Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
This passage, sandwiched between the temptation of our Lord and the Sermon on the Mount, is a very significant text, which some say serves as a kind of key to Matthew’s Gospel, and to all the Gospels.
Up to this point in Matthew, Jesus has not yet preached nor has He performed any miracle.
All the more unusual is that he went to Galilee. Scholars say the casual reader would hardly realize that nearly a year passes between Matthew 4:1 and 4:12. Galilee was far from Jerusalem and was considered spiritually and politically far, too, as the most pagan of the Jewish provinces. Galilee was notorious for being the nest of revolution and the haunt of Zealot revolutionary movements. It was in Galilee that Jesus humbled himself to his saving purpose. It is here that he calls his disciples. It is in His example that each may find the contribution to the cause of Christ. Jesus demonstrated, for his disciples and to us, His compassion toward those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.
Scholars speak of this text as setting out of two great and important truths which, if we do not understand, we shall never understand the word of God.
And the first is the doctrine of “total depravity”. The descriptions of the peoples are they sit in darkness in the region of shadow and death. This refers to not having knowledge of God’s will. It does not mean people have no sense of conscience. It simply means that the corruption that has descended upon the human spirit touches every part of our nature. It touches our minds, and so we are blinded. It touches our emotions and so they are corrupt. It touches our wills, and so we are in rebellion against God. In other words, it means that the corruption has so touched our whole nature – our total human nature.
Now a second truth is the related truth of human inability. That is, we cannot recover ourselves by our own efforts, or by our free will. Jesus’ call of his disciples is a call for us to be disciples. Just as we need others to bring us to be His followers, we are called to save others. It comes as a startling surprise to a lot of people that we need to be followers AND we need to live such that others can, by following us, be saved.
This text sets out an understanding of human nature: “man is depraved and unable to prepare himself for salvation. Then how can he possibly be saved? By God. By God, through Christ.” How does God act? Through each and every one who follows the call.
– Submitted by Bruce Ketron