Follow and Watch
Read – Matthew 4:12-22
Key Verse – Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV).
Key Thought – We are called to FOLLOW, and watch as HE MAKES US into fishers of men.
Two fishermen, who lived
along the Sea of Galilee,
stood by the shore to cast
their nets into an ageless sea.
Now Jesus watched them from afar,
then called them each by name.
It changed their lives,
these simple men;
they’d never be the same.
I want to look into vs. 19 this morning – Jesus’ call to His disciples. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV).
He called them to be fishers of men. Or did He?
We’ll start by considering the context, and then we’ll dig deeper into this call.
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17 NKJV).
The phrase “from that time” tells us the context. It was a significant point in Jesus’ life, and a turning point. Notice some of what was happening at “that time:”
John’s ministry was over (vs. 12).
John the Baptist had a unique and interesting ministry.
It was clear that God had something big planned for him when his birth had been announced by the angel Gabriel – For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:15-17 NKJV).
He was the forerunner of the Savior. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light (John 1:7-8 NKJV).
John’s ministry had been to pave the way for Jesus… to let people know the Messiah was coming… to get people thinking about Him and ready for Him. He had a fruitful ministry, preaching his message to many many people. And he baptized them in the Jordan River – Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:5-6 NKJV). He even baptized Jesus Himself. You can read about that event in Matthew 3:13-17.
John’s message had been “repent,” for He is coming (Matthew 3:1-2).
But now, he was imprisoned and soon to be executed.
He had been fearless in his preaching, not shying from telling the truth to all who would hear. He preached to the common people, and he preached to the religious leaders of his day. He had even preached the truth to king Herod. But whereas many heard and listened, many of the religious leaders ignored his message. And Herod was incensed and tossed him into prison. John the Baptist’s public ministry was over. He was imprisoned, and soon he would be killed for his faithful proclamation of God’s Word.
Well, the end of his ministry marked a turning point. He had run before the coming King, announcing His arrival, but now that the King was here, his role was over. He told his disciples, He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30 NKJV).
*Jesus’ public ministry was beginning *(vs. 17).
It’s interesting to see how Jesus got started with His public ministry. Just as most of us would do when starting a large endeavor, He started with some organizational stuff:
– He set up His headquarters (vs. 13).
His headquarters would be in Capernaum.
I and several others here have visited Capernaum on our trips to Israel. It is a fascinating area, with a lot of very significant archaelogical ruins related to the ministry of Christ. As you enter the city, there is a large sign reading, “The Town of Jesus”, and it is called that because so much of His public ministry was centered around that city.
There is a synagogue there where He preached, and conducted miracles. It was there that He healed the man with the withered arm. It was in Capernaum that He healed the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13). In Capernaum today there are ruins of a house, which was Peter’s house. Many amazing things in the gospel account took place in that very house.
Here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we see Him moving from Nazareth, where He had grown up, to Capernaum (vs. 13). It would be His headquarters going forward.
– He began to preach (vs. 17).
When we think of the ministry of Jesus Christ, we learn that it consisted of several things.
When Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius, in Acts 10, he said that He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him (Acts 10:38 NKJV).His ministry, therefore consisted of good works… of healings… of miracles.
But even more central to Jesus’ ministry was preaching (vs 17). And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people (Matthew 4:23 NKJV). Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people (Matthew 9:35NKJV). Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him (Luke 8:1 NKJV).
While healings and miracles were very much a part of His ministry, preaching the gospel was even more so. And the message He preached was, “Repent,” for He is here! John the Baptist had said, “He is coming.” Jesus now said, “He is HERE. I am here.”
– He began assembling His team (vss. 18-22). He called Simon and Andrew, and He called James and John. He would call eight others, the twelve apostles, before He had His entire team assembled.
So that’s the context – John the Baptist’s ministry was over and Jesus’ ministry was beginning. Jesus had set up His headquarters in Capernaum, had begun His preaching ministry, and had begun assembling His team, which would eventually grow to include twelve men.
Next, let’s notice His call to the men who would become His disciples:
Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV).
All of the four men mentioned here were fishermen. Capernaum was a fishing community, located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, and so Jesus’ call was worded in a way that would have had specific meaning to them. They knew fishing. And Jesus called them to leave fishing for fish, and begin fishing for men.
It’s a call, by the way, that He issues to all of us, as well. Whatever our worldly occupation may be… and we have many in this room (some of you are teachers, some in the medical profession… we have firemen and police officers here… we have factory workers and professional people… we have carpenters… we have business owners… we even have a few preachers of the gospel here)… whatever our worldly occupations may be, we are ALL called as the disciples were here, to be fishers of men.
Our sister Teena Embaugh shared her ministry this morning. We praise the Lord for the privilege of partnering with her missionary ministry. She is fishing for men. Last week we heard a report from our own Josh and Alaina who are working hard to finish their deputation, obtain their visas, and head to Ireland to fish for men there. Sean and Marianne’s young son James is fishing for men in India.
Oftentimes when we think of this call of Jesus, we think it applied to only the apostles, but that is not the case. Jesus, upon returning to heaven after His resurrection, said, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV). That great commission applied to and applies to all of us. We have shorted that great commission passage into our mission statement at Friendship Bible Church – “Go… Make disciples… Do it everywhere… and do it until Jesus comes.”
So if this call from Jesus applies to all of us, let’s make sure we understand just what He calls us to. I notice here that Jesus’ call to Simon and Andrew and James and John consisted of two parts. Did you notice that?
There was a requirement. *Then He said to them, “FOLLOW ME, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV). This was their part in the thing.
There was a promise. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV). This was His part in the thing.
My guess is that when many of you hear a sermon such as this, you go immediately to the “I can’t do that” way of thinking. You don’t like to speak in public (few do), or, you don’t know your Bible sufficiently to share the gospel (at least that’s what you tell yourself)… you feel totally and completely and absolutely insufficient for the task.
“Fishing for men is a job for the professionals, Preacher.”
Fishing involves a lot of things. It involved a lot of things in their day. Notice what James and John were doing – they were in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets (vs. 21).We often think of the guy who casts the net as the one doing the fishing, but mending the nets was part of fishing. Somebody had to operate the boat. Some had to pull in the fish. Some had to sort and count the fish. Some had to haul the fish to market. There were all kinds of tasks associated with fishing, and I believe ALL of them fell under the heading of fishing.
When Jesus called these men to become fishers of men… and when he calls you and I to the same today… it is not necessarily what most of us assume – a call to some kind of public preaching and speaking of the gospel. It may be that, but it may also be some other role that supports that.
– Our sister Sue Goodyear fishes for men every week as she serves behind the scenes in the church office.
– Our sister Sharon Elmert does the same as she keeps the books and pays the bills.
– Yesterday we had an army of ladies fishing for men in the church kitchen, as they cooked and served the men’s prayer breakfast.
– We have Sunday School teachers who love your kids and prepare lessons and activities for them every week. They are fishing for men.
– We have deacons who fish for men by keeping the lights lit, the parking lot plowed, the lawn mowed, the sidewalks clean, the water flowing, and the building operating.
– Our amazingly talented worship leader, Beth, and her wonderful praise band, are all fishing for men with the musical abilities God gave them.
You see, some cast the net, and some mend the nets. Some count the fish, and some clean the fish. But it’s all fishing!!!
THANK GOD, we’re not all called to be preachers! We’d drive each other crazy. And we’d accomplish little. This church is not what it is today because of my preaching in this pulpit. God has used that, no doubt, but no more than he has used the men who hand out bulletins at the door, or the brothers and sisters who pray on Wednesday nights, or the quiet ministries of people like Larry and Karen who come in here when nobody is looking and straighten the supplies in the chairs before services.
So yes, we are all called to be fishers of men, but fishing involves a lot of things.
And here’s the kicker:
We are not actually called to be fishers of men… we are called to follow Him (that is the requirement)… and HE WILL MAKE US fishers of men (that is the PROMISE).
Study these apostles sometime and you’ll be struck by something remarkable – none of them were remarkable. They were just normal guys. Actually, some of them were kinda goofballs. Simon is one of my favorites – brash, loud mouthed, always speaking before thinking. I see way too much of myself in Simon. Or Thomas, who was always doubting everything. Or James and John, who were glory hounds, seeking recognition and fame. None of these guys were exceptional in any way, but still Jesus called them.
And He called them to FOLLOW HIM. Then He PROMISED to MAKE THEM fishers of men. The order is significant!
Yesterday morning we enjoyed a wonderful men’s prayer breakfast. Trudy and her army did another amazing job with the breakfast, itself, and our brother Don Richards did a great job with his message from the Word. On Wednesday evening prayer meetings, the elders take turns leading the meeting and sharing from the Word, and this past week that was brother Don, too. I came away from prayer meeting this past week thinking that Don’s message was one of the best we’d ever had in prayer meeting.
But Don would be the first to admit that he was not always so good at fishing. I remember when Don first came to this church. He would struggle mightily to read the Bible aloud. He was anything but a public speaker. He mentioned that yesterday morning in his devotional to the men. But now… today… he is getting pretty stinkin’ good at public speaking. WHY? It’s not because he’s been off to school learning to teach and preach. I submit it’s because Don had and has the order right. He answered the call to follow Jesus, and Jesus has been working in his life to MAKE HIM a fisher of men.
Oh my brothers and sisters… if we get the order wrong we’ll fall flat on our faces. But if we get it right, there’s no telling the fish we can catch for Jesus.
Concentrate on FOLLOWING HIM, and you’ll be amazed at how He will MAKE YOU a successful fisher of men.
That same thought is seen other places in the Bible. I’ve often noted that my life verse if Jeremiah 33:3 – Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not. But I’ve also often noted that there is another verse that is a close second in my heart and mind – Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:16 NKJV). Paul admonished Timothy to concentrate on two things – his walk with God and his teaching of the Word. And the order there was the same as the order in Jesus’ call to the apostles – life first, ministry second… follow first, fish second.
Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV).
If we will just follow… He will make us fishers.
So there is the challenge today – follow Him, and watch Him turn you into a fisher of men.
A few questions in closing.
*Have you followed Jesus? *
– Somewhere you had to have taken the first step. Somewhere and sometime you had to have come to the realization that you are a sinner, and lost.
– Somewhere and sometime you had to have heard the truth that Jesus died on the cross for you, and
– Somewhere and sometime you had to have called out to Him and asked Him to be YOUR savior.
Have you done that? Can you honestly say that you remember what it was like to know you were lost, and that you actively took that first step to follow Jesus and be saved? It happens to NOBODY automatically, or by chance. It takes a decision on your part. You have to believe, and you have to receive. You have to call out to Jesus and ask for it. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31). *But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12). For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
Have you done that?
If not, please do it today. When we sing in just a minute, I’m going to ask you to not even sing a single word, but to immediately step out of your seat and walk to the front here. I’ll meet you here, and have somebody pray with you and help you understand what you need to do in order to be saved… in order to BECOME a follower of Jesus.
If you have not done this, there is nothing in your life that is more important than the next few minutes. Eternity rests on this. Jesus asked, What will a man give in exchange for his soul (Mark 8:37 NKJV)? This is life or death for you.
Here is another question – ARE you following Jesus?
Maybe you took that initial step of following Him, and know you are saved. But ARE you following Him now, everyday, in every way?
– Are you following Him the same on Monday as on Sunday?
– Are you following Him at work, the same as at church?
– Are you following Him in front of your family? Your spouse? Your kids? Your parents?
– Are you following Him at school?
– Do your neighbors see you following Him?
– Does your boss know you follow Him?
I’m always convicted by a particular description of Peter during those dark hours when he denied knowing Jesus. Jesus had been arrested and taken to trial, and Peter followed Him AT A DISTANCE… (Matthew 26:58).
Too many Christians follow Jesus at a distance, if at all. Are you one? If so, I’m going to encourage you, too, to step out in a minute as we sing and kneel here at this altar. Follow Him, Christian. Even if you haven’t been… even if you’ve been following at a distance… step out today and follow Him.
Then watch Him make you into the fisher of men you ought to be.