After His tempting by Satan, Jesus returned to the Galil and settled in Capernaum.
This was a fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan -
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
He then began to preach:
17From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 4:17 CJSB)
He also immediately began to recruit His apostles. This is all common knowledge. However, in a Bible study this morning, a friend of mine asked a question, "Wasn't Satan active at that time? Why did the future apostles just get up and follow Jesus?" Well, that's all it took to spark curiosity, so here we are.
However, think about it. Did you ever wonder why the ones He recruited just dropped everything and followed Him? Looking back on this from our modern culture after studying the Word, we might just take this for granted because, after all, this was Jesus. But, think about it for a minute. The Jews had been following the law of God, with quite a few modifications of their own, for centuries. They were looking forward to a Messiah, a coming King to take over the control of the world and make them champions. Knowledge had been passed from generation to generation, so this was well-known to every Jew.
Now, appearing on the scene is a man from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, raised as a child where everyone knew of him. He started making noises about people being sinners and needing to "Repent" of their ways. He was not a king, or even a powerful soldier. He was, essentially, nobody.
"Psst. Hey buddy, c'mere..."
One day He walked up to Andrew and Simon Peter:
18As Yeshua walked by Lake Kinneret, he saw two brothers who were fishermen - Shim'on, known as Kefa, and his brother Andrew - throwing their net into the lake. 19Yeshua said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men!" 20At once they left their nets and went with him. (Matthew 4:18-20 CJB)
Was it really that easy?
Did you see it? "At once..." Of course, we don't know how long it actually took for the decision. It seems like Jesus just walked up, saw the brothers, and gave them the pitch. What would you do if someone you hadn't met just walked up to you and told you (not "asked", but told) to follow them and they would put you to work? Did they ask what "fishers for men" meant? Had they heard rumors of what Jesus had been doing? Since this is so early in Matthew, we don't know how much, if any, they had heard about Him. And, they were already "employed" as fishermen, so they didn't really need a job.
Where was Satan?
Now, as my friend mentioned, Jesus had just finished a temptation trial by the king of tempters, so we know Satan was active and trying to trip Jesus up. He did a pretty good job on Eve and Adam, as well as a pretty good attempt at Job. He thought he got first prize with his work on Judas. But, where is he in this series of events? Did God prevent Satan from confusing the potential apostles or conning them as he did with Eve? Why didn't the apostle candidates resist the same way their "brothers", the Pharisees and Sadducees, did. If nothing else, you would expect a doubt to crop up in the minds of his "recruits". So, why no mention of this?
Not just once
I'm not sure about the importance of this thought process, but it certainly something that had never crossed my mind before. Of course, we can conjecture about it. Jesus recognized the hearts of people:
2When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit." (John 21:2 NIV)
So, maybe He knew which ones to approach. Maybe it was longer than we think before He approached the first ones, so they had heard of His miracles. Maybe they were tired and this was like a vacation. Maybe they thought He was asking them to help Him for a short time, kind of like taking a break. Heck, maybe He turned a little sea water into wine for them. Have you really thought about what you would have done?
Moving to the next verses
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. (Matthew 4:21-22)
There it is again, "immediately..." Now, this one makes a little more sense since these men were working with their father. Maybe they wanted to do something else, or strike out on their own. Again, this would only be conjecture, but it helps make a little sense of this action.
Once He became known, it's easier to see
The verses following this speak of Jesus teaching in the Jewish synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. At that point, His name was well-known, as was His message.
It seems that Jesus was the kind of speaker that people believed. However, that does not explain the attitude of the Pharisees and Sadducees who felt insulted and threatened by His teaching. Maybe that's why there are not as many Messianic Jews in Israel. According to Jewish Israel, current estimates show that there are about 20,000 Jews in Israel who believe in Christ. Another estimate shows about 300,000 world-wide. This is amazing considering that "large crowds" followed Jesus while He was walking on the earth. Even later, Luke reports in Acts 2:41
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
that three thousand believers were added to their number in one day.
But many of the rest of the people in the area seemed convinced:
23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24News 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. 25Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. (Matthew 4:23-25)
With all this going on, why are there so few today? According to the Jerusalem Post estimates, there may be less today than way back then. Research shows that the 280 Messianic fellowships in Israel contain a little over 15,000 members total. Five years ago, another Israeli paper (Jewish Israel) reported about 20,000, but now you can't even get to their archive site without a login and password. It seems that it is harder to recruit apostles, or even disciples, today. And, they seem to be losing the members they have. Personally, I think it is because the common "church" message is so twisted and distorted from the original that the Jews are too familiar with the word of God to fall for it. Just sayin'.
Since Jesus was so persuasive that He convinced "Large crowds" to follow him, perhaps we would have done so as well. It's hard to say, but that does bring another thought to mind. There are at least seven people currently walking the earth that claim to be a modern incarnation of Christ. You can read about seven of them at observer.com if you think I'm kidding. If one of them came up to you and said, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men!", would you follow? How about if they turned some water into wine? Are you sure?
Remember Jesus' warning
Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:5
4Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many."
to watch out for deceivers. Of course, He could have been from Satan and really wanted us to ignore the real Jesus when He came. The only way to know the real thing is to study the only description we have left to us - the Word of God.
We already have a savior, and I believe He is the true one. All of His history is spoken about in prophecy - His birthplace, His life, His death. However, each of these modern "Christs" has followers - one has over 5,000 of them. Have any of these followers even checked these fellows out? Have any of their followers even read the Bible?
Think about it. What is the difference between Jesus' day and now? The non-Messianic Jews are still waiting for their Messiah to come. How do they plan to determine if another one comes? How do they tell if he is real?
There is only one way that I know of. Know the Word of God - really well!
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