Courage for life Blog

Follow then Fish: Insights from Matthew 4:18-20

May 23, 2023

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20

The first thing I want us to consider is what was happening before this passage – what is the context of these verses? Strictly looking at the account from the Gospel of Matthew, we learn in Matthew 1 about Jesus’ ancestry (1:1-17) and birth (1:18-25). Matthew 2 addresses Jesus’ early childhood, His family’s escape from Herod, his threats against the Messiah (2:1-18), and their return to Nazareth (2:19-23). Matthew 3 moves into Jesus’ adulthood and shares about His cousin, John the Baptist, who preached and prepared the way for Jesus and His ministry (3:1-12). It also contains the account of John baptizing Jesus (3:13-17). Matthew 4 explains how Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (4:1-2), how He overcame (4:3-11), where He went next – the Sea of Galilee, and why – John was arrested (4:12-17), setting the stage for the events that transpire in Matthew 4:18-20.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee,

The Sea of Galilee is a lake on the Jordan River in the region of Galilee. The lake is roughly 12-14 miles long, 6-7 miles wide, and 140-165 feet deep (depending on the source). According to The Lexham Bible Dictionary, the Sea of Galilee is mentioned 197 times in the Bible. However, it is known by various names: Sea of Chinnereth or “Chinneroth,” Sea of Gennesaret, Sea of Tiberias, etc. The Gospels refer to the Sea of Galilee 53 times (48 times as “sea” or “Sea of Galilee”; five times as “lake”). Below are some of the events that took place around the Sea of Galilee:

  • On the banks of the Galilee at Kursi, Jesus exorcised demons and sent them into a herd of swine (Matt 8:28–32).
  • The disciples whom Jesus called into service were mostly fishermen who made their living from the Galilee (Matt 4:13–22).
  • Jesus preached from a boat on the Sea of Galilee (Matt 13:2).
  • Jesus taught by the shore (Mark 4:1–34).
  • Jesus calmed the sea (Mark 4:35).
  • Jesus recrossed the Galilee to Capernaum (Mark 5:21).
  • Jesus walked on the lake (Mark 6:45–53).
  • Jesus cast demons out of a man in Gerasa, or Gadara (Mark 5:1–20).
  • Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:21–43).
  • Jesus fed 5,000 people (probably near Bethsaida, John 6).
  • The miraculous catch of fish and recommissioning of Peter at Mensa Christi (John 21).
  • Healing of a demoniac (Mark 1:21–28).
  • Healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Matt 8:14–15).
  • Healing of a paralytic (Matt 9:2–8).
  • Healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt 8:5–13).
    • Melton B. Winstead, “Galilee, Sea of,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Jesus began His ministry by walking around the location where the majority of His ministry would take place, and then He noticed something.

he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew— throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.

As Jesus was walking along, He noticed these two brothers fishing. But they weren’t strangers to Jesus. They had encountered each other before.

The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). John 1:35-41

This account in the Gospel of John happened before John the Baptist was arrested (Matthew 4:12). Andrew was a disciple of John but left to follow Jesus and had already confessed Jesus as the Messiah to his brother Simon Peter. But why is their occupation mentioned? Because of what Jesus says next.

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me,

In the blog Choose to Follow Jesus, Dr. Angie Bauman shared how the Greek word translated as “disciple” comes from the verb that means “to learn.” She explained how disciples are learners who spend their time and resources learning, studying, and training. Disciples strive to adhere to the teachings of another, meaning they willingly submit to the instruction and guidance of whom they have chosen to follow. Jesus was asking Simon Peter and Andrew to become His disciples and to learn from Him. And what were they going to learn?

and I will show you how to fish for people!”

The concept might seem peculiar at first glance. Simon Peter and Andrew were seasoned fishermen, skilled in their craft, relying on it for sustenance and livelihood. Yet, Jesus presented them with an unexpected proposition: to shift their focus from catching fish to catching people. While the notion may appear perplexing, their immediate response implies a profound understanding. Jesus cleverly utilizes their vocation as fishermen as a metaphor for the task He desires them to embrace – to gather individuals who would willingly follow Him, becoming His disciples. Just as a fisherman gathers fish from the sea, Jesus invited them to gather people, initiating a transformative journey. This invitation illustrates that being a disciple of Jesus encompasses more than personal discipleship; it encompasses the responsibility to disciple others.

And they left their nets at once and followed him.

The Greek word εὐθέως, translated in the NLT as ‘at once,’ is an adverb that vividly depicts the promptness with which Simon Peter and Andrew abandoned their nets. This term encapsulates the sense of immediacy, conveying the notion of acting ‘straightway,’ ‘immediately,’ or ‘forthwith.’ Their unwavering response indicates their resolute decision to forsake their fishing endeavors without hesitation. It is essential to note that these brothers had already encountered Jesus prior to this invitation, as revealed in the context provided by the Gospel of John. Therefore, the seemingly sudden and impulsive nature of the invitation becomes better understood within this broader framework. Their immediate response and unwavering obedience to Jesus’ invitation not only highlight their understanding of what Jesus was offering but also their earnest desire to actively participate in His ministry.

Are you a disciple of Jesus?

Not just physically – meaning you go to church, try to be a good person, etc. But are you actually a disciple of Jesus? Take some time to reflect on your commitment to following Jesus in your daily life. Have you truly left behind your old ways of living and embraced a life of wholehearted devotion to Jesus? Remember, following Jesus involves more than simply acknowledging Him; it requires actively walking in His footsteps, surrendering your will to His, and seeking to align your life with His teachings. Assess the authenticity of your discipleship, make any necessary adjustments, and continually strive for a deeper, more genuine relationship with Jesus as you seek to follow Him faithfully.

Are you discipling others?

In the blog Help Others Follow Jesus, Dr. Angie Bauman explained how as Christians we all have an assignment from God. Jesus invites you to actively engage in bringing others to Him. Just as Simon Peter and Andrew left their nets to follow Jesus, you are invited to leave your comfort zone and actively participate in reaching people with the gospel. Take some time to examine your commitment to sharing the good news and explore different ways to effectively and compassionately reach out to those around you. Consider how you can use your unique gifts, talents, and spheres of influence to be intentional in your interactions, build relationships, and point others to the love and grace of Jesus. Remember, fishing for others is not an optional task but a central aspect of your life as a disciple of Jesus.

Watch the LIVE REPLAY to learn more about Matthew 4:18-20. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.

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