by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him." (Matthew 4:19-20)
It was not unusual for a man with a political cause or message to develop a following in the Israel of Jesus' day (see Acts 5:35-37, for example). It was even common for a Jew to follow a religious "master," calling him Rabbi and becoming his disciple.
But what made the disciples leave the lives they knew and follow Christ? Perhaps they hoped He would lead a successful rebellion against Rome, but He had done nothing to make them think so. Nor had He promised them a life of luxury and ease, but rather hardship and hard work in their new occupation as "fishers of men."
However, John the Baptist had prepared the way for the Lord. He had trained at least most, possibly all, of the men who would eventually become Jesus' disciples. "John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus" (John 1:35-37). Training by John even became a requirement for a potential replacement for Judas (Acts 1:20-22).
But a credible witness in John was not their only reason to follow, for they had a great body of compelling evidence. For example, Luke records in Peter's case, Christ had already gained local recognition (Luke 4:14-15). Jesus had been to Peter's house for dinner where his mother-in-law had been healed (4:38-39). Christ had used his boat for teaching (5:3) and had miraculously directed them to an overwhelming catch of fish (5:6). In response, Peter and his partners "forsook all, and followed him" (5:11).
We have a much surer testimony and much more evidence. Should we not do likewise? JDM