship in the context of a kingdom movement which would challenge the values responsible for the ‘darkness’ existing across Galilee (vs 15,16). The alternative values shaping this new movement were to be spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount.
However, the movement initiated by Jesus is radical in another sense, because not only does He invite the fishermen who suffered the injustice of taxation and extortion to follow Him, but He also calls the very people who benefited from this corrupt system, inviting them to abandon their privileged positions and join the movement too! Thus, Matthew is called to follow Christ while ‘sitting at the tax collector’s booth’!2 In this way the calling of the disciples demonstrates the nature of the kingdom of God; it not only brings justice to the poor and oppressed, but offers liberation and a life freed from the idolatry of wealth and possessions to people at the other end of the social scale. Thus, the barriers separating people are removed and a new community of love and justice begins, slowly and with setbacks, to emerge.
Does your church reflect the kind of community we have just described? How might it become more like the movement Jesus initiated?
Heavenly Father, sometimes following Your will causes me great anxiety and struggle. I need Your empowering to always embrace Your direction.
1 On fishing in Galilee, see KC Hanson and DE Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, first edition, Fortress Press, 1998, p99–112 2 See Matt 9:9–13