“Come After Me, and I Will Make You Fishers of Men”
1-3. (a) For what work did Jesus invite people to follow him? (b) How does the response of the first ones invited demonstrate that they had faith?
JOHN THE BAPTIZER had completed his work, and now the anointed Jesus had taken up the exciting proclamation: “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 3:2; 4:12-17) But Jesus Christ was not to be alone in making known the good news. Walking alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon Peter and Andrew letting down a fishing net. He bade them: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They did not hesitate. “At once” they abandoned their nets and followed Jesus. Then Jesus saw James and John in a fishing boat, and called them. “At once” they left the boat and their father to follow Jesus.—Matt. 4:18-22.
2 Jesus set a fine example for these new disciples, as he trained them to be “fishers of men.” They were his constant companions as he “went around throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in [the] synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity among the people.”—Matt. 4:23.
3 At Capernaum, in Galilee, Jesus saw Matthew (Levi) seated at the tax office and extended the invitation, “Be my follower.” Matthew immediately left off collecting taxes in order to follow Jesus. (Matt. 9:9; Mark 2:14) Again, Jesus “set out on a tour of all the cities and villages” to teach and preach the good news of the kingdom, while also performing works of healing. Although his followers were increasing in number, Jesus told them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”—Matt. 9:35-38.
4. (a) Why were the apostles chosen? (b) What does Jesus expect of those who follow him?
4 From among these first disciples, Jesus now chose 12 to be apostles, “that they might continue with him and that he might send them out to preach.” (Mark 3:14) Later, the faithful apostles would become foundation stones of the Christian congregation. (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14) They were willing, ready to serve and happy to be in association with Jesus in the Kingdom work. Jesus instructed them and gave them orders to go to the cities and villages, and visit the houses of the people. He told them: “As you go, preach, saying: ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” Jesus let his disciples know that the work would not be easy and that many would refuse to listen to their words. However, they were to give the witness, even before rulers and people of the nations. They would need to be self-sacrificing and courageous, for Jesus said: “Whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.”—Matt. 10:7-18, 38.
5. Why are some not acceptable as followers of Christ?
5 Not everyone accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him. For example, there was the rich man who preferred material possessions to the spiritual treasure he might have enjoyed while preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Matt. 19:16-24) Others, too, offered excuses, as the account at Luke 9:57-62 shows:
“Now as they were going on the road, someone said to [Jesus]: ‘I will follow you to wherever you may depart.’ And Jesus said to him: ‘Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.’ Then he said to another: ‘Be my follower.’ The man said: ‘Permit me first to leave and bury my father.’ But he said to him: ‘Let the dead bury their dead, but you go away and declare abroad the kingdom of God.’ And still another said: ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those in my household.’ Jesus said to him: ‘No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.’”
6. How did Jesus train and encourage his followers, as described at Luke 10:1-20?
6 After giving these negative examples, Luke strikes a positive note. He describes how Jesus selected 70 of his followers and sent them out two by two to pioneer the territory ahead of him. They were to let the people know that “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:1-16) The 70 found great joy in their service. But Jesus showed them that they had even greater reason for happiness, saying: “Rejoice because your names have been inscribed in the heavens.”—Luke 10:17, 20.
JESUS SETS THE PATTERN
7, 8. Name some benefits the early “fishers of men” received by regular association with Jesus in the work.
7 The inspired Bible writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John relate how the early disciples of Jesus associated with him in the work of preaching and teaching that resulted in great benefit to themselves and others. Jesus taught them many wonderful things about the Kingdom, and these truths they were able to share with persons who would listen. Above all, Jesus helped his disciples to appreciate their very precious relationship as slaves, servants or stewards of Jehovah God and Christ Jesus.—Matt. 6:24; compare Luke 12:37, 42, 43.
8 Like his Father, Jesus was a worker. He wanted his disciples to be workers, too, in making known the Kingdom message. (John 4:34; 5:17; 9:4) So, for about three years, Jesus trained his disciples to be “fishers of men.” Also, he forewarned them that they would be treated the same way that he, their Lord, was treated. They saw his example and his reaction to suffering, as he gave them a model to follow closely. (Matt. 10:22-26; 1 Pet. 2:21) Jesus taught them many things that he had received from God, and they saw him fulfill numerous prophecies. All of this strengthened their faith.
9. What did Jesus teach his followers about their relationship to God as slaves?
9 Jesus also encouraged them humbly to follow his pattern as slaves of God. He said:
“Who of you is there that has a slave plowing or minding the flock who will say to him when he gets in from the field, ‘Come here at once and recline at the table’? Rather, will he not say to him, ‘Get something ready for me to have my evening meal, and put on an apron and minister to me until I am through eating and drinking, and afterward you can eat and drink’? He will not feel gratitude to the slave because he did the things assigned, will he? So you, also, when you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’”—Luke 17:7-10; compare 1 Corinthians 7:22, 23; Revelation 19:5.
10. How was the example of Jesus part of the training of his followers to serve God?
10 As Jesus’ work on earth drew toward its end, he gathered his apostles for the Passover festival, and here, privately, he imparted to them much counsel and encouragement. He also washed their feet to impress upon them the need to serve others, saying: “I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also. Most truly I say to you, A slave is not greater than his master, nor is one that is sent forth greater than the one that sent him. If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.”—John 13:15-17.
11. (a) Where is the record found on Jesus’ intimate talk with his disciples before his arrest? (b) On that occasion, how did Jesus stress the relationship between faith and works? (c) In what manner could the disciples do works greater than those of Jesus?
11 After dismissing the traitor Judas, Jesus instructed his 11 faithful apostles concerning a new celebration—the memorial of his death. He spoke very intimately with them, preparing them for the responsibility they were to shoulder after his departure. (John 13:30–16:33) To show their faith in Christ, the disciples would have to do works similar to his. So he encouraged them with the words: “Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these because I am going my way to the Father.” (John 14:12) Jesus had confined his work to the land of Palestine, but the Kingdom work must expand after his death and resurrection. His disciples must spearhead that future work. Finally, the good news of the Kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end would come.—Matt. 24:14.
12. What is the relationship between love for Christ and what we do?
12 On this last occasion of being with his disciples, Jesus emphasized the need for self-sacrificing love, saying:
“If you love me, you will observe my commandments. He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will plainly show myself to him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him. He that does not love me does not observe my words; and the word that you are hearing is not mine, but belongs to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:15, 21, 23, 24)
How necessary it is to obey the commandments of Jesus Christ!
A HELPER PROMISED
13. How would help come to Jesus’ followers after his going away, and what would they be moved to do?
13 The apostles had been closely associated with Jesus. Whenever they wished to know something or if any problem arose, they could talk to Jesus about the matter. But now Jesus was going away to his Father. So he asked his Father to give them another helper, God’s holy spirit, which would teach them and bring back to their minds all the things Jesus had spoken to them. (John 14:16, 17, 25, 26) That meant they would have much witnessing to do, for Jesus stated: “When the helper arrives that I will send you from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me; and you, in turn, are to bear witness, because you have been with me from when I began.”—John 15:26, 27.
14. How would the disciples learn many additional truths later on?
14 Jesus was limited in what he could tell his disciples at that time. However, with the arrival of holy spirit, they would gain fuller understanding, equipping them for the work ahead. (John 16:12-14) How encouraging! Those who follow Jesus as slaves of God can always be confident of receiving help from above and guidance in the truth through holy spirit.
15. (a) Why must Christians maintain a close relationship with Jesus Christ at all times, according to his illustration of the vine? (b) What part does Christian love play in this?
15 In order to succeed in their work, Jesus’ followers must maintain close union with him and prove themselves his disciples. Jesus illustrated this by the vine and its branches, stressing the need for them to remain in the vine and to bear fruit so that his Father may be glorified. They were to produce fruitage by Kingdom witnessing and by displaying a Christlike personality. Men would see that they were his disciples because of their genuine love among themselves.—Matt. 21:43; John 13:34, 35; 15:1-12; see also The Watchtower, December 15, 1978.
NO PART OF THIS WORLD
16. (a) What did Jesus teach his followers at John 15:17-22 concerning their position in the world? (b) Why did he teach about this?
16 Those who become “fishers of men” show this strong love, one toward another. However, because they are followers of the Master, Christ Jesus, they are not loved by the world. Jesus was not loved by the world, for he was no part of it. (John 15:17-22; 16:1) This knowledge is helpful to all true Christians in keeping integrity under trial—even as Jesus kept integrity. Those who are of the world do not know Jehovah God or the One he sent forth, Jesus Christ. They do not understand Jesus’ teachings, or what Christian love is. They hate his followers, for they do the desires of the Devil.—John 8:42-44; 14:30; 16:11.
17. Because of being no part of the world as followers of Christ, what would happen to some Christians?
17 Since genuine Christians are “no part of the world,” they must not adopt the world’s selfish, proud and divisive spirit. This enables them to glorify God and to bear much fruit in proof of their discipleship. But it means tribulation for them, as Jesus warned:
NEVER ALONE IN GOD’S SERVICE
18, 19. (a) Of whose affection are Jesus’ disciples assured, and because of what? (b) Why is it important to appreciate the fact that a servant of Jehovah is never alone, and therefore what should he do?
18 Jehovah’s servants can count on Him because of his great love. Jesus gave this assurance: “For the Father himself has affection for you, because you have had affection for me and have believed that I came out as the Father’s representative.” (John 16:27) Jehovah’s servants do not work alone. It is God’s work that they are doing as his stewards, and the way is always open for them to seek the help of Jehovah in prayer. Jesus said: “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name.” (John 16:23, 24) With the arrest of Jesus, a difficult time would come for his followers, even as he forewarned:
“Look! The hour is coming, indeed, it has come, when you will be scattered each one to his own house and you will leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have said these things to you that by means of me you may have peace. In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:32, 33.
19 How vital it is to remember that we are not alone, just as Jesus was not alone when he was arrested! And how essential it is to rely on Jehovah in prayer, especially in times of tribulation or difficulty! Jesus prayed fervently and often in his hour of trial. (Matt. 26:36-46; 27:46) Likewise, his followers should never hold back from seeking Jehovah’s help, but pray to him with confidence and faith.—Matt. 7:7, 8.
JESUS’ PRAYERFUL REQUEST
20. What are some points made by Jesus in his marvelous prayer recorded in John 17?
20 After Jesus had instructed his faithful disciples on that last night of his earthly life, he raised his eyes to heaven and offered to Jehovah a wonderful prayer on their behalf. His prayer mentioned that he had finished his own work on earth, but his followers were still in the world. These disciples would continue to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, making known Jehovah’s name, just as Jesus had done. Therefore he requested:
“Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me. . . . I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me forth into the world, I also sent them forth into the world.”—John 17:11, 14-18.
21. How did Jesus express his confidence in the future expansion of the Christian congregation?
21 Jesus’ prayer extended far beyond those 11 faithful apostles. He was looking ahead to an expanding congregation that would encircle the globe, with many more men and women putting their faith in Jesus through the word proclaimed by his followers. Said Jesus:
“I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.”—John 17:20, 21.
22. How did Jesus finish his work on earth as one of Jehovah’s witnesses?
22 Not long after he had thus prayed, Jesus was arrested. On being brought before the ruler, Pilate, he bore witness that, since his kingdom was no part of the world, his servants—who were also no part of the world—would not fight. As the leading Witness of Jehovah, he declared: “You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:33-37) Thus Jesus left a fine example for Christians to copy in the years following his departure from the earthly scene. On that same day he was put to death, having faithfully finished the work that Jehovah had given him to do. (John 17:4) During his earthly ministry, what a marvelous pattern he provided for his followers! Truly, these are encouraged to imitate him as Jehovah’s witnesses in their grand work as “fishers of men”!
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Jesus sent his disciples to the people’s homes
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Jesus’ last evening meal on earth provided a powerful message for us today