Today in our study of Matthew marks the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and the calling of the first disciples. Matthew begins to paint a portrait of Jesus for us to communicate exactly who this man really is. In chapter 4, verses 12-25, Jesus fulfills yet another ancient prophecy, proving he is the foretold Messiah. Matthew speaks of two specific cities Jesus passed through in his return to Galilee after his time in the desert, Zebulun and Naphtali. Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would travel this route many years earlier (Isaiah 9:1-2). As he begins to preach, Jesus echos the words of his cousin, John the Baptist, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The first element of the portrait Matthew is painting shows Jesus is both fully man and fully God.
During his trek, Jesus passes by fishermen working on their boats in the Sea of Galilee. As he draws near, he makes a proposition to the men. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Verse 20 recounts these men left their posts immediately and followed. Jesus is the new Exodus, leading his people out of exile like Moses did centuries earlier. Simon (Peter) and Andrew recognized this man for who he was, their long awaited Messiah, and did not hesitate to stand at his side.
Jesus continues on with his band of committed followers, drawing attention and preaching everywhere he went. As he preached in the synagogues he also took time to supernaturally heal the sick and diseased in his presence. Verse 24 strikes a very personal chord in my own life. This verse became part of my father’s prayers when I was diagnosed with epilepsy nearly twenty years ago. This December 13 will mark ten years I have been free from seizures and all anti-convulsant medication. Jesus is the merciful and righteous judge.
The crowds received their proof, the Messiah is here. Jesus is the new Adam, the true Israel. His words and his actions established his place as the light of the world, and the people could not be silent. The further he went and the more he preached, the farther word of him traveled across countries, spreading by word of mouth from town to town. Just as Jesus alluded to in his analogy of being “fishers of men” in verse 19, evangelism became the heart of his ministry; people reaching people and teaching them to reach more through the love preached by Jesus.
This is our litmus test for faith. Are you having a stronger impact on people around you because of your faith in Jesus? If you are not, have you honestly placed your faith in him? Jesus gauged the faith of his disciples using a single question; who do you say I am? How would you answer?
As much as I resist drawing portraits of Jesus, that is the focus of today’s message and, alas, the focal point of my drawing. This is not your traditional fair-skinned Jesus you may remember from the stale-smelling Sunday school classroom wall. This face holds is sad and exhausted, the scars from his thorny crown only partially healed. Above his head, written in Greek, is the word exodus. Exodus literally means a mass departure. Jesus leads this mass departure from the prison of self-serving sin; the weight of our exodus lays in his shoulders. Below his face, the simple call he makes to us, “follow me.”
To join in our exodus is to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus is to know who he is and live with urgent obedience to his mission.
Who do you say he is?