I want to take you on a journey today of how events might have transpired after Jesus’ time in the wilderness. One of the things I like to do when reading the Gospels is to open them all up on Biblegateway.com in different tabs. That way I can get a complete picture of events as they transpired. After Jesus had defeated Satan in the wilderness, for example, we get a full picture of what He did next.
From the Gospel of Luke, we learn that Jesus returned to Galilee and taught in the synagogues there.
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all (Luke 4:14-15).
The Gospel of Mark gives us a bit more information by telling us that during Jesus’ time in the wilderness John the Baptist was imprisoned. Jesus returns to Galilee with a message similar to John’s – to repent and believe in the gospel. FYI – the word “gospel” means “good news.” Only Jesus has added something extra to his message. He lets us know that “the time is fulfilled”. Meaning that the “time” John was talking about in regards to “one coming” (Mark 1:7) was now fulfilled and that the “kingdom of God” was at hand.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The Gospel of Matthew gives us even more details. In it, we learn that when Jesus heard John was in prison, he went to Nazareth in Galilee first. I find this incredibly moving. Why? He has just heard Herod has imprisoned his cousin. So what does he do? He heads home to see his family. No doubt to give comfort to his mother (John’s aunt). We learn he journeyed to Capernaum (also in Galilee), which was where Peter, Andrew, James and John lived. Matthew gives us specifics regarding the region, and Scripture to back up that the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus. But he leaves out the part about Jesus’ journey to Cana.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“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 sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:12-17).
The Gospel of John confirms that Jesus went to Cana “on the third day”, where he attended a wedding, in which his mother and brothers were present. But, he first travels to Nazareth, and we are filled in as to what transpired there (before the wedding), and it wasn’t pleasant.
He went to the synagogue (as was his custom) on the Sabbath. He stood up and read from the book of Isaiah 61:1-2:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
He then announced to everyone there (keep in mind these are people he has known all his life) that the Scriptures he just read were now fulfilled. He could have stopped there. The people were impressed. In their minds, Jesus just declared that he was going to help people by taking care of the poor and the sick. But that’s not what he meant. So he explains - and ends up getting run out of town (Luke 4:23-30).
Yeah, going to a wedding sounds about good right now. Let’s get out of here!
Is it easy to imagine the sequence of events now? Jesus hears about John’s imprisonment and journeys home to Nazareth. While there, he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath, ruffles some feathers and “on the third day” he travels to Cana for the wedding. He probably made the trip with his mother, brothers and disciples. It is believed this was where he performed his first miracle, which caused his disciples to believe in him. Who were his disciples at that time? John’s gospel tells us they were Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathaniel (John 1:35-50). But, this is a wedding where members of the family and close friends were attending. If Mary was invited along with her family, can we assume that James and John, along with Zebedee and Salome (Mary’s sister, brother-in-law and nephews) would also be there? The Gospels don’t say directly one way or the other, but the celebration of a wedding was a big thing, and Jewish wedding celebrations lasted for seven days. I find it hard to believe Mary’s sister and her family were not there.
John’s gospel also confirms that after the wedding in Cana Jesus, the disciples, along with his mother and brothers, journeyed to Capernaum. Capernaum was the home of Peter and Andrew. It was also the home of Jesus’ cousins, James and John. It was located by the Sea of Galilee. Can’t you just hear Salome suggest to her sister to come to Capernaum for a visit after the wedding?
“Come visit with me, Mary. Why go back to Nazareth where everyone is still in such an uproar. Come to Capernaum. Relax by the sea and stay for a while until everyone cools down a little.” Sure, she never said that, but the writer in me can’t help imagining that she did. So off they all go to Capernaum. And it is here that Jesus officially calls Peter, Andrew, James and John, to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20).
With this sequence of events, we can see why the four fishermen so easily left their trade to follow Jesus. They had just seen their first miracle in Cana. Now they are home in Capernaum. Peter and Andrew are no doubt contemplating what they saw. So they get in their boats and go fishing. Jesus walks by, sees them and says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” How can they say no? They heard John the Baptist declare that he was the Lamb of God. They spent time with him before he went into the wilderness. They have just seen their first miracle in Cana. They don’t hesitate. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew say, “They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” They left their nets! In the water! They forsook everything – their livelihood – to follow Jesus. There was no doubt in their minds as to who Jesus was.
Then Jesus moves on down the shore. He sees his cousins James and John out with their father Zebedee mending their fishing nets. Now keep in mind – these two men have known Jesus all their lives. Their father married Mary’s sister Salome. So they had an “inkling” that Jesus was no ordinary man. They too left everything to follow Jesus after he called them. They left their father Zebedee with the hired help to tend the nets. But Zebedee didn’t stop them because he knew. They all knew who Jesus was and why he had come. They heard the stories of his birth, so imagine their excitement at being asked to be a part of his ministry.
Isn’t that the way it is for all of us who meet Jesus? One day everything is normal, we’re attending weddings, visiting family or maybe out fishing on a boat (or whatever your work is) our plans are set, then you hear about Jesus. And you are ready to change your life in an instant just to follow Him.
“They immediately left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20).
Maybe Jesus is calling you today. Perhaps you have been following him for a while, but he is calling you to do something new that would require a great sacrifice on your part. Would you leave behind everything to obey? Would you forsake your family, quit your job, possibly change all your plans to follow Jesus? Now, he never asked Peter, Andrew, James and John to do any of that. He just said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew in their hearts what that meant for them. But what does it mean for you? For some, it will mean obediently following the Lord as he calls you to become a missionary or a pastor. It might mean that He calls you to stay in your current job, but risk getting fired so that you may tell others about Him. It may mean selling your house and moving somewhere to start all over again. It might mean giving up something you have loved and done all your life because he wants you to go down a new path now. That's what He did with me.
Following Jesus can be different for each person, but the main question we should ask ourselves is this - how willing are you to become a “fisher of men?”