Following Jesus: Matthew 4:18-22 (Sermon)



Last week Mike asked us, “Why do we follow Jesus?” I want to begin by asking question, 

“Will we follow Jesus?” 

Let me tell you why. 


How many of you have ever played video games? Raise your hand. What games do you like? Just shout out your answer. If you are watching online, I would love to read in the chat-feature your answers. There are different types of games. There are first-person and second-person games. In both, the player joins the action. They become part of the story. 


In the same way, the Bible invites us to join the story. The book of Matthew mainly calls us to follow Jesus. Too often, we, myself included, don’t stop to listen, read, and obey God’s call. 


This morning, we are continuing our series in the book of Matthew. We are returning to the verses we preached last week, zooming in on verses 18 through 25. Jesus calls his first disciples to follow; they will listen to his word and obey. And the question for us is, 

“Will we follow Jesus?” 


Let’s read the text. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 4. I have asked K.K. to read for us. Would you please stand with me in honor of God’s Word? 

While walking 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 fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18–22)


Thank you. Let’s pray. Dear God, we want to hear from you. We come from all different places. Some of us are hungry for your Word. We want to hear from you today. Others of us are hungry for lunch. We are distracted by what is going on inside us. Some of us are tired. We want to go back to bed, or we don’t sleep. Some of us are anxious. We are worried and consumed by thoughts and burdens. We want peace. Some of us are angry and upset at our circumstances. Life doesn’t seem fair. We want justice. We have drives and appetites working in us. Heavenly Father, break into this moment and show yourself by your Holy Spirit. Call us to follow you through your Word. Please make us your disciples, in Jesus’s name, amen. You may be seated. 


Let us recall where we have been in the first four chapters. In chapter 1, we learn that Jesus is the son of Abraham and David. He will save his people from their sins (1:21) and fulfill Isaiah chapter 7. He will be called Immanuel, meaning God with us (1:23). However, Jesus’s kingdom had competition. Chapter 2 shows that Herod, an earthly king, didn’t like what he heard. He sought to kill Jesus. His plot failed. God sent Jesus and his family to Egypt until Herod passed away. Years passed, and God told Joseph, “Return to Israel.” He listened to God’s message and obeyed. Jesus grew up. Decades passed. The next scene we read is John the Baptist in chapter 3. He was in the Jordan river telling people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He wore dated clothing and lived off the land. He predicted one would come after him so exalted that he couldn’t carry his sandals. 


Crowds gathered from miles to watch, listen, and get baptized. Then, the one person we think he was referring to appeared: Jesus. Jesus told John to baptize him. John obeyed. Then, God the Father spoke from heaven, saying Jesus was his beloved Son whom he was well pleased. Then the Holy Spirit came and rested on Jesus. It was a powerful event concluding chapter 3. Then in chapter 4, the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wild. There, he fasted for forty days, and Satan came and tempted him. Jesus overcame the temptation and went public. After that, he began his ministry in Galilee. That brings us to our passage today. 


The passage is short, with five verses. It begins simply with Jesus walking along the bank of the Galilean Sea, meeting two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew and James and John. He calls them to follow him. They listen to his words and obey. That is it. That is the story. It has a little pattern to it. 


4:18a- The setting

4:18b-19 - The Jesus’s Invitation to Peter and Andrew to follow

4:20 - Peter and Andrew’s obedience

4:21 - Jesus’s Invitation to James and John to follow

4:22 - James and John’s obedience. 


I was talking to some this week, and this account seems abrupt. How would this work? Is there more to the story? Did Jesus randomly walk to strangers and tell them to follow him, and they complied? That is not what happened. The gospels of John and Luke tell us more of the story. If that is the case, then why did Matthew leave out details? I think it is because of what he wants us to focus on. He wants us to join the disciples and follow them as they Follow the Promised King into His Kingdom. Matthew compares the disciples and the crowds in chapter 4. Both have an invitation. Both follow. However, not the same way. In chapter 5, the crowds and the disciples separate. Jesus will distinguish between those who are followers and those who are fans. However, in our five verses, I think we can still ask the question,

Will we follow Jesus?

Following is not just for the disciples or the masses in ancient Israel. The invitation is for you and you and you and me. 


A few weeks ago, I was in India. I was with a group we support with our mission giving. It was a conference for the students and pastors. I had the honor to speak several times. The director, Dr. Emmanuel Reeba, felt they needed to hear messages focusing on returning to the Lord. There were other speakers and many songs and scriptures in Telugu. I didn’t understand much of it. The people met for hours and hours and hours. What I did understand was that they were hungry for the Lord. In the end, twenty-one people came forward to get baptized, and two the next day. Last week, eight more professed faith in Jesus. Several were Hindu, and one was Muslim. Several of them testified through tears how their parents didn’t want them to be baptized. If they were named after a Hindu God, they would get a new name.

The new name matched their new identity and resulted in sanctioned financial persecution by the government and potential persecution from family. One such person was Latchmi. She had been given the task of serving us guests during the week. She was Hindu but converted to Christianity. She got a new name, Ruth. I share this because following Jesus is still something God invites us into today. It is for friends in India and us in America. And it is for you and me. Friends, 

Will we follow Jesus? 


Matthew notes that the four gave up their livelihood, possessions, and family to follow Jesus. They dropped their nets. They left their boats. They moved away. Jesus called them. He changed their direction from fishing for fish to fishing for men. They would live on handouts, be nomadic, and tag along with Jesus. He would give them assignments, pushing them beyond their comfort zone. Jesus would stay up late and pray with them, for them, and by himself. He would teach them, lead them, and leave them. Jesus was smart, strong, and puzzling. Following him was costly, but as we heard last week, he is worth it. He is the promised King. His kingdom is at hand. And he wants us to follow him. 

Will we follow Jesus? 


We read in the rest of the Bible that James’s journey of following Jesus for three years went from abandoning him at the Garden of Gethsemane to returning to him in the Upper Room. Jesus kept his promise. He made James a fisher of men. Eventually, James led the early church in Jerusalem. However, that ended when another King Herod killed him for his faith. James followed Jesus. Friends, he must have known of the threat to his life. Why would he follow Jesus at a high personal cost? 


Peter’s journey was similar. He followed Jesus for three years, then abandoned him at Gethsemane. He returned and denied knowing him not once but three times when Jesus was in the courtyard before his death. Peter repented, and Jesus rose, forgave him, and made him a fisher of men. Peter followed Jesus. He followed him to his end. He offered up his life to share the message of Jesus. The Emperor of Rome crucified him upside down. Following Jesus was costly. Not only did he leave his net, but he also gave up his life. 


Andrew followed Jesus for three years. Then, he abandoned Jesus at Gethsemane. But he too came back and waited in the Upper Room as well. Jesus rose from the grave, forgave Andrew, and kept his promise. He made Andrew a fisher of men. Tradition tells us that Andrew traveled to Greece to preach Christ. Many responded by believing. The authorities said he needed to stop. He would not. So they crucified him. Following Jesus came at a cost. How did he know God called him to risk and give up his life?  


John followed Jesus. After three years, he abandoned him, but he was the first to return. He was there while Jesus was being crucified. Jesus forgave and kept his promise to make him a fisher of men. John faced imprisonment and persecution in Jerusalem. Historians tell us he went and ministered in Ephesus until the government couldn’t take it any longer. They had him sent to prison on the Island of Patmos. There he died. He followed Jesus. How does he know where to go? The way was narrow, but it will lead to life, and he found it. 


We read in the rest of chapter 4 that the crowds followed Jesus. He preached and prayed and performed miracle after miracle. Would you follow Jesus? In our hearts, most of us would say we would follow Jesus. However, would we keep following Jesus when it gets difficult? Would we know where to go and what to do? What happens when persecution, disappointment, or God doesn’t do what we think he should do? It is at those moments that I believe it is essential to go to a second question:  

What does following Jesus look like? 

We have asked, 

Will we follow Jesus? 

And I think most of us would say, “Yeah sure.” Now let’s ask, 

What does following Jesus look like? 

Chapter 5 through 7, the Sermon on the Mount, goes into the details of this. However, I think verses 20 and 22 are instructional here. Let’s not brush over these verses. Let us not think, “I don’t have enough strength to follow Jesus like those saints of old.” Or, “That type of following is for them, not me.” God is more concerned about us following him daily than trying to become copycats. Most people won’t become pastors and missionaries. Most pastors and missionaries spend most of their time like all the rest. For example, if you think of a twenty-four-hour day, how much of it is sleeping? Six to eight hours. How much is eating? Maybe one to three hours? Then how much of it is work or school? That could be from six to twelve hours. And for the pastor and missionary, and apostle are not preaching for six to twelve hours a day. Following is much more invasive than buying a ticket to travel across the globe and share our faith a few times. Paul will teach us in Colossians, 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). 

And in his letter to the Crointhains he wrote, 

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So, following Jesus even involves our eating. Following Jesus can be done in almost anything. For the fishermen, Jesus had a special mission for them to fish for men. He was going to use them to be the building blocks of his church. The church's mission today is to reach the nations and make disciples. This mission is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. God is going to bless all people through Jesus. At the same time, we each have different parts to play in that mission. So the second question again for us is 

What does following Jesus look like? 

Really, what does following Jesus look like today, on September 11th? In verses 20 and 22, we see three things they did that help us answer that question. 

  1. They listened 

  2. They listened to Jesus’s Words 

  3. They listen to Jesus’s Words and obeyed

The first thing they did was listen. 


Are you willing to listen to God? In my heart, I can be so busy just doing that I don’t create space for listening. Why? I might be afraid to change. I might be fearful of what God would say. I might enjoy what I am doing. How about you? Some of us need to slow down and listen. That is not our strength. We need to take time in our day to seek the Lord. We need to quiet our hearts and consider what God is saying. I was reading about a church that takes a moment at the beginning of its service to silence hearts. They sit quietly. Habakkuk 2:20 states,  

“But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab 2:20).

Let’s take a moment and try that. Let us quiet our hearts and hear if God will speak to us in our hearts or in a still, small voice. [Pause 1 Minute?] That may have seemed like an eternity. But, it was only sixty seconds. However, in the quiet, God can speak. For some, we run from this silence. It is good to have space in life to embrace it and open ourselves to listen to God’s voice. He speaks today.


Now, the disciples genuinely heard Jesus, Immanuel, the Savior, God’s Beloved Son, speak. What Jesus said was and is true, right, and good. But unfortunately, he is not the only voice. So how do we tell what is God’s voice and what isn’t? How do we know it is God’s voice we are listening to? What do you think? 


There is a danger when listening; people can conjure up a direction they want and misinterpret. They can baptize sin or conspiracy theories in the name of God when they aren’t. How do we know God’s voice? Friends, we have to tether our listening to the Bible. The disciples had Jesus in front of them to clarify his meaning. We have the Holy Spirit. He will guide us to the truth. How? That is a great question. What did Jesus do when he heard Satan twisting the Bible to tempt him three times? Jesus quoted back from the Bible. If it is good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for us. So, if we want to know what following Jesus looks like in our day, we must read our Bibles. We must bind our understanding of God’s call to God’s Word. How did the disciples follow Jesus? 

  1. They listened

  2. They listened to Jesus’s Word. 



  1. They listened to Jesus’s Word and obeyed. 

They dropped their nets; they left their boats and said goodbye. The following involves action. They followed immediately and definitively. We know there is more to the story, but they left their nets, boats, and family. Their following was clear. Is your following clear? Is my following clear? If we had a body camera on you with audio, tracked your online activity, and watched you during the day, would we be able to tell you are following Jesus? Or are you following someone or something else? 

  • Following Jesus certainly will mean turning from sin and turning toward godliness. 

  • It may mean confronting someone. 

  • It may mean doing something. 

  • It may mean going somewhere. 

  • It may mean giving up something. 

  • Following Jesus can mean death to what we like or finding something new. Following can be done in something extraordinary or in the mundane. 


The bottom line is that following is not always easy. Reading the disciples’ immediate, definitive, radical obedience can unearth emotion in us. This reality of God’s call for our life can be overwhelming, scary, and intimidating. That brings us to a third question. We have asked,

  1. “Will you follow Jesus?”


  1. “What does following Jesus look like?”

    1. They listened

    2. They listened to Jesus’s Word.

    3. They listened to Jesus’s Word and obeyed. 

So, when obedience is hard the third question I want to explore is, 

  1. “How do we follow Jesus?”


The key to motivation is remembering who is talking to the disciples and what he is inviting them to do. Jesus is the one talking. He is the world's Savior, the son of David, fulfilling 2 Samuel 7. He is God with us. He is the Son of God. He is worthy of obedience. Not only that but what is telling them? He is the one making them fishers of men. And Jesus is calling them to himself. So how does knowing who he is and what he says help? 


This fall, I am coaching soccer. In practice, we will do stretching, running, and drills. They aren’t always fun. But they are essential. We sweat. But it is good. Kids may not see the big picture, but as the coach, I do. I know the sport and what will help them learn and do their best. 


Parenting can be like that. Our kids may not like what we ask them to do, but we know it is for their good. Eating vegetables is good for them. Bathing is important. Doing homework before playing video games is brilliant. We love our kids. We were kids once. We understand. If our kids understand who we are and what we are doing in the big picture, it can help motivate obeying when it is difficult. Similarly, Jesus sees what is best for these disciples. They understood enough that they listened to Jesus’s Word and obeyed.


God has all the necessary information to make the wisest decisions for our lives. And for some crazy reason, he is inviting us to follow him today. Will we? What does it look like? How do we move in that direction? We read our Bibles. We listen. We believe. We obey. Disobedience or deciding not to follow Jesus is rooted in unbelief. We are either doubting God’s wisdom, goodness, and power. When we choose our direction instead of God’s, we say through action that our way is better. I don’t go there with my thoughts because I know that is wrong, but my life can tell as much. 


Why, again, do we follow Jesus? That is what pastor Mike asked us last week in his sermon. In John 6, we read Peter’s admission that Jesus had the words of eternal life. He saw who Jesus was and what he offered. The benefit of obedience outweighed the cost. Jesus was and is worthy of obedience. And in these verses, we read that he is the one making them fishers of men. Philippians 1:6 says, 

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

We have God who doesn’t lob a command like a grenade and ask us to follow it and leave us. He is with us, shaping us, and helping us do the very thing he asks. 


We have begun this task of listening this morning. His mercy is new. Let us not stop our adventure with God. Let us join these brothers and take steps of faith and rest on who God is and what he says. 

Will you follow Jesus into his Kingdom? 


Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for your Word. It is light and life. We need you to guide us and direct us. Lead us, I pray. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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