Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
This week we return to Matthew’s Gospel as we continue the journey to the Mt. of Transfiguration. We have heard before the words Jesus speaks here as he begins his public ministry in earnest. After all, it was John the Baptist who spoke those now familiar words “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near” (3:2). Oddly enough, the response to the imminent Kingdom of God is repentance. It’s not worship, praise, or adoration. It’s repentance. How do we prepare for the imminent coming of God’s Kingdom marked by Jesus Christ? Repent. And the way the word is used in the original language implies that repentance is not a one-time action. The implication is that Jesus’ (and John’s earlier) call to repentance is an ongoing action. As one commentator wrote, “repentance is an ongoing lifestyle of the people in the Kingdom.” Repentance also ought not to be a call to mourning, sorrow, remorse, or feeling sorry for oneself. Repentance is about preparing, new direction, a new orientation (dare I say, a new journey?). But why are we repenting? From and for what are we repenting? For what are we preparing? The call to repentance is always followed by a reason to repent? Here, it is because the Kingdom of Heaven is near – and Jesus marks the advent of that Kingdom. This is where the second part of the scripture enters into play.
Matthew is no doubt strategic about putting Jesus’ call to repentance right before his call of the disciples as if to say repentance is a pre-requisite for following Jesus. This attitude sets the stage for Jesus’ call and I want to draw attention to two specific things about said call. First, contrary to the fact that in the first century disciples chose their own teachers, Jesus reverses that trend and chose his disciples. It is extraordinary that Jesus not only calls us to repentance but also seeks us out to follow him. Secondly, and perhaps more directly applicable to our lives, is the circumstance of the calling of the first disciples. The disciples weren’t actively looking for a new life and, as I stated a moment ago, they were not seeking Him. They had their own jobs, lifestyles, and habits. But Jesus’ call on our lives, just like those first disciples, is intrusive and disruptive, calling us away from the lives we once knew and towards new life brought by the imminent Kingdom of God. New orientation for our lives and responding to Jesus’ call to follow him will certainly be disruptive and intrusive to our well organized and scheduled lives. So “follow me,” Jesus says!
Blessings for the journey!
See you on Sunday,