Matthew and the Dawn (Mt 4:12-22)

After hearing of John’s arrest, Jesus left Nazareth and went to Capernaum in Galilee. This was not a bad choice; it was by the sea. But Jesus went because it was the plan. Not vacation, not even an escape. Prophecy placed him there. And Jesus knew that John’s ministry was nearly over and his must commence. He was to begin in “heathen Galilee” with “a people living in darkness.” Not unlike our reformers who begin with an inner city ghetto or some outpost of sin. Why shouldn’t the Dawn begin in darkness? Prophecy has Galilee sounding so bad that death hangs over it like a threatening cloud, but no longer, for “Light has arisen.” And so Jesus begins by taking up John’s theme: “Reform your lives. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Here is the other reason why prophecy places Jesus in Galilee: the future apostles are there. We can suppose many things then about Galilee. Either it wasn’t totally a bad place or Jesus had been preaching awhile and had won these men over from not so stellar lives by his call to reform. Perhaps as Matthew encapsulates the scene, these men were immediately taken by the presence and invitation of Jesus. Or, we could speculate that they had occasion to hear him preach and had taken time to observe this new man in town. When he happened by their boats with his invitation, they literally ‘jumped ship’ and followed him. Both sets of brothers – Peter and Andrew, James and John – were in the process of casting nets so Jesus’ words, “I will make you fishers of men,” hit the right chord.

Perhaps we know nothing practical or realistic about the art of fishing, but the concept makes sense. Every Christian wants to be part of the great fishing fleet of the Church. It is a great thrill to bring someone to Jesus. It may be a family member, a friend, a total stranger, someone who comes because of us, but without our being aware of doing anything. That someone may be a person we taught, greeted, served, prayed for, or simply loved.

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