“They Followed Him”
“He said to them: ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once abandoning the nets, they followed him.”—Matt. 4:19, 20.
1. Because those to whom Jesus spoke, as recorded at Matthew 4:19, 20, at once abandoned their fishing nets, what questions logically come to mind?
THERE must have been something about this man walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee to make four hardworking fishermen leave their occupation and follow him. Had these fishermen ever seen or heard of this man before? Did they know who he was? Indeed they did! They were well prepared to go when the call came: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” How was this?
2, 3. (a) who did John the Baptist say Jesus was, and how could he have known this to be true? (b) How did John identify Jesus to two of his disciples, and how did Andrew identify Jesus to his brother?
2 This man, Jesus, had been baptized the preceding year (29 C.E.) by John the Baptist. At that time John saw the holy spirit coming down out of heaven and remaining on this Jesus. So later he told his hearers: “I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.” (John 1:34) John spoke right, for the record tells us: “After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water; and, look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. Look! Also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’ Then Jesus was led by the spirit up into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. After he had fasted forty days and forty nights, then he felt hungry.” (Matt. 3:16-4:2) Now three temptations were cleverly put before Jesus by Satan. However, Jesus Christ remained true to his heavenly Father and finally said: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—Matt. 4:10.
3 Now after this experience Jesus came walking toward John the Baptist, and it was quite natural for him to point to Jesus and say: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” The next day two of these Galilean fishermen met Jesus. How? That day “John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he looked at Jesus walking he said: ‘See, the Lamb of God!’ And the two disciples [of John] heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.” Fisherman Andrew was one of the two that said to Jesus: “Rabbi, . . . where are you staying?” “And they stayed with him that day.” Andrew then “found his own brother, Simon, and said to him: ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means, when translated, Christ). . . . When Jesus looked upon him he said: ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).” The next day Jesus desired to depart for Galilee. “So Jesus found Philip.” He was from the same city as Andrew and Peter.—John 1:29, 35-44.
4. With whom did John’s disciples wish to get acquainted, and why?
4 From this we see that John’s disciples wanted to get acquainted with Jesus and did. At least two of the fishermen, to whom Jesus later said, “I will make you fishers of men,” met him first at the Jordan River. Many people knew what John had said about Jesus, that he was the Son of God, the Messiah. It was quite natural, then, for them to want to hear what Jesus had to say. Let us travel a little while with Jesus and see what he does after first getting acquainted with Andrew and Peter and Philip and other disciples.
5. How did Jesus manifest his glory to his disciples at Cana in Galilee?
5 Jesus left the upper Jordan valley and came to Cana of Galilee, where a marriage feast took place. The mother of Jesus was there and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to this wedding celebration. It so happened the wine ran short, and here Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine. This miracle was “the beginning of his signs, and he made his glory manifest; and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:1-11) All these things had happened during the first six months since Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.
6. What does the Bible record say Jesus did at Passover time of 30 C.E. in Jerusalem?
6 Now it is Passover time in the spring of the year 30, and Jesus goes to Jerusalem. In this holy city he showed his indignation toward those who were turning the house of his God into a business place. “He found in the temple those selling cattle and sheep and doves and the money brokers in their seats. So, after making a whip of ropes, he drove all those with the sheep and cattle out of the temple, and he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. And he said to those selling the doves: ‘Take these things away from here! Stop making the house of my Father a house of merchandise!’ His disciples called to mind that it is written: ‘The zeal for your house will eat me up.’”—John 2:13-17; Ps. 69:9.
7. (a) What interesting information did Jesus relate to the Pharisee Nicodemus? (b) What is next reported as taking place in Judean country?
7 Then one night Jesus received a visitor, Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was anxious to hear what this teacher from God had to say. Among other things, Jesus pointed out that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. For God sent forth his Son into the world . . . for the world to be saved through him.” (John 3:16, 17) He further showed that faith in the true God is necessary and that the one “that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.” (John 3:1-21) After this most interesting night meeting “Jesus and his disciples went into Judean country, and there he spent some time with them and did baptizing. But John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim.” “When . . . the Lord became aware that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John—although, indeed, Jesus himself did no baptizing but his disciples did—he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.”—John 3:22, 23; 4:1-3.
8, 9. How did John the Baptist testify that the followers of Jesus must go on increasing, and what important message did Jesus now begin proclaiming?
8 The people and religionists observed this great activity because now Jesus’ disciples were baptizing and John the Baptist was still baptizing. But they observed many more were now following Jesus. In fact, some of John’s disciples said ‘all were going to Jesus.’ John very carefully explained that he was not the Christ but that he was sent forth in advance of the Christ. Then John made a very significant statement, which showed his real, true love for Jesus, the Christ or Anointed One: “He that has the bride is the bridegroom. However, the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore this joy of mine has been made full. That one must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.”—John 3:25-30.
9 Jesus did increase his disciples and many Jews were following him. “Now after John was put under arrest Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the good news of God and saying: ‘The appointed time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Be repentant, you people, and have faith in the good news.’” (Mark 1:14, 15) Matthew confirms this, for he says: “‘The people sitting in darkness saw a great light, and as for those sitting in a region of deathly shadow, light rose upon them.’ From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”—Matt. 4:16, 17.
10. How did Jesus show the people in the synagogue of Nazareth what his work on earth was to be?
10 Now John’s public work was done. He had announced the one who must go on increasing, and after John’s imprisonment Jesus immediately took up the message concerning God’s kingdom. Then he went to Nazareth and read his commission from Isaiah, the sixty-first Isa chapter 61, to all in the synagogue on the sabbath day. “So the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed him, and he opened the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.’ With that he rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were intently fixed upon him. Then he started to say to them: ‘Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.’”—Luke 4:17-21.
11. Up to this time, how many were doing the work Jesus was carrying on, and so what reasonably would be the next step?
11 Not being accepted in his own territory, he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. “And he was teaching them on the sabbath; and they were astounded at his way of teaching, because his speech was with authority.” (Luke 4:31, 32) By this time in Jesus Christ’s ministry there must have been many very attentive listening disciples, learners, but none as yet were called to do the work Jesus was doing. He was carrying on a real teaching program, instructing his disciples to be ready to take on responsibility. Now the time came to select and train certain ones for future work. Whom did Jesus choose first?
DID THEY KNOW WHO HE WAS?
12. (a) How does Matthew 4:18-22 relate the call of Jesus to certain ones to follow him? (b) What was the response of these men?
12 So Peter and Andrew and their companions had gone back to fishing. While Jesus was walking alone along the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, well after Passover of 30 C.E., “he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, letting down a fishing net into the sea, for they were fishers. And he said to them: ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once abandoning the nets, they followed him. Going on also from there he saw two others who were brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. At once leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.” (Matt. 4:18-22) There was not the slightest hesitation to respond on the part of these four fishermen. Like the prophet Isaiah, centuries previously, in their hearts they said: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8) They were ready to go because they knew who Jesus was. This was not the first time they had seen him or heard his word.
13. (a) How could Andrew, Peter, James and John be sure of who Jesus was? (b) What thought-provoking questions now can be asked?
13 Remember, Andrew and a companion stayed with him one evening, almost a year before, and Peter met him when Andrew his brother said to Peter: “We have found the Messiah.” They could have been some of his disciples who were at the marriage feast in Cana. If not with him, surely they heard about Jesus’ cleaning out the money changers in the temple at Jerusalem the following Passover season (30 C.E.). The news about his reading Isaiah’s prophecy at Nazareth a little while before now and his being run out of town surely got to their ears. Without doubt they listened to his teaching with authority at Capernaum. These four disciples knew who he was and were ready to follow him. They did not go into this new work as ministers of God without knowing what Jesus was preaching and without believing the kingdom of the heavens was at hand! They were ready and anxious to get into the ministry, as every man and woman should be today who has heard the Word of God and believes in the kingdom of God as the only hope for mankind. Do you have knowledge of God’s Word and faith that qualifies you to be a minister? Have you responded to the call to service? You should if you have studied God’s Word and associated with Jehovah’s witnesses for a year or more.
14. How had these first disciples of Jesus been prepared for taking up the call to follow Jesus?
14 Many men and women today have seen the light of God’s Word and, in effect, they have abandoned their nets and have followed him. Peter, Andrew, James and John stayed with Jesus in the full-time ministry because these men loved the truth and saw the great need to do the work Jesus was doing. They had listened with ears anxious to hear when John the Baptist told them to repent and be ready for Messiah’s coming. Now they had come to know the Messiah and believed that he was the one sent by God and was the Son of God. They had traveled with him from time to time, but now at the Sea of Galilee the big opportunity came. The question then was, Would they answer the call as Isaiah did and say: “Here I am! Send me”? They did, and we today are grateful for it because we have their fine example to follow.
15. Who else was now called to follow Jesus, and what was his occupation?
15 Jesus was still looking for sincere men even though these four fishers definitely accepted the call to be his followers. While Jesus was in Capernaum he saw a man “named Levi sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: ‘Be my follower.’ And leaving everything behind he rose up and went following him.” (Luke 5:27, 28) Later Levi (or, Matthew) spread a big reception feast for Jesus, and reclining at the table with him were many other tax collectors. His disciples were there too and Jesus used this opportunity to give a fine witness to all present. He said: “I have come to call, not righteous persons, but sinners to repentance.”—Luke 5:32.
16. Outline the next important selecting work Jesus had to do, and how do we know this was a very serious work?
16 Now, after a year and a half of preaching and teaching his disciples and after attending his second passover since his baptism, Jesus selected from his many disciples twelve to be his apostles. He made this matter of selecting men for such an important position a subject of prayer, and Luke tells us: “In the progress of these days he went out into the mountain to pray, and he continued the whole night in prayer to God. But when it became day he called his disciples to him and chose from among them twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he also named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew and Thomas, and James the son of Al·phae΄us, and Simon who is called ‘the zealous one,’ and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who turned traitor.”—Luke 6:12-16.
17. How much time was involved in selecting the twelve apostles, showing what to be necessary for them?
17 How interesting all this information is! It took Jesus well over a year and a half to select these twelve men as his apostles. He had gathered many disciples around himself, many followed him, many put faith in him, but out of all of these, after a year and a half of work, he decided on twelve men that he taught, called and prepared for a special work. He did not appoint them to this work of apostleship on his first calling them to follow him, even though they at once left their fishing or tax collecting work. First the implanting of knowledge was necessary!
18. In our day, what view should we take of those with whom we study the Bible?
18 So it is today. Jehovah’s witnesses find many persons in their house-to-house work who become interested in the message of God’s kingdom. Studies in the Bible are often started and conducted in the homes of the people, sometimes for a year or much longer. A Christian teacher should not be discouraged because some do not make their minds up to walk in the footsteps of Christ Jesus in a short period of time, say a year. Consider, if you are an active Christian, how long it took you to make up your mind to go from house to house in the ministry. If you are not an active Christian, ask yourself, ‘Am I a Christian?’ Maybe you are one in name only and, of course, then you do not even deserve the name.
19. What better work than the fishing industry did Jesus have in mind for the disciples?
19 In the case of the four fishermen, they already had a profession. It was fishing for fish in the Sea of Galilee. They probably were doing a very good business. James and John were working with their father Zebedee and they had hired men. So if they hired men to work along with them they must have had a big thriving business. But despite this fine, lucrative business, the two sons of Zebedee left their father and followed Christ. They wanted to be Christians! (Mark 1:19, 20) The fishing business is a very healthy, out-of-doors occupation. As for pleasant surroundings, what could be better than the Sea of Galilee? But Jesus had something much better in mind. That is why he told Peter: “From now on you will be catching men alive.” (Luke 5:10) Jesus wanted live men, devoted men, to handle the message he had. They must truly love his Father in heaven, just as he did, and his followers must love one another.—John 13:34, 35.
20, 21. (a) What opportunity was Jesus now opening up to his followers? (b) How could these followers learn about this wonderful gift?
20 Jesus Christ was starting the Christian work, and these twelve men in their turn must make disciples of Jesus Christ, instructing them in Christ’s teaching. He was opening up the only way of everlasting life for all mankind. At his last Passover celebration, the one he kept with his disciples, and at which time he introduced the Memorial of his death, he said, in his final prayer: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) What a comprehensive statement! To get everlasting life for oneself it is necessary to take in knowledge, and get understanding of the works and purposes of Jehovah God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Where can you get such knowledge? In God’s written Word, the Holy Bible. It takes time to read the Bible, but much more time to study it. It even takes more time to be a teacher. That is why these men at once abandoned everything and followed Jesus so as to be his full-time disciples and learn about God and Christ Jesus and so prove to be better teachers.
21 Now, after he had chosen the twelve apostles, Jesus continued to give them more knowledge of God and to show them the course of life that all men must faithfully follow if they would gain everlasting life. His twelve apostles along with great crowds of people who followed him heard his sermon on the mount, as recorded in the fifth to the seventh chapters 5-7 of Matthew. This was sound teaching.
TRAINING AS EVANGELIZERS
22. Why did the apostles stay close to Jesus, and what was Jesus’ primary interest as far as these men he had chosen were concerned?
22 The apostles always stayed close to Jesus Christ now as learners, taking in knowledge, asking questions, observing the miracles he performed, traveling from city to city with him, always listening with open hearts and minds so as to take in the good news. Jesus knew that the apostles needed special training for their future work and that the best way to give it to them was to send them out on a speaking tour. After their tour, all on their own, and preaching the good news to others, “the apostles gathered together before Jesus and reported to him all the good things they had done and taught. And he said to them: ‘Come, you yourselves, privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.’” (Mark 6:30, 31; Luke 9:10) While Jesus was primarily interested in the twelve apostles and getting them ready to handle the great work that lay ahead of them, still he kept on making disciples of many others and with good success. Continually great crowds of people were coming to him. At one time he spoke to and fed 5,000 people on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee.—Matt. 14:14-24; Mark 6:30-44.
23. (a) What caused those who heard Jesus speak to be amazed? (b) What were those who listened called upon to do, and is the same thing true in our day?
23 By the year 32 C.E., around the time of the festival of tabernacles in Jerusalem, people were truly amazed at this man, Jesus, because, “when by now the festival was half over, Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: ‘How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?’ Jesus, in turn, answered them and said: ‘What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality.’” (John 7:14-17) So those people listening had to make decisions either to accept the message as from God or reject it. The same is true today. Some hearers put faith in Jesus’ words and make progress and prepare themselves to preach the same message, namely, “The kingdom of the heavens is at hand.” The least one can do is tell others what one hears about God, in one’s daily conversations with other persons. All of us can do that much, can we not?
24. (a) After two years, how many disciples could be sent forth to preach by Jesus? (b) By 33 C.E., how many had full faith in Christ? (c) What did Jesus promise his disciples, to ensure further instruction and guidance?
24 In two years’ time after Jesus began preaching, many more Jews had enough knowledge to go from house to house and preach. Luke tells us: “The Lord designated seventy others and sent them forth by twos in advance of him into every city and place to which he himself was going to come. Then he began to say to them: ‘The harvest, indeed, is great, but the workers are few. Therefore beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. Go forth. Look! I am sending you forth as lambs in among wolves.’” (Luke 10:1-3) His apostles and these seventy disciples, totaling eighty-two teachers, knew that for them to go out into the world and preach as they were now instructed to do would bring upon them many problems, persecution and trials, but they had faith in Jehovah and his Son, Christ Jesus, to take this forward step. These ministers sent to preach still had the time and opportunity of learning more from Jesus. The cry to Pontius Pilate to kill Christ would not be heard until the Passover of the year 33 C.E. By that time, though, there were at least 120 who had full faith in Christ Jesus, and forty days after his resurrection Jesus gave to them through the apostles the orders: “Do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but keep waiting for what the Father has promised, about which you heard from me; because John, indeed, baptized with water, but you will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.” (Acts 1:4, 5) Surely they would get further direction as to what they should do now that Jesus had died upon the torture stake and had been resurrected from the dead and had ascended to heaven. These 120 disciples, eleven of the original apostles and 109 other disciples, were awaiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for some sign from Christ Jesus. The sign came! “They all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance.” (Acts 2:4) These now spoke fearlessly about the things they learned in but a few years because they followed Jesus. As for Peter himself, he certainly would be made a fisher of men.
25. At Pentecost, how many embraced the word and were baptized?
25 On that day of Pentecost Peter stood up and raised his voice and spoke to a great crowd of people, thousands. When he finished, 3,000 embraced the word heartily and were baptized. Undoubtedly many of these three thousand had listened to Jesus and had been taught by him. Jesus was well known throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Galilee and all the land of Palestine, for he was a great preacher of truth.
26. What timely questions are asked for our consideration?
26 The life Christ led brought results. His preaching produced ministers of God. What has your ministry for God produced? Have you been a good student of the Scriptures and a hearer of the Word and thus equipped yourself to be a good teacher? If you call yourself a Christian, you should be doing what Jesus did or the disciples did. The early Christian congregation showed zeal for God and his kingdom and walked in Jesus’ footsteps. How many men and women of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant faiths today believe like Christ Jesus’ followers? How many have ears even to hear? How many preach that the kingdom of God is at hand?
27. Describe the events leading up to Saul’s conversion and what he did after becoming a follower of Christ.
27 In his zeal for the Jews’ religion Saul, a Jewish Pharisee, “breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” opposed the work of the Christians. He was stopped by blindness on his way to Damascus by the heavenly resurrected Christ Jesus. Jesus chose this man, the worst persecutor of Christians, to be his follower and be used ‘to bear his name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.’ Ananias, a Christian, was sent to the house where Saul was suffering blindness, and at Christ Jesus’ direction he laid his hands on Saul “in order that you [Saul] may recover sight and be filled with holy spirit.” Saul “recovered sight; and he rose and was baptized.” He spent some days with the disciples at Damascus and, when he learned the truth and understood what his work was to be, “immediately in the synagogues he began to preach Jesus, that this One is the Son of God.” He had the spirit of the prophet Isaiah, when he said: “Here I am! Send me.”—Acts 9:1-22.
28. How did Paul help a jailer, who had him and his companion under guard, to become a believer in Jesus?
28 Once Saul appreciated the truth he started to preach and kept at it. It was not a spasmodic matter with him. One time when he was traveling with his missionary companion Silas, he ordered a demon to come out of a bothersome girl. He caused an uproar and both these Christians were jailed after being beaten. During the night they prayed and praised God with songs, and the prisoners heard them. Then suddenly a great earthquake occurred and the jailer feared that all his prisoners had escaped, but Paul assured him that such was not the case. Then Paul spoke to the jailer on what to do for the jailer to get saved. Here is what happened: “They spoke the word of Jehovah to him together with all those in his house. And he [the jailer] took them along in that hour of the night and bathed their stripes; and, one and all, he and his were baptized without delay.” (Acts 16:32-34) Any circumstance was a good occasion for Paul (the onetime Saul) to speak the word of Jehovah, and he got results.
29. What requirements for life today are the same as in the days of Christianity’s beginnings?
29 Please observe that the jailer and his family, after hearing the word of Jehovah, “without delay” took their stand for the truth. As far as one’s becoming a Christian is concerned, things are no different today. A person must dedicate himself to the service of Jehovah God as Paul did and as the jailer did; then become baptized and take up Christian activity, if he wants everlasting life. Just as Paul walked in the footsteps of Christ Jesus and as the eleven other apostles chosen by Jesus did, so we must prove ourselves faithful to God’s real worship. We cannot be like Judas Iscariot, who became a betrayer and put material gain first. We, today, must prove ourselves just as faithful as all the early disciples of Christ Jesus in taking up the ministry. This good news of the Kingdom would not have been spread throughout the world today if it had not been for Christians like these.
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“Be my follower”