Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
An interval of time elapses, the incidents of which, momentous in the great history, are recorded in the other Gospels, e.g. John's testimony to the Lamb of God (John 1:19-34), the gathering of the first disciples (John 1:35-51), the marriage at Cane (John 2:1-12), the cleansing of the temple (John 2:13-25), the conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). "Now after that John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel." Truly a "beginning" is made. "All things are now ready;" and the Master himself cries aloud with his own voice, "Come." Oh, wondrous grace! The Divine call to the Divine feast! God calling men to himself, to receive mercy, blessing, life! Ever since and to the end will both "the Spirit and the bride say, Come." O Israel, "if thou hadst known in this day, even thou!" Simon and Andrew, James and John, already called to be disciples, but still pursuing, as should every disciple, their daily industry, are now called to be apostles, to forsake home, father, nets, avocations, and gain, to follow the young Rabbi with obedient steps and imitative carefulness, that he may "make" them "to become" (without which making of the Master none can become) "fishers of men." In this incident may be seen:
1. The greatness of this calling.
2. Its imperative demand.
3. An illustrious example of obedience.
I. THE GREATNESS OF THIS CALLING is not to be exaggerated. To "catch men" - by no trick, but by the Word of the Lord and by the aid of the Lord, who brings fishes to the nets of toilers on the sea - is to bring them up out of the deep wide sea, the world, into Christ's net, the Church, that they proving good may be gathered into vessels. It is to draw men from evil, to teach them heavenly truth, soul-renewing and saving truth, to guide them into the paths of peace, to encourage and help them in the maintenance of righteousness, to bind in bonds of brotherhood, to incite to holy charity, to build them up in knowledge and doctrine, and so to fit them for useful service on earth and for the felicities of the heavenly life on high. Oh, sacred calling! How immeasurably above all callings! How honorable the work! How honored the men! - honored, not by the distinctions that may be gained, but by the work itself. This toil is heavenly, often most heavenly when most hard, most fruitful when most despised and apparently least successful, as was that of the great Master.
II. For all time, and for the instruction of all apostles and servants who must, "for the kingdom of God's sake," forsake all and follow him, this simple incident, told in half a score lines, is ample. THE IMPERATIVE DEMAND is heard in the deep conscience in the warm, pitiful sympathy of the obedient disciple, ready to lay down life and all for the Master's sake and in his cause; it is a call coming, not from the lips, but from the wretched, sinful lives of the wicked in the world around, or from the wilds of heathen darkness, superstition, and loss afar off; from the Church, that is quick to discern the signs of fitness, tender in feeling the claims of the needy, and watchful to behold the favoring conjunction of circumstances. But the call, "Follow me," never comes from the lips of Jesus by way of the attractive position amongst men, of emolument, ease, or honor. If the words are heard thence proceeding, they are simulated. Let him who so hears beware! The true call is imperative. It cannot be relaxed even for the sake of "friends at home." Nay, others must bury the "dead father" rather than the solemn "Follow me" be unheeded.
III. To illustrate this, the quick OBEDIENCE here so ILLUSTRIOUSLY EXEMPLIFIED is definitely expressed. "They left their nets... they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants." For ever they left must be the true test of sincere devotion. If men leave a broken net for a whole one, and only to catch fishes, the world which has read this story knows the deceit, and does not acknowledge the Divine call. Generally the Church is pure. The earthly gain is not great; the burden is heavy, Who follow this Master must cleave to his doctrine, and struggle to defend it, and bear the painfulness of maintaining the faith in presence of many difficulties and rude suggestions of doubt, and the severe treatment of men who do not intend to be cruel and wicked, but who severely try the hearts of humble believing servants with "doubtful disputations." But the servant must stand by the Master; ah, and stand by his cause when he is not near; stand by it when it seems to be failing, as well as when it seems likely to prevail. The true fitness to be a "fisher of men" is to "leave all;" for most truly here the Master saith, "Whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be," in the truest and best sense, "a fisher of men." How cheering to these fishers must have been the prophetic testimony of the great ingatherings which rewarded the letting down the net "on the right side of the ship!" Yet how much harder then to leave that net
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,